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Have you ever heard the term, “You are what you eat?” Well, a similar philosophy applies to the type of toothpaste you choose. What you use to brush your teeth often reflects your dental needs. “Your teeth are what you brush them with” isn’t as catchy, but toothpaste probably deserves its own slogan, since it’s such an important part of your oral hygiene routine.

Toothpaste doesn’t just polish teeth; it also removes the bacteria that cause dental plaque and bad breath. As dental plaque bacteria meet with food, they create an acid that attacks teeth and eventually causes tooth decay. A build-up of dental plaque bacteria can cause several other dental problems including gum disease. These microorganisms also produce volatile sulfur molecules which are a source of bad breath.

Toothpaste’s ingredients help control mouth bacteria and fight dental problems. Most toothpastes contain detergents which create a foaming action to better remove food particles and dental plaque. Abrasives add a little extra cleaning power to help remove stains but may damage tooth enamel when used too vigorously. Breath fresheners are also commonly added to make your mouth feel clean, and added flavors keep your toothpaste from tasting bland. But the essential ingredient is fluoride, which helps prevent cavities and promote tooth health.

Are You My Type?

There are many different types of toothpastes on the market. Each is designed to fit individual needs:

Whitening Toothpaste — Teeth whitening toothpastes don’t actually whiten teeth; they use scrubbing materials or chemicals to remove tooth stains.

Tartar Control Toothpaste — Likewise, tartar control toothpastes don’t remove dental tartar but they do help prevent dental tartar from accumulating. Dental tartar can only be removed by a dentist, so it’s beneficial to start using tartar-control toothpaste after a dental checkup.

Desensitizing Toothpaste — Tooth sensitivity often results from weakened enamel or the exposure of roots due to receding gums. Desensitizing toothpastes work by creating a barrier and blocking irritants from reaching the nerves.

Fluoride Toothpaste — Fluoride is important to your dental health and can be added to any type of toothpaste. Not only does fluoride strengthen teeth against dental cavities but it remineralizes teeth worn by acid and fights sensitivity. Fluoride toothpaste is an excellent choice for those who need a little extra help protecting themselves from cavities — especially children and seniors. Fluoride toothpastes are also recommended for those without the benefit of community water fluoridation.

Gum Health Toothpaste — Dental plaque found under the gum line can lead to gum disease. Although gum health toothpastes are not a professional gum disease treatment, they can control dental plaque and help prevent the possibility of gum disease in the future.

Smokers’ Toothpaste — These pastes contain abrasive materials used to remove stains. Dentists do not usually recommend smokers’ toothpastes, as they can further damage your teeth and delicate gum tissue.

Fresh Breath Toothpaste — Like many mouthwashes, fresh breath toothpastes are designed to mask bad breath but do not actually treat halitosis.

Natural Toothpaste — For those who are uncomfortable brushing with chemicals, natural toothpastes may be an option. These contain all-natural ingredients but have varied results. Some natural toothpastes may not contain fluoride, so you should check the label before buying the product.

Children’s Toothpaste — These toothpastes have been developed to meet the special needs of children. As children are extremely susceptible to dental cavities, their toothpastes often contain fluoride. Younger children should only use a small amount of toothpaste to avoid ingestion and prevent dental fluorosis and should be always supervised during brushing.

Baking Soda Toothpaste — Baking soda has traditional significance because it was once used to clean teeth. Although baking soda has no therapeutic value, some prefer it because they enjoy the fresh feeling they get after brushing with it.

Gels — Some gels contain mouthwash which may be why some prefer the consistency or taste of a gel over a toothpaste. While gels may make your mouth feel fresher, there’s no proof that they clean teeth better than toothpastes. Also, many gels do not contain fluoride.

Tooth Powders — Dry powders are also available to clean your teeth but they are often more abrasive than toothpaste.

Haste Makes Waste

Equally as important as the type of toothpaste you use is the way you use it. Adults usually only need a pea-sized amount to get the therapeutic effects toothpaste has to offer. How you brush also affects your oral health. Tilt your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle towards the gums and gently brush for at least two minutes using short, circular strokes. You should brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft toothbrush that won’t damage your gums.

You Complete Me

With so many types and brands of toothpastes, how do you choose which one is right toothpaste for you? Your best bet is to speak with your dentist, who after a thorough exam can help you determine your toothpaste needs. For example, you may want a whitening toothpaste but your teeth may not be cut out to handle its abrasive materials. If you’re cavity-prone, your dentist may recommend a fluoride toothpaste or any one of the toothpastes on the market to best accommodate your dental needs.

Although toothpaste is a significant contribution to your oral hygiene routine, it’s just one part of your oral health care regimen. Brushing must be combined with other aspects of dental care including flossing and a good diet. Regular dental visits are also needed to check for dental problems.

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