Choosing a toothpaste
Probably one of the most common questions that I get asked is “What is the best toothpaste to use?” This question makes sense as almost everyone believes that brushing with toothpaste is an important part of preventing cavities and other dental problems. However, a quick Google search of toothpaste finds ten plus pages of brands and types from the common Crest to the less well known such as clay toothpastes. I’m pretty confident that I haven’t heard of even half of the different types of toothpastes on the market today. However, when I’m buying a toothpaste, I consider three things: is it for kids or adults, what does it do to protect my teeth, and how abrasive is it.
When I see a child as a patient, my first question is what type of toothpaste is she using. I’m a huge fan of kid’s toothpastes as they come in a variety of flavors and have anything from Barbie to Superman on them. If it were up to me, these flavors would be in the adult toothpastes too as I like the kid’s flavors much more. I generally recommend that the child pick the toothpaste so that they can “own” it. I personally do not like the toddler training toothpastes and for any child with teeth in their mouth, I do not recommend them. The reason is that the toddler’s toothpastes don’t have protective features in them such as fluoride. While the reason for toddler’s toothpastes is so that parents don’t have to worry about their child swallowing the toothpaste, I recommend half a pea size being used on little ones who aren’t good at spitting yet. If they swallow that small of an amount, it will not hurt them. Now if your child swallows an entire tube of it, then you will have an upset stomach to deal with, but over the counter toothpaste is pretty benign.
I’m sure some of you upon reading my recommendation of fluoride for their child think that I’m an idiot. Many people are convinced that fluoride does a lot of harm despite the mountain of evidence that shows otherwise. I personally use a prescription grade toothpaste called Prevident that has five times the amount of fluoride as over the counter ones, and I prescribe it to many of my patients who need a stronger toothpaste. Another selling point to me is that it comes in bubble gum flavor. I don’t use this toothpaste for little ones as I do worry about them spitting it out, but it is not an issue for teens and adults. If you are part of the group that doesn’t want fluoride in your mouth or your child’s mouth, there are other products that you can use. Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate is the best thing in my opinion if you don’t want fluoride. Just the cheap stuff that you can buy by the pound at the local grocery store. If you don’t like the flavor of it, there are some other toothpastes that can work ok such as ones that contain xylitol. Xylitol as mentioned in a previous blog helps kill cavities by starving them; however, for xylitol toothpaste to work, you must use it at least three times a day and ideally five.
Now the final part of the equation is abrasiveness of the toothpaste, and it is the one part that toothpaste companies do not want you to know about. If you Google toothpaste abrasion, you’ll find a bunch of various lists on abrasion by toothpaste. However, this is a pretty simple one to sum up: if it says tartar control or whitening, it is too abrasive for your teeth. These toothpastes work by being very abrasive and can cause sensitivity to your teeth in the long run. If sensitivity is an issue for you and you are using one of these toothpastes, switch to a sensitivity toothpaste such as Sensodyne or Colgate Sensitive.
While this blog is pretty light compared to previous articles, I hope it gives you some practical advice. If you are in the toothpaste aisle right now, searching through the 500 types of toothpastes, and trying to find the right one, go with something basic such as “Cavity Protection” or original. If you want something kinda fun, go with a kid’s toothpaste as those will work fine for adults. If you like your current toothpaste but are unsure if it’s a good fit for you, next time you see your dentist, bring it along and ask her for her opinion.