When it comes to our shopping, we’re used to looking at the ingredients of a product we are going to buy and we know what to avoid, but how many of us actually look at the ingredients of the toothpaste in our basket. Whilst it’s good to know what to look for in a toothpaste, it’s also good to know what to look out for.
Below we look at 3 controversial ingredients.
Let’s start with fluoride. There has been a lot written about fluoride. Fluoride is a natural occurring mineral that is found in most toothpastes. Brushing your teeth with a toothpaste that contains fluoride is one of the most effective ways against fighting cavities and tooth decay.
A range of toothpastes are available containing different levels of fluoride. The amount of fluoride in the toothpaste can be found on the side of the tube and is measured in parts per million (ppm). Toothpastes containing 1,350 to 1,500ppm fluoride are the most effective*. It’s recommended that for children under 6 toothpaste should contain at least 1000ppm. Always make sure you are using the right toothpaste with the right fluoride levels especially with younger members of the family.
In some areas fluoride is added to drinking water as a preventive measure against tooth decay, Fluoride in drinking water can be a controversial topic but the science points towards it being a positive thing from dental health. Some people are concerned about fluoride, however there is no scientific evidence to suggest it is bad for you in the quantities you ingest through drinking water, toothpastes, mouthwashes or occasional treatments at the dentist.
Triclosan and Triclocarban are other common ingredients in toothpaste. They are well-proven antibacterial agents that helps to reduce plaque buildup and therefore helps protect against decay and gum disease. Like fluoride, there has been a lot written about these ingredients as they can also be found in soaps and liquid soaps. According to NHS, the use of Triclosan could be causing antibiotic resistance. Typically the level of Triclosan used in toothpastes is 0.3%. Triclosan is being phased out in the EU and in 2016 the US banned the sale of antiseptic washes containing Triclosan. This may be an ingredient you may want to either avoid or at least monitor the level in your toothpaste. A simple ‘tricosan free toothpaste’ search on Google will let you know what’s available to buy.
Whitening toothpastes work primarily by increasing the abrasiveness of the product. Mild abrasives help keep teeth clean and prevent staining. Abrasives might be listed as phosphates, carbonates, silica compounds or aluminium compounds. Some whitening toothpastes also contain hydrogen peroxide. Higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide are used professionally.
But at the percentages added to toothpaste, there is no strong evidence for its effectiveness. Whitening toothpastes without hydrogen peroxide rely on detergents and abrasives to help remove and prevent staining. Detergents assist in loosening debris and staining.
Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and cocamidopropyl betaine are two popular foaming agents in toothpaste. SLS can contribute to irritation and mouth ulcers in some people, so you may want to use an SLS-free toothpaste.
So the next time you brush your teeth or need to buy a new tube, take a look at the ingredients listed and see if it’s the right toothpaste for you. With so many on the market you really can find the right one.
*why not check the fluoride level in your toothpaste