Choosing the right toothpaste

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General Dental Care
BDSc (Hons) (Melb)

Choosing the right toothpasteLet’s face it, most people don’t put a lot of thought into deciding which toothpaste to buy. Yet it is important to know that the toothpaste you use is the best one for your oral health. Apart from giving you that freshly cleaned feeling, toothpaste plays an essential role in the care of your teeth and gums. Several different kinds are available.

Flouridated toothpaste

The majority of toothpastes available at the supermarket contain fluoride. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that helps fight dental decay by strengthening your teeth from within. It does this by being absorbed into weakened areas of your enamel and forming a hard mineral called flouroapatite, which is resistant to acid attack – the main cause of decay.

Fluoride is most easily absorbed if it is applied directly to your teeth – as are your twice-yearly fluoride treatments at the dentist. While fluoride in toothpaste occurs at much lower concentrations than in those treatments, it is a crucial element in making sure your teeth are looked after between visits to the dentist.

When used correctly, fluoride in toothpaste is a safe and effective agent for both adults and children.

However, infants from 18 months to 6 years of age should use children’s toothpaste with a lower concentration of fluoride. And all fluoridated toothpaste should be spat out, not swallowed.

Toothpastes for sensitive teeth

Dental TubulesIf your teeth are sensitive to cold, your dentist may recommend switching to one of the specially formulated toothpastes for sensitive teeth. The available choices generally contain potassium- or strontium-based salts that act to block off the tiny passageways (dental tubules) between the nerve of your teeth and the outside surface.

The process is a gradual one, and you should allow a few weeks to build up a resistance to sensitivity. Switching to a toothpaste for sensitive teeth is often an effective, conservative method of dealing with generalised sensitivity.

Whitening toothpastes

Whitening toothpastes are perhaps the most marketed dental pastes available. They work mainly via the addition of abrasives into the paste. These act to mechanically remove superficial stains caused by caffeine, smoking, etc. on the outer layer of the teeth. Unfortunately, when used excessively, these abrasives can also wear away weak portions of the tooth itself and expose the inner (yellow) layer of the tooth.

We do not recommend toothpastes with harsh abrasives, as they tend to damage teeth in the long run – both in terms of lost tooth structure and, ironically, loss of brightness.

To achieve a whiter, brighter smile ditch the DIY whitening toothpastes and consider the more viable teeth whitening options. Here at Smile Solutions we offer both at-home kits and in-chair services. (See Teeth Whitening )

Toothpastes for high-risk patients

If you are more prone to dental decay than other people – due to the structure of your teeth, your medical history or your lifestyle – you may benefit from a high-strength fluoride toothpaste. These products are specialised for high-risk individuals and aim to deliver more protection against cavities than standard alternatives.

Likewise, if you are at increased risk of periodontal (gum) disease, a specialised antibacterial toothpaste may be an option.

The decision to use either of these products should be made only after a consultation with your dentist and as part of a comprehensive treatment plan targeting your risk profile. Assigned properly, these toothpastes can be useful adjuncts to maintaining your oral health at home.

In summary, there are many factors to consider when you next buy toothpaste. We recommend the use of a fluoridated brand – either as is, or in a sensitive formulation. While we do not recommend whitening toothpastes, there are alternative whitening options available. Some high-risk patients may also benefit from high-strength fluoride preparations. Your dentist will be able to guide you through the options if you are still stuck for choice.

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