In addition to 20-42% water, toothpastes are derived from a variety of components, including three main ones: abrasives, fluoride, and detergents.
Abrasives constitute at least 50% of a typical toothpaste. These insoluble particles help remove plaque from the teeth. The removal of plaque and calculus prevents cavities and periodontal disease. Representative abrasives include particles of aluminum hydroxide (Al(OH)3), calcium carbonate (CaCO3), various calcium hydrogen phosphates, various silicas and zeolites, and hydroxyapatite (Ca5(PO4)3OH).
Abrasives, like the dental polishing agents used in dentists’ offices, also cause a small amount of enamel erosion which is termed “polishing” action. Some brands contain powdered white mica which acts as a mild abrasive, and also adds a cosmetically-pleasing glittery shimmer to the paste. The polishing of teeth removes stains from tooth surfaces, but has not been shown to improve dental health over and above the effects of the removal of plaque and calculus.
Fluoride in various forms is the most popular active ingredient in toothpaste to prevent cavities. Fluoride occurs in small amounts in plants, animals, and some natural water sources. The additional fluoride in toothpaste has beneficial effects on the formation of dental enamel and bones. Sodium fluoride (NaF) is the most common source of fluoride but stannous fluoride (SnF2), olaflur (an organic salt of fluoride), and sodium monofluorophosphate (Na2PO3F) are also used. Much of the toothpaste sold in the United States has 1000 to 1100 parts per million fluoride. In the UK, the fluoride content is often higher; a NaF of 0.32% w/w (1,450 ppm fluoride) is not uncommon.
Many, although not all, toothpastes contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or related surfactants (detergents). SLS is found in many other personal care products as well, such as shampoo, and is mainly a foaming agent, which enables uniform distribution of toothpaste, improving its cleansing power.
Triclosan, an antibacterial agent, is a common toothpaste ingredient in the UK. Triclosan or zinc chloride prevents gingivitis and, according to the American Dental Association, helps reduce tartar and bad breath.
Toothpaste comes in a variety of colorings, and flavors intended to encourage use of the product. Three most common flavorants are peppermint, spearmint, and wintergreen. Toothpaste flavored with peppermint-anise oil is popular in the Mediterranean region. These flavors are provided by the respective oils, e.g. peppermint oil.
More exotic flavors include anise, apricot, bubblegum, cinnamon, fennel, lavender, neem, ginger, vanilla, lemon, orange, and pine. More unusual flavors have been used, e.g. peanut butter, iced tea, and even whisky. Unflavored toothpastes exist for people who prefer this.
Agents are added to suppress the tendency of toothpaste to dry into a powder. Included are various sugar alcohols such as glycerol, sorbitol, xylitol, or related derivatives, such as 1,2-propylene glycol and polyethyleneglycol. Strontium chloride or potassium nitrate are included in some toothpastes to reduce sensitivity. Sodium polyphosphate is added to minimize the formation of tartar.
Our office would be happy to answer any of your toothpaste concerns!
This information shared with you by Julie Gillis, DDS PC. Our office is located in Grand Junction, Colorado. We feel that your dental health is the top priority. and if we can make your smile more attractive while improving your health that is wonderful! Dr. Gillis practices restorative and cosmetic dentistry including porcelain veneers, tooth whitening, implants, crowns, bridges and periodontal care. Our office website is www.juliegillisds.com. For further information, please contact us at (970) 242-3635.
Yours for better health,
Julie Gillis, DDS, “Restoring Smiles, Restoring Health”