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Toothpaste, toothpaste everywhere

By: George Malkemus
April 20, 2018
The Wealth of Health

I am often asked, “What type of tooth paste should I buy?” The best answer is the toothpaste that you like best and will keep you brushing the longest. Though toothpaste is a billion-dollar business with much advertisement, the mechanical action of the toothbrush is what prevents gum disease and tooth decay and not the type of toothpaste. 

So pick toothpaste that you like and brush for at least two minutes.  Brush every tooth well, trying to reach every nook and cranny between the teeth.   

History of toothpaste

The Egyptians began brushing their teeth with toothpaste as long ago as 3000–5000 BC. Their toothpaste was a cream made of oxen hooves ground up into ashes, myrrh (a dried tree sap that was used in perfumes and incense), burned eggshells, pumice (a lightweight, porous volcanic stone that was used as an abrasive) and water.

In the 1700s, one type of toothpaste was made from burnt bread; another was made from dragon’s blood (Someone had a good imagination.), cinnamon and burnt alum. In the 1800s ground charcoal was common in tooth powder as an abrasive for cleaning teeth.

In 1873, one of today’s most popular tooth care products, Colgate, sold its first toothpaste. In our lifetime, toothpastes have become very popular. Even though its ingredients have changed dramatically from what the Egyptians used, all of today’s toothpastes contain nearly the same ingredients.

Toothpaste ingredients

Different toothpastes use different combinations of ingredients; the list below was acquired from several brands of toothpaste to show you the range of ingredients that are currently used.

•  Abrasives that help remove tartar, plaque and stain off teeth include baking soda, mica, hydrated silica (or other forms of silica), calcium phosphate, alumina, calcium carbonate and dicalcium phosphate dihydrate.

•  Thickeners that make toothpaste the ideal consistency, include carrageenan made from red seaweed, cellulose gum made from wood pulp or cotton linters and xanthan gum made from glucose or sucrose.

•  Coloring agents add a pleasing color to toothpaste. For example, Chlorophyll adds a green color to toothpaste and Titanium oxide makes toothpaste white. Most coloring agents are artificial.

•  Flavorings make toothpaste taste good by masking the not-so-flavorful taste of the detergent, especially sodium laurel sulfate (see below). Flavors include peppermint, spearmint, wintergreen and cinnamon. 

•  Glycerin gives toothpaste texture and keeps it from drying out.

•  Peroxide marketed as a “cleaning agent;” however, there is lack of evidence to support the claim. Oxygen could make a better environment for good aerobic bacteria.

•  Preservatives added to prevent bacteria from growing in toothpaste [so you do not have to refrigerate your toothpaste] include sodium benzoate, methyl or ethyl paraben.

•  Sodium laurel sulfate is a detergent found in most toothpaste that makes toothpaste foamy. Some people are allergic and form canker sores from sodium laurel sulfate and should avoid its use and find non-foaming toothpaste or powder. 

•  Fluorides form a protective shield over the exposed portion of your teeth so that bacteria has a more difficult time causing tooth decay include sodium monofluorphosphate, stannous fluoride and sodium fluoride.

•  Sodium pyrophosphate helps to prevent tartar from attaching to your teeth by preventing mineralization.

•  Sugar substitutes included Sorbitol, saccharin and Xylitol.  Xylitol also kills decay-causing bacteria.

•Desensitizers include strontium chloride and potassium nitrate, which prevent teeth from being sensitive to hot or cold foods or liquids by “numbing” the tooth nerve.

• Germ fighters kill decay-causing bacteria include triclosan and zinc fluoride.

•  Calcium peroxide is a whitener that removes stains from teeth but does not change the color of the teeth, which is much like washing a dirty sink. The cleaning agent removes the soap scum from the sink so you can more clearly see the white color of the sink.

What is the best toothpaste for you?

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that you buy any toothpaste that contains fluoride and is ADA approved. The ADA thoroughly reviews laboratory studies and scientific data on toothpastes; so you can be sure that any toothpaste that has the ADA seal is safe to use and is effective.

If toothpastes use about the same ingredients, what does all this mean? Essentially, it means that if you like the taste of a specific toothpaste and the way it feels in your mouth, buy it and use it. If you like the toothpaste, chances are you will use it more often and longer than toothpaste that you do not like.

Most importantly, regular brushing is a major tool in preventing tooth decay. Toothpaste does not clean the teeth or remove plaque—the toothbrush does! Toothpaste effectively delivers fluoride to your teeth.

Consider this: When you are sitting watching the evening news or your favorite program on television, use a toothbrush without toothpaste to gently massage your gums and brush over the surfaces of your teeth. Then, before you go to bed, add that favorite toothpaste and brush again.



George Malkemus has a Family and Cosmetic Dental Practice in Rohnert Park at 2 Padre Parkway, Suite 200. Call 585-8595, or email info@  Visit Dr. Malkemus’ new Web site at