• 28 JAN 16
    • 0

    A Guide to Understanding Toothpaste Ingredients

    A Guide to Understanding Toothpaste IngredientsIf you follow your dentist’s advice about brushing and flossing, you perform these routines daily. At Evanson DDS, we recommend our patients brush in the morning, after lunch, after dinner and again at bedtime after eating any dessert. Then, we recommend flossing at night before bed.

    Of course, brushing wouldn’t be nearly as effective without toothpaste. Why is this? What’s in toothpaste that makes it so important for a healthy smile? Here’s a look at the ingredients typically found in toothpaste, as outlined by the American Dental Association.


    This is the most important ingredient in toothpaste. Fluoride has transformed our teeth with its ability to remove plaque, a gummy substance full of bacteria that forms on your teeth and gums every day. By removing plaque, fluoride helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease while also strengthening tooth enamel to make teeth less susceptible to cavities. Only toothpastes that contain fluoride are eligible for ADA approval.

    Mild Abrasives

    While abrasives are technically an inactive ingredient because they don’t reduce your risk for cavities or gum disease, toothpaste would be pretty useless without them. Abrasives are the ingredients that, when applied in a scrubbing motion with a toothbrush, remove stains and residual surface debris from your teeth.

    Originally, the abrasives found in toothpaste weren’t very mild. In fact, according to Colgate, the ancient Egyptians mixed crushed egg shells into their toothpaste, while the Romans favored crushed oyster shells. Modern toothpaste abrasives are much gentler, designed to scrub a tooth’s surface without scratching the enamel. Examples include:

    • Calcium carbonate
    • Hydrated aluminum oxides
    • Dehydrated silica gels
    • Magnesium carbonate
    • Silicates
    • Phosphate salts

    Flavoring Agents

    Fluoride and abrasives don’t taste minty fresh. The clean feeling you get from brushing your teeth is courtesy of the toothpaste’s flavoring agents. While these agents give toothpaste a sweet flavor, no ADA-accepted product contains sugar or any other substance that promotes tooth decay. The most common flavorings are saccharin and sorbitol.


    These ingredients trap water in the toothpaste so each squeeze of the tube produces a smooth, creamy substance. The most common humectants include:

    • Sorbitol (playing double duty as a flavoring agent and humectant)
    • Glycol
    • Glycerol
    • Propylene


    It’s typical for toothpaste to contain detergents, which create a foaming action when you brush your teeth. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is the detergent you’re most likely to find on a toothpaste ingredients list.

    It’s a common misconception that foam helps in the cleaning process. However, according to DailyMail.com, SLS can cause irritation and skin abrasions in the mouth, leading to ulcers. If you suffer from recurrent, unexplained mouth sores, consider finding toothpaste without sodium lauryl sulfate.

    Thickening Agents

    Also called binders, these ingredients stabilize the toothpaste formula and give it its signature texture. Irritation from thickening agents is rare, especially when used in the amount recommended for brushing your teeth. Common binders include:

    • Mineral and seaweed colloids
    • Cellulose, guar or xanthan gums
    • Synthetic cellulose

    Specialized Ingredients

    Some toothpaste contains additional ingredients to address certain conditions:

    • Potassium nitrate and strontium chloride help with tooth sensitivity.
    • Stannous fluoride and triclosan help with gum inflammation called gingivitis.
    • Pyrophosphates, triclosan and zinc citrate help reduce tartar build-up.
    • Modified silica abrasives or enzymes help whiten teeth by physically scrubbing away surface stains.
    • Triclosan helps fight bad breath.

    Brushing with the right toothpaste is important for promoting a beautiful, healthy smile. Of course, it’s not enough just to brush and floss every day. You should also schedule an appointment every six months for a dental exam and cleaning.

    Contact Evanson DDS online or call us at (720) 409-0008 to schedule your next visit. While you’re here, we can recommend specific toothpaste based on your situation.

    Leave a reply →