How Does Toothpaste Work?

Account to a global study, about 3.5 billion people around the world suffer from oral diseases. Also, the study found that caries of permanent teeth affects about 2.3 billion people. The main cause of dental caries is the lack of enough fluoride. Oral hygiene products such as toothpaste are among the best fluoride sources.

The WHO recommends you should brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day.

Why Toothpaste

Teeth, especially the enamel (outer layer), is susceptible to decay. Because of the foods we eat, the enamel is vulnerable to damage, chipping, or dissolving. If this progresses, it can lead to a plaque buildup. Plaque contains acid-producing bacteria that can lead to tooth decay, cavities, and loss.

Toothpaste helps to deal with plaques. It also reduces the incidence of related conditions such as bad breath and gum disease. Understanding what is in toothpaste is critical. It helps you to appreciate the science behind how toothpaste works.

Fluoride- The Key Ingredient

There are lots of ingredients in toothpaste. The most potent and often discussed is fluoride. Fluoride is an inorganic chemical compound that occurs in rocks. When the rocks break down, they release the mineral into the surrounding soil, water, and air.

You may also note that this fluoride isn’t enough to prevent tooth decay. Because of this, sources such as drinking water and toothpaste have extra fluoride. This addition helps to get it to the levels needed to fight tooth decay.

How Does Fluoride Work

Fluoride targets to fortify your tooth enamel in many ways.

First, when the teeth are emerging, fluoride hardens the enamel as it develops. This toughening helps it withstand cavities and decay.

After the teeth have appeared, fluoride helps to strengthen the enamel. A strong enamel can withstand the acid produced by oral bacteria.

Also, fluoride remineralizes teeth by attaching to calcium and phosphate ions. This deposit of minerals on tooth surfaces helps to create a new surface veneer. It is this veneer that rebuilds weak or worn-down enamel.

Fluoride toothpaste gives people a fighting chance against dental caries. The American Dental Association (ADA) requires toothpaste to contain fluoride.

Other Ingredients in Toothpaste

While fluoride is one of the top ingredients, it isn’t the only one found in toothpaste. The are several others that combine to make toothpaste effective in oral health. Here are some of the top ingredients to expect.

Abrasives: if you have plaque or stained teeth, abrasives can help. Look for toothpaste with ingredients like silica, calcium carbonate, and alumina. Abrasives dissolve plaque and polish teeth without damaging the enamel or dentine.

Detergents: this class of ingredients includes sodium lauryl sulphate. They dislodge plaque and food debris from your teeth. The foaming action of detergents also gives you a fresh breath and a pleasant mouthfeel.

Humectants: an example of humectants is glycerin. It ensures your toothpaste is always moisturized and doesn’t dry out.

Thickeners: when you squeeze your toothpaste from the tube, it stays on the brush. This stickiness is the work of thickeners such as cellulose gum that hold the paste together.

Other ingredients include preservatives, flavoring, and coloring agents.

How Safe Is Toothpaste?

Toothpaste is either a cosmetic product or licensed medicine. Whatever the case, toothpaste safety is a top regulatory concern. While the ingredients used in making toothpaste are safe, there is a need to track usage. Depending on the age group, toothpaste needs differ.

The National Health Service recommends that children under the age of 3 brush twice a day. Their toothpaste should be grain-size amount containing at least 1,000ppm fluoride.

Children between 3 and 6 years should use a pea-size amount of 1,000ppm fluoride toothpaste. Ensure that you supervise their brushing to reduce swallowing. When unsure, seek the guidance of your doctor or dentist.

Adults must brush at least twice a day with 1,350-1,500ppm fluoride toothpaste.

The EU has specific regulations that guide the amount of fluoride in toothpaste. For instance, it puts the percentage fluoride limits at 0.1 to 0.15% when mixing with other compounds.

How to Choose the Best Toothpaste?

It should not come as a surprise that not every toothpaste out there contains fluoride. For this reason, you must exercise care when shopping for toothpaste. Apart from the ADA Seal of Acceptance, look for fluoride in the ingredient list.

If you have sensitive teeth, look for stannous fluoride and potassium nitrate. These toothpaste ingredients are best to handle the sensitivity.

Potassium nitrate helps calm the nerves in your teeth and gum. It achieves this by preventing the nerves from relaying pain signals back to the brain.

Stannous fluoride goes a step further to protect the dentine. The dentine is the layer immediately under the enamel. The protection intercepts the triggers coming from the tooth. This mechanism helps to avoid pain signals all in one go.

Other oral conditions may also cause choosing toothpaste with specific ingredients. For instance, people with stained teeth and gum inflammation need special care.


Oral health is a much bigger sphere that goes beyond choosing a toothpaste or toothbrush. In spite of that, getting the right fluoride toothpaste is the first step to healthy oral hygiene. You also need to check your diet, especially sugary foods. If you can, avoid candy which can speed up tooth decay and the formation of cavities. Your dental hygienist and dentist are the go-to people for advice on oral care.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *