Selecting a toothpaste for good dental health used to be a simple task. These days, with annual sales of more than $1.5 billion, the toothpaste industry is booming, with each manufacturer offering a wide range of options including different colors, flavors and special formulations. An American Dental Association survey showed that 56 percent of American adults are confused by all the options. How do you know which toothpaste is best for oral health?
ADA Seal of Acceptance
The first step to selecting the best toothpaste for your dental health is to separate the hype from the science. Always look for the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance on any toothpaste you consider, as many dentists recommend only the toothpastes that have the seal. The ADA seal means that the toothpaste has undergone required independent clinical studies on claims such as cavity prevention and tartar control, and has been shown to be safe and effective. Of dental products submitted for acceptance, only about 60 percent meet ADA standards initially.
Fluoride is the one ingredient that most dentists agree is beneficial to everyone's dental health. Fluoride helps prevent cavities and tooth decay while strengthening teeth. In general, fluoride makes up 0.1 to 0.6 percent of a toothpaste's ingredient profile. Dr. Kimberly A. Loos, D.D.S., recommends that parents with young children choose a paste on the lower end of the scale in case their children accidentally ingest some toothpaste while brushing.
Many adults suffer from tooth sensitivity, and many products are marketed to help with the pain. Some toothpastes feature potassium nitrate or strontium chloride, compounds that help shut down pain signals by buffering nerve endings in teeth. Dentists often recommend these special toothpastes, at least as a temporary treatment, to patients who suffer from receding gums or general tooth sensitivity.
The addition of whitening agents to toothpastes is big business. However, dentists aren't enthusiastic about the ability of whitening toothpastes to promote good dental health. Many whitening formulas are abrasive and may wear down tooth enamel over time. Loos recommends only using whitening toothpaste once per day and using a regular non-whitening toothpaste for the second brushing.
Plaque on the teeth, if left unchecked, eventually forms into tartar, a hard, brown substance that remains on the teeth despite consistent brushing. Tartar-control toothpastes help reduce tartar formation with chemicals called pyrophosphates. Many dentists recommend tartar-control toothpastes for all patients for good dental health. However, once tartar has completely formed, only a professional dental cleaning can remove it.
With all the toothpaste options on the market, it can be difficult to select the best option for your personal oral health. As long as the toothpaste has the ADA seal of approval and the FDA-approved level of fluoride, any other attributes are merely personal preference. Consider what you want your toothpaste to do for your dental health and stay consistent with regular brushing and flossing to set yourself up for a good dental checkup.
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