The Dental Blog of Bradely J. Olson, DDS

Toothpastes

We are often asked about various dental products and our recommendations for use of these products. In the next few Blogs I will cover the basics of what is found in various toothpaste products.

There are two categories of inactive ingredients found in toothpastes; structural and sensory. The structural ingredients include humectants, buffering agents, preservatives, thickening agents, and surfactants. Humectants keep the toothpaste moist and prevent it from drying out. Examples are sorbitol and xylitol that also add a sweetening effect. Buffering agents help keep the pH neutral so the product in not too acidic. Preservatives such as sodium benzoate help prevent microbial growth. Thickening agents help bind the ingredients together and surfactants cause the foaming effect. One surfactant used in toothpastes is sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and if you suffer from apthous ulcers, you may consider avoiding this product in your toothpaste as some studies have shown a decreased incidence in recurrent apthous ulcers in patients using products that are SLS free. The surfactants do play an important role in helping to loosen plaque from the tooth surface.

The other category of inactive ingredients is sensory. Sweeteners and flavoring agents make the taste pleasant to encourage use of the toothpaste. Noncariogenic (something that does not cause cavities) sweeteners  mix with cavity causing bacteria in the mouth so the sweetening effect works without causing cavity causing acid attacks. Sensitivity to some flavorings and colorings is always possible and the label carefully evaluated if you have known sensitivities. If you seem to be having a reaction to your toothpaste, or having a reaction of unknown origin, try changing products.

Next Blog: Abrasives

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