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Are You Using the Right Toothpaste?

Choosing the right kind of toothpaste can be overwhelming.

If you’ve found yourself staring at the toothpaste section of your local grocery store pleading for the answers to reveal themselves, you are not alone. It’s tempting to go with the brand you know or try a different option because of what it claims to do, but are you actually choosing the option that is best for your teeth?

Should I use a gel or a paste toothpaste?

During your time perusing the shelves, you may have noticed that there are two different kinds of toothpaste: gel and well… paste.

What’s the difference?

The paste variety is fluoride based, which is an ingredient that prevents tooth decay by strengthening your enamel. It creates more foam and is typically mint-flavoured, giving your mouth a cleaner feel.

Gel toothpastes are made from silica and are less abrasive and create less foam and splatter.

According to PRO-SYS, the gel-based option is the best, although they do say it is a personal preference. Because gels are less damaging to your enamel, they are an excellent choice for people with sensitive teeth and gums.

How do I know what kind of toothpaste to choose?

Despite what the fully stocked store shelves may lead you to believe, there aren’t actually hundreds of different kinds of toothpaste. There are only five, and the one you choose should be based on your needs, not the fancy packaging or the number of ads you’ve seen on social media.

Children’s toothpaste

While there isn’t that much of a difference between children’s and adult toothpaste (other than the brightly coloured cartoon-themed packaging), the main difference is that there is less fluoride and other abrasive ingredients.

Fluoride toothpaste

Like the name suggests, this is a toothpaste that contains fluoride. If you’re looking to protect your teeth against decay and cavities, you should have this in your arsenal. Fluoride based toothpastes help rebuild weakened areas of your enamel through something called remineralization.

Toothpaste for sensitive teeth

If cold or sweet foods are causing you pain, you likely have sensitive teeth. One of the ways you can combat that sensitivity is with a specially formulated toothpaste that is designed to block the nerves of your teeth from feeling pain when you bite into your favourite cold or sweet foods.

While these toothpastes have proven to be effective, it may take three to four weeks before you notice any improvement.

Whitening toothpaste

Although they’re called whitening toothpastes, they don’t brighten your smile through bleaching. Instead, gentle, yet hardworking abrasive ingredients are added that help remove surface stains.

It is important to note that if your enamel has been damaged or you have sensitive teeth, you should avoid any kind of “abrasive toothpaste,” especially if hydrated silica is one of the ingredients. The dentin (the part of the tooth below the enamel) and the pulp that make up your teeth are sensitive. If your enamel has been compromised, brushing with a toothpaste that contains hydrated silica may lead to discomfort.

Tartar control toothpaste

If you have gum disease or sensitive gums, tartar control toothpaste may be your holy grail.

If you miss certain spots when brushing, plaque builds up and becomes hardened or calcified. This is called tartar and it has to be scraped off by your dentist. Certain toothpastes are created with special ingredients that help dissolve the plaque buildup and restore your gum tissue.

What type of toothpaste should I avoid?

There is not a specific type of toothpaste that you should steer clear of, but rather ingredients that you should be wary of.

Triclosan is an ingredient found in many cleaning products, including toothpaste and hand soap. According to Julie Gosse, a biomedical scientist, triclosan can affect human mast cells, which are important parts of your immune system. Due to emerging information, companies like Johnson & Johnson, Unilever and Colgate-Palmolive have removed it from their products.

Microbeads have been banned from bath and body products, skin cleansers and toothpaste since July 1, 2018, according to the Government of Canada. They can’t be filtered out by water-treatment systems, so they often end up in lakes and rivers. One expert says they can take centuries to break down.

Charcoal products have exploded in the health and beauty industry, but it doesn’t mean they’re good for you. Toothpastes that contain charcoal can wear down your enamel and cause sensitivity, and in some cases, stain or damage dentures, crowns, or veneers.

Baking soda is great for cleaning things around your home. But for cleaning your teeth? Not so much. While small amounts can break down stains, using it consistently can wear away your enamel and even cause your teeth to be discoloured.

Sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS, is used to create the “foamy” feeling that comes with brushing your teeth. While it seems to be a beneficial ingredient, it can irritate mouth ulcers, cause skin irritations, and lead to chapped lips. If you are experiencing any of those things, check the ingredients on your toothpaste. You may need to make the switch to an SLS free option.

How else can I improve my oral health?

If you’ve read this far and you’re determined to make a change in your oral health but you don’t know where to go after choosing the right toothpaste, reach out to Dr. Andrea Stevens.

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