Most of the time, our patient will refer to a recent advertisement they saw on TV which claims to be the next best thing since sliced bread. But the truth is, there really is no single “best toothpaste” for that suits everyone.
Most toothpaste can be widely broken down into a few simple categories and they can all work well if used correctly*.
Children’s toothpastes are generally designed specifically for kids whose dentition is still forming, but more importantly who are unable to spit out the toothpaste properly. It is a common misconception that kids’ toothpaste are better for kids because they are specifically designed to be absorbed better by “milk teeth”. Kids toothpastes generally contain a lower level of fluoride and abrasives compared to adult teeth. More importantly the fluoride exists in a formulation so that if it is ingested, it quickly becomes unavailable to be absorbed by the body, thus avoiding issues such as fluorosis caused by excessive fluoride ingestion by kids.
Children’s toothpastes are also often flavoured, making it a little easier to convince your little one to brush their teeth!
We would generally recommend using children’s toothpaste until your child is about 6 – use a pea sized amount and ensure that they know to spit out the toothpaste as opposed to swallowing it. Remember the trick to encouraging kids to brush their teeth from an early age is to make it fun!
Whitening and/or tartar removal toothpaste
Whitening or tartar removal toothpaste works in 2 ways. The tartar control is achieved by having an active particle which “locks up” loose substrates that are involved in tartar formation. The so called “whitening” portion is generally achieved by increasing the size/amount of abrasives in the toothpaste thus removing more surface stains. This type of toothpaste is therefore not recommended for children or those who have sensitive teeth or teeth that are already “worn down”.
In fact the effect of these types of toothpaste are fairly limited as they do nothing to the underlying/intrinsic stain of the teeth. If you’re looking to significantly improve the colour and/or appearance of your teeth, teeth whitening treatment may be a more effective option.
Toothpaste for sensitive teeth
These toothpastes appears to be all the rage lately as we have all seen the TV ads telling us how this is the answer to all sensitive teeth. However, the truth is these toothpaste will generally only combat mild/moderate sensitivity in the great majority of the cases but they are a great adjunct in addition to other anti-sensitivity treatments such as white fillings.
They generally work via two pathways, one is a pharmaceutical effect of the active ingredient making the exposed nerve endings less responsive – just like any medication, the effect stops a few days after you stop using it. The second pathway is to “block” or “insulate” the exposed nerve endings thus making them less exposed to the hot or cold stimulus. These effects tends to be more lasting and better for the teeth in the long run.
The most common active ingredients in herbal toothpaste on the market involves either essential oils or natural ingredients such as “propolis” or charcoal. These toothpastes are usually free of fluoride as well and are not properly studied for their long term effects. Therefore until further research is done, we cannot recommend these toothpaste especially those that have removed the single most important active ingredient – Fluoride.
Toothpaste for High Decay risk patients
Whilst every toothpaste markets themselves been the ultimate decay fighter by using words like ‘extreme’, ‘advanced’, ‘complete’ to make you think they are the one stop shop to all your decay problems, there is actually little proven difference between most of them. However, there is a type of toothpaste specifically designed for people with high decay risk. One example of this is Colgate’s Neutrofleur 5000 which is an over the counter toothpaste; meaning you need to ask your pharmacist or dentist for it. It contains roughly 5x more fluoride and works on the theory that having more fluoride will repair the damages of daily wear and tear.
It also needs to be used differently compared to normal toothpaste to get maximum effect hence we would normally only recommend it to those who have had a history of repeated dental decays. Whilst it sounds enticing to just go with this type of toothpaste, they do cost more compared to the generic type and probably won’t help any more than the “normal” toothpaste if you don’t have any history of dental decays.
If you are still uncertain as to what is the best toothpaste for your particular situation, please feel free to contact us via our website and we will do our best to answer any queries you may have.
At the end of the day, speaking to your dentist is your best option. They will be able to recommend you a brand and kind of toothpaste that is tailored to your individual oral health needs.
Dr Jeremy Lam
*This article is designed for reading by the general public and is not designed to be a scientific review.