The best toothpaste. What does that even mean? With the wide variety of toothpastes available, the choice goes far beyond gel versus paste these days. How can a person choose? Knowing what goes into toothpaste and what those different ingredients do can help you pick the best one for your teeth.

“The most important thing is that you find a toothpaste that you enjoy using twice a day for a full two minutes,” said Samantha Sacchetti, D.D.S., general dentist at Village Dental in Kenilworth, Illinois.

Here are some tips for looking at the details and picking the toothpaste that works best for you.

Best Toothpaste Tip 1: Read the Label

When it comes to preventing cavities, it’s hard to beat fluoride. But the amounts and formulations may vary by manufacturer, Sacchetti said.

“While fluoride is recommended in toothpastes, someone more prone to cavities may want to seek out a toothpaste with a higher concentration of fluoride, although any toothpaste with an ADA Seal of Acceptance will have an effective amount,” she said. Toothpastes for children will have a lower concentration of fluoride.

Other ingredients can help reduce cavities as well. Sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda, helps to neutralize the pH of the mouth. Cavities form when teeth are exposed to acid from decomposing food, so baking soda can help reduce them.

Best Toothpaste Tip 2: Consider Your Needs

If you’re someone with gum recession or sensitive teeth, you may want to go with a toothpaste that is less abrasive. A toothpaste that is too abrasive can put you at risk for wearing away more of your tooth structure, Sacchetti said. However, if you find your teeth pick up stains easily, you may want a toothpaste with a little more grit.​

Toothpastes containing potassium nitrate will tend to help with sensitivity not associated with cavities, and toothpastes marked for sensitivity tend to be less abrasive. If you are someone who tends to get a heavy buildup of calculus, or hardened plaque, on your teeth, look for tetrasodium pyrophosphate, Sacchetti said. This ingredient can help prevent the formation of calculus and is often labeled as an “anti-tartar” toothpaste.

Best Toothpaste Tip 3: Take Your Taste Preferences Into Account

Some people prefer gels over pastes, Sacchetti said, while others look for certain flavors.

“While most people associate a mint flavor with cleanliness, it’s not necessary and there are plenty of alternative flavors and flavorless options,” she said. “Similarly, sodium lauryl sulfate and ammonium lauryl sulfate are ingredients added to produce that bubbly, foaming action we’re all used to.” While those ingredients aren’t necessary to produce clean teeth, some consumers prefer it.

The benefits of whitening toothpastes generally are overstated.

“The main mechanism is simply removing surface stains from teeth, which virtually all toothpastes do to a certain extent,” she said. Whitening toothpastes tend to be more abrasive as well.

“It’s tough to go wrong with a toothpaste that has the ADA Seal of Acceptance,” Sacchetti said. “As long as you’re using a good toothbrush and brushing technique, any toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Acceptance should be just fine in keeping your teeth healthy and clean.”


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