The Trouble with Toothpaste

Toothpaste Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at

If you’ve stood in front of a shelf full of toothpaste unable to decide which one to buy, you’re not alone. There’s a wide range of toothpastes on the market – different brands and different flavours, all claiming to achieve different things. How do you decide which is right for you and your family?

What’s in toothpaste?

Most toothpastes contain the following:

  • Detergent – to kill the tooth attacking bacteria and create the foam we associate with brushing
  • Thickening agents – to put the ‘paste’ in toothpaste
  • Artificial sweeteners and flavourings – to make the toothpaste taste nice and fresh
  • Anti-drying agents – to prevent the toothpaste caking up
  • Abrasives – to help remove left over food and stains from our teeth
  • Fluoride – to strengthen enamel and protect teeth from plaque acids

In addition, toothpaste manufacturers will incorporate different ingredients to address things like sensitivity, and tartar control..

Sensitive Toothpaste

The active ingredients in ‘sensitive’ toothpaste help reduce the pain that eating or drinking certain things can trigger. If you do have sensitive teeth, it’s worth checking with your dentist that there is no underlying issue that needs treatment, Otherwise, regular and ongoing use of a sensitive toothpaste can reduce sensitivity.

Tartar Control

If you already have a build-up of tartar on your teeth, you’ll need to get it removed by your dentist. However, tartar control toothpaste includes ingredients to help prevent plaque turning in to tartar and building up in future.


Whitening toothpastes will contain more ‘abrasive’ ingredients to scratch stains off tooth enamel. Although many of us want whiter teeth, the abrasive nature of these toothpastes could cause long term damage, so you might want to consider the alternatives of professional cosmetic dentistry [].


Children’s toothpaste contains less fluoride than ‘adult’ toothpaste and is less abrasive, reducing damage to tooth enamel. Perhaps the most important extra ingredient in children’s toothpaste are the flavours that encourage your little ones to brush better!

You may find that you see the benefit of using a toothpaste specifically aimed at a problem you are experiencing, or of choosing a toothpaste that offers to target several oral hygiene issues at once. However, it’s also worth bearing in mind that provided you choose a toothpaste approved by the British Dental Association, you will be brushing with a paste formulated to keep your teeth healthy.

If you can’t decide which toothpaste is right for you, or you’re worried about a dental issue, the best thing to do is to speak to your dentist or hygienist. He or she will be able to talk to you about the right kind of toothpaste to use, and about dental hygiene and brushing in general, to help you keep your teeth and gums healthy for longer. If you’d like to make an appointment to speak to one of our dentists here at the Pembrokeshire Dental Centre in Newport, please call us on 01239 820083.




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