Which toothpaste should I use?

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July 2014

One of the most asked questions I hear is, “Which toothpaste should I use?”  With over 350 different kinds of pastes, gels and powders on the market, selecting one can get pretty confusing.  The multiple ads and creative marketing make it hard to choose what’s important when it comes to toothpastes. So let’s start with the basics.

To receive the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance, toothpaste must meet requirements for safety and effectiveness. Claims made on packaging must be proven, even if the claim is for something that’s not accepted by the ADA. When a product is accepted, a seal statement is provided to explain why. That statement must then be included in all labeling and advertising. Contrary to general belief, an ADA Seal of Acceptance is not an endorsement of the toothpaste.

Here is a glossary to help you decipher all of the terms and ingredients you may see listed on toothpaste labels.

  • Fluoride strengthens and re-mineralizes tooth enamel.
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a detergent used to create foaming action, may cause apthous ulcers (canker sores), dry mouth and allergies.
  • Flavoring Agents are additives such as saccharin, xylitol, peppermint and cinnamon to enhance the taste.
  • Xylitol is a sweet flavoring agent that has been shown to reduce tooth decay by 33% with regular use and is helpful in remineralizing tooth enamel.
  • Antimicrobials (Triclosan) that help reduce bacteria. The Center for Disease Control warns that over-use could result in antimicrobial resistant bacteria.
  • Whitening Toothpastes do not alter tooth color but can remove extrinsic stains such as coffee and tea stains. It may cause tooth sensitivity and excessive use can cause damage to tooth enamel and dental work.
  • Potassium Nitrate is an ingredient in toothpaste for treating sensitive teeth.
  • Sodium Hexametaphosphate heightens the effect of the detergents/foaming agents used in toothpaste. In some cases allergic reactions in the oral cavity, such as tissue sloughing, can occur.
  • Abrasives help to remove plaque and is what gives toothpaste its cleaning power. It can cause abrasion leading to enamel damage; can also cause sensitivity if it is highly abrasive. Common abrasives include alumina, hydrated silica, dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). Baking soda is considered safe and is very low abrasive.
  • Tartar Control Pastes contain Pyrophosphates and Zinc Citrate which help prevent mineral deposits on teeth but also can cause tooth sensitivity.
  • Polyethylene or Polypropylene are non-biodegradable plastic micro-beads which are added to toothpaste for color.

To receive FDA approval, manufacturers must submit the relative dentin abrasivity(RDA) of their toothpastes. However, they are not required to list the RDA number on packaging. Be aware that highly abrasive toothpastes – such as whitening and tarter control formulas – can remove the luster and shine of porcelain veneers and crowns, damage natural enamel and cause tooth sensitivity. Our office recommends to a choose toothpaste with an RDA value under 100.

0 - 70 = low abrasive 

70 - 100 = medium abrasive            

100 - 150 = highly abrasive             

150 - 250 = regarded as harmful limit


Plain toothbrush and water 04

Straight baking soda 07

Arm and Hammer Tooth Powder 08

Enamelon 08

CariFree CTx4 Gel 18

Arm & Hammer Dental Care 35

Sensodyne ProNamel  37

Arm & Hammer Metadent Advanced Whitening 42

Tom of Maine Sensitive 49

Arm & Hammer Peroxicare Tartar Control 53

CloSYS 53

Tom of Maine Children’s 70

Colgate Regular 68

Colgate Total 70

Sensodyne 79

Aim 83

Close-Up 80

Colgate Sensitive Max Strength 83

Aquafresh Sensitive 91

Rembrandt Plus 94

Crest Regular 95

Mentadent 103

Sensodyne Extra Whitening 104

Colgate Platinum 106

Crest Sensitivity Protection 107

Colgate Herbal 110

Aquafresh Whitening 113

Arm & Hammer Tartar Control 117

Close-Up With Baking Soda 120  

Colgate Whitening 124

Crest Extra Whitening 130

Ultra Brite 133

Crest MulltiCare Whitening 144

Colgate Baking Soda Whitening 145  

Pepsodent 150

Colgate Tartar Control 165

Nature’s Gate Paste 176

Colgate 2-In-1 Tartar Control Whitening 200

Icy Blast Whitening 200

Crest Vivid White 200

Ultrabrite Advanced Whitening 260

Selecting toothpaste can be confusing and overwhelming. Read the ingredients and know their purpose. My advice is to choose one that does not include whitening or tartar control properties in order to help prevent and/or lessen tooth sensitivity and damage to your enamel and dental work.


Kendra Haynes Fox RDH, BS

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