Toothpaste: The Complete Guide

toothpaste being put on toothbrush

This toothpaste guide has been created by our in-house dentists and makes it simple for you to choose the right toothpaste.

We’ve got simple answers if you want to make a quick choice, or more detail if you need a specific type of toothpaste.

We also cover common questions and answers, and provide information about toothpaste ingredients.

Browse the sections below to find the content that interests you most.

How to choose a toothpaste

Our guide further down this page covers the following topics:

The best toothpaste — our recommendations

Eco-friendly toothpaste options

Reviews

Our hands-on toothpaste reviews look at specific products in detail.

If you’re interested in a particular product that we haven’t reviewed, let us know in the comments.

Index of toothpaste ingredients

Our A-Z of toothpaste ingredients explains the roles of the various chemicals that are included in toothpastes.

What is toothpaste for?

Toothpaste isn’t just there to freshen your breath, it actively helps to clean your teeth.

The primary role of toothpaste is to act as an abrasive by removing plaque around teeth and the gum line.

This process is absolutely essential in avoiding gum disease and tooth decay  —  painful conditions that can lead to tooth loss.

The secondary function of most high street toothpastes is the protection of teeth by the addition of fluoride, which I cover in more detail below.

And whilst it’s important to choose a good toothpaste and use it properly, it’s worth noting that toothpaste alone plays a small role in your oral health care.

Equally as important are using the correct brushing technique, and flossing properly.

How to choose a toothpaste specific to your needs

Toothpaste: The Complete Guide 1

With the hundreds of toothpaste options available, how can you pick the best toothpaste? You may be tempted to stick with the same toothpaste brand, but you could try to pick the best toothpaste for you.

The best toothpaste can be very personal, and there are a number of things to consider. I would take it on a step by step basis, thinking about the following questions:

  1. Is there fluoride in the toothpaste?
    • There are three types of fluoride approved for use by the FDA. Toothpastes containing fluoride are actually considered to be over-the-counter drugs or medicines.
    • Fluoride is the single most important ingredient for protecting the teeth from cavities.
    • Fluoride free toothpastes are available, but do not receive the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
    • If you have a high risk of tooth decay, your dentist may do you a prescription for a special high fluoride toothpaste.
  2. Are there specific ingredients you want to avoid?
    • This could be for medical reasons, such as an allergy or sensitivity.
    • This could be for a number of reasons, such as wanting to avoid ingredients that are harsh on the environment. For example, opting for an SLS free toothpaste.
    • If there’s a particular ingredient you want to know about, see our guide to toothpaste ingredients
  3. Do you have any specific problems that you need help with?
    • Toothpaste can have ingredients added that can help protect your teeth against more than just cavities.
    • Gum disease can be improved with specific toothpastes (in addition to following the cleaning regime recommended by your dentist or hygienist).
    • If you suffer from tooth sensitivity, you may want to choose a toothpaste containing ingredients to help reduce the discomfort you feel.
    • If you have a dry mouth, you may want to avoid ingredients that make this worse, or choose a toothpaste that can help you.
    • Some people suffer from tartar build up, and despite good cleaning at home and regular professional cleans, they still get a build up. Some ingredients can help protect against this.
  4. Do you want a whitening toothpaste?
    • Whilst toothpastes are unlikely to be whitening in themselves, they have an important role in removing and preventing staining of teeth, making them appear whiter.
    • Baking soda is a common ingredient used to help remove stains, and there are specific baking soda toothpastes available.
    • Smokers suffer from staining and they may benefit from whitening toothpaste.
    • Charcoal toothpastes are branded to help whiten your teeth, and there are more and more products available with charcoal as an ingredient. However, there is a lack of evidence around the effectiveness of charcoal and you need to be careful when using it as it can be more abrasive.
  5. What flavour do you want?
    • The most common flavour for toothpaste is mint.
    • There are alternatives available, from unflavoured natural toothpastes to bubble gum flavoured toothpaste.
    • Non-mint toothpastes differ only in their taste, and aren’t only for kids!
  6. Consider the environment
    • Toothpastes come with chemicals, some of which can be avoided by option for a natural toothpaste.
    • As an over-the-counter drug, toothpastes will require testing before going to market. You can choose vegan toothpastes and avoid products tested on animals.
    • Plastic free alternatives to toothpaste are available to reduce your impact on the environment.
    • You can choose toothpastes with sustainable packaging, and recycle packaging through schemes such as Terracycle.
  7. Be aware about tooth wear
    • Toothpastes contain abrasives to help with their cleaning action.
    • Abrasives can cause damage to the tooth surface, removing the enamel layer over time.
    • Toothpaste RDA values should be below 250 to receive American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance, or below 200 in accordance with the FDA (there weren’t any Canada-specific guidelines at the time of writing).

Do your own research

Toothpaste: The Complete Guide 2

What I wish to emphasise is the need for you to do your own research. What is the most effective toothpaste for one person may not necessarily be the most effective toothpaste for another.

1. Look at our basic guidelines for choosing a toothpaste

2. If you are interested in a speciality toothpaste, see one of our subtopics above

3. If there’s a particular ingredient you want to know about, see our guide to toothpaste ingredients

4. If there’s a particular product you’re interested in, see if we’ve reviewed it

5. Once you’ve chosen a product, make sure you use it regularly and properly. See our guide here on how to brush your teeth.

With some toothpaste ingredients, their level of safety or harmfulness is disputed among the public, scientists, and medical professionals. Often there is no definitive right or wrong answer.

There are often changes in regulations and ingredients too, and whilst we have taken the time to check before releasing any information, these can and do change.

It is not our position at Electric Teeth to comment on the safety of ingredients – but where necessary we can and will present the different arguments from evidence based sources, and to draw your attention to existing discussions and evidence, so that you can make your own decision on which ingredients you are happy to use.

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