Have you ever found yourself in the store’s toothpaste aisle staring at the multitude of choices available? Where do you even start – fluoride, whitening, tartar control, sensitivity, mouthwash added, natural, herbal? The list goes on and on. To make it more difficult, the competition is so intense among manufacturers that they are constantly changing formulas and names to compete with other products that show sales success or to measure up to focus group results. They are always playing on your emotions! So you try and find something that you’ve liked before, and – it is no longer available.
Let’s talk a little about what active ingredients you can find in a toothpaste and what is important. Grab your toothpaste and look at the label (you may need reading glasses…it is the very small print, usually on the box it came in).
Lastly, and one of the most overlooked – Hydrated Silica – also known as sand. Grit. It is what cleans surface stain off teeth. The labels do not show how much grit there is in the paste, and it can vary a lot! Many manufacturers make it hard to find out. There is, however, a scale of how much grit is in a product and how abrasive to a tooth it is – the RDA (Relative Dentin Abrasivity) scale. The higher the number, the more grit it contains, and the more tooth structure can be worn away by improper brushing.
Think of it like sandpaper – if you’ve ever sanded wood, you start with a coarse paper, and move down to medium, fine, and then extra fine. If you grab a tube of “whitening” toothpaste, it is like you are scrubbing your teeth with coarse sandpaper. The name is very misleading because these toothpastes do NOT whiten your teeth – they simply remove surface stains off your teeth, which technically “whitens,” but only to the whiteness your teeth naturally are! It is like scrubbing a coffee stain off your kitchen countertop with soft scrub – the stain is gone, so the counter is “whiter,” but you didn’t change the actual color of the top. Unfortunately, if you have recession or an acidic mouth, you can do much more damage to the teeth. One of the causes of notches at the gum line is toothpaste abrasion. This is more severe in acidic mouths.
So, what do we recommend?
It depends on your need:
How much should you use? IGNORE the pictures and ads that show a huge ribbon of tooth-paste. They want to sell you more toothpaste! Use an amount about the size of an english pea.
Here is a chart that gives the RDA values for many common toothpastes. Sticking to one under 70 puts you in the “fine or extra fine” range of sandpaper.