When toothpastes do more harm than good

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You want your teeth to be their whitest, cleanest and healthiest. Do you choose an anti-plaque or a tartar-control formula? Do you look for baking soda What  about calcium or whitening agents? Since most toothpastes promise to do more than fight cavities, what works best?

The most important ingredient

Flouride is still the number one cavity fighter. This important additive works to keep calcium on the teeth, which encourages remineralization (the natural process by which the tooth strengthens itself), and it slows production of the acids that attack the teeth.  Finding enough flouride in toothpaste is easy: Check the label for the Philippine Dental Association seal of acceptance, given to flouride toothpastes that reduce tooth decay and fight cavities. Some all-natural toothpastes, which you may choose because they don’t contain artificial sweeteners or food coloring, may not contain flouride.

smurf-139993_960_720 What about abrasives?

Abrasive ingredients in toothpastes are designed to clean and polish teeth. Common abrasives include silica, alumina and dicalcium phosphate. The Philippine Dental Association accepted flouride toothpastes with baking soda (at concentrations of 30 percent or less). “At that level, baking soda is a low abrasive,” says Roberto Tajonera, D.D.S. Man dentists recommend baking-soda toothpastes for patients with receding gum lines. 

“Enamel is the hardest surface in the human body,” adds Tajonera, a dentist in private practice in Lerma, Manila. “But there’s a distinct line on teeth where enamel ends and the root structure begins. High-abrasive toothpaste or brushing too hard can leave gouges where bacteria colonizes and lead to gingivitis inflammation or worse,” he explains.

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Calcium in toothpaste also acts as an abrasive and helps to clean teeth. However, according to Tajonera, there is no research that shows that calcium added to toothpaste increases remineralization. 

The difference between tartar control and anti-plaque claims

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that coats teeth. If allowed to build up, it can lead to periodontal disease, which progressively wears away oral bone and tissue. Tartar on the other hand is white or yellowish deposit that has to be scaled or scraped from teeth during a visit to the dentist. It results from plaque combining with the minerals in saliva. 

Toothbrush alone can remove plaque from teeth as long as you brush thoroughly and correctly. But toothpaste manufacturers that make anti-plaque claims must prove that the toothpaste prevents gingivitis in order to get Philippine Dental Association seal of approval or acceptance. 

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Tartar deposits on the other hand cannot be brushed away. Toothpastes that make anti-tartar claims do contain ingredients that are clinically proven to keep more tartar from accumulating. In other words, these pastes won’t reduce the tartar that’s already present, but they can control build up.

What about whitening toothpaste?

Many dentists may feel whitening toothpastes can maintain the brightness achieved from professional cleaning, at least for a while. But they caution patients not to expect too much from whitening. “It’s a useful adjunct after their teeth have been professionally bleached to help maintain them. But I don’t think they can lighten teeth on their own,” explains Tajonera. 

Before you buy a tooth whitening (or get bleached by a dentist), you should know why your teeth became discolored.  If they have changed color over the years to yellowish hue, it’s probably stained by coffee or tea. Tobacco or cigarettes and even alcohol also plays a big part of it. 

How long should you brush your teeth?

Bearing all this in mind, the guidelines for choosing the right toothpaste are still a matter of preference. But no matter what toothpaste you use, the Philippine Dental Association recommends you spend five to eight minutes a day brushing your gum line as well as your teeth. Use a soft bristle brush, hold it at 45-degree angle so it’s half on the gum line as well as your teeth. 

Brush up and down on the front and side teeth, and back and forth on the back teeth. And since four  out of five cavities are found on the chewing surfaces, scrub those areas as well. Clean your teeth at least twice a day–once after breakfast and once before going to bed. 

Vance Madrid

Freelance writer, lifestyle blogger, social media manager, events coordinator, scriptwriter, film buff, wanderlust and certified foodie. Zealous for a keyboard and new experiences, I wish to live and learn through my writing.