There are many varieties of toothpaste available for purchase. There are those for dental caries prevention, for the prevention of periodontal disease, for treatment of sensitive teeth, for whitening and bleaching, and others that claim to have a specific purpose. It is no wonder that our patients frequently ask us for advice concerning which toothpaste they should be using.
Anticavity or anticaries toothpaste will typically contain 1000-1500 ppm of fluoride in order to inhibit the development of cavities, as fluoride helps to re-mineralize enamel surfaces.
Gingivitis and periodontitis are caused by the bacteria in dental plaque, which is removed by our daily brushing and flossing. Some toothpastes contain various antiseptic and antibacterial agents, such as triclosan, hydrogen peroxide, chlorhexidine, and baking soda in order to prevent bacterial growth.
Sensitivity toothpastes usually have an analgesic or numbing effect in order to treat sensitive teeth. These toothpastes tend to contain various fluoride compounds, silicates, arginine, and/or strontium salts, which help to block dentin tubules in our teeth, reducing or inhibiting the transmission of impulses to the pulps (nerve-containing centres) of our teeth.
Whitening toothpastes contain abrasive particles that are harder than stain molecules, and therefore stains are removed when we brush our teeth with these toothpastes. A significant side effect is enamel and dentin abrasion, which in turn leads to increased tooth sensitivity. The abrasiveness of toothpaste is indicated by its RDA (Relative Dental Abrasivity). The larger the number, the more abrasive a toothpaste is. For example, Sensodyne Pro-Enamel has an RDA value of around 32 to 37, and Colgate Total has an RDA value of 70, while Colgate Total Whitening has an RDA value of around 120 to 150.
Your choice of toothpaste should be based on your own personal dental needs and preferences. If you experience sensitivity on a daily basis, it’s best to use a sensitive toothpaste such as Sensodyne Pro-Enamel or Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief, and whitening toothpastes should be avoided. If you are prone to developing surface staining on your teeth and sensitivity is not an issue, you can consider using a whitening toothpaste from time to time to help prevent stain accumulation in between dental cleanings. There are also many toothpastes out there that serve more than one purpose. For example, Colgate Total contains fluoride in order to fight cavities, as well as triclosan which acts as an antibacterial.
It should be noted that most of the common toothpaste brands contain fluoride (Sensodyne, Crest, Colgate, etc), and these brands have all been approved by the Canadian Dental Association.