There are a MILLION different kinds of toothpaste in the toothpaste aisle of your local Target. Well, maybe not a literal million, but it’s definitely overwhelming. With so many different kinds, how do you know you’re picking the right toothpaste for you? What makes a good toothpaste? Is it the minty flavor or a whiter smile?
The Truth About Whitening Toothpastes
Let’s start with the most common misconception about toothpaste – that whitening toothpaste whitens teeth. It doesn’t. Well it kind of does, but not in the way that you want it to.
Whitening toothpaste has the same ingredients as whitening gels and whitening strips to be sure, but those ingredients need to stay on your teeth for nearly 30 minutes and typically at higher concentrations to be truly effective. In this regard, having these ingredients in the tube is all marketing.
I did say that whitening toothpaste can whiten teeth – sort of. Whitening toothpaste has the ability to remove more surface stains on teeth because it has more silica or grittiness in general than other toothpastes. But over the long term, studies have shown that this grittiness will actually wear away layers of your enamel. Combined with an acidic diet, you could actually end up brushing your enamel off and making your teeth appear more yellow over several years of use. Especially stay away from whitening toothpastes if you have any sort of gum recession because the roots of your teeth are not protected with enamel like the tops are, and this can create notches in your teeth at the gumline.
What To Get Instead
Something simple like a cavity protection toothpaste with fluoride and no whitening at all. It will save your teeth and save you at least a dollar on the tube as well. If you’re in the store and you can’t find toothpaste without whitening, look up at the top shelf or down at the bottom. They put the most expensive toothpastes with the whitening at eye level.
If you still want whiter teeth, an over-the-counter option is Crest Whitestrips. Otherwise many dentist offices, including ours, sell Opalescence Go or can make you custom whitening trays. None of these options are damaging to teeth.
If You Have Sensitive Teeth
Does sensitivity toothpaste work or is that all marketing too? To those with tooth sensitivity I have good news. Tooth sensitivity toothpastes have active ingredients that have been shown to be very effective, reaching their maximum effectiveness after two weeks of use.
I recommend the Sensodyne Pronamel which also has a very low abrasion score, meaning it is gentle on your enamel as well. An additional bonus is that Sensodyne Pronamel is also SLS free if your body is sensitive to that sort of thing.
A Fluoride-Free Alternative
What do you look for if you’re not into the whole fluoride thing? As a dentist, I am a big fan of fluoride because I can see the impact on tooth decay prevention, but at the end of the day you need to feel good about what you are putting in your body. If you’re looking for a non-fluoride toothpaste, Tom’s of Maine Regular is gentle on enamel and a good alternative – but keep in mind that you are sacrificing protection against tooth decay.
Charcoal Toothpaste Trends
Charcoal or activated charcoal toothpastes were super trendy a few years ago and I still see them on the market here and there. These are a terrible idea – do not use them. They offer no benefit to your teeth and are even more abrasive than the whitening toothpastes on the market. They can cause a lot of tooth damage.
I hope this helps you make the best decision for your health the next time you’re standing in the toothpaste aisle. Thank you for listening, and as always, have a wonderful rest of your day!