Do you ever stand in the oral care section at a grocery store and wonder why there are so many different types of toothpaste available today? Think about how many brands there are—and then how many different types of toothpaste there are for each brand! Crest 3DWhite, Pro-Health, Pro-Health Advanced, with Scope, Sensi, regular old Crest, Kids’ Crest… the list goes on and on.
A helpful way to think about your toothpaste choice is to think about your goals, beyond proper oral hygiene, when you brush. Do you want fresh breath or whiter teeth? Do you have tooth sensitivity? Do you want to avoid a long appointment next time you’re at your dental cleaning? When you answer those questions, you’ll start to narrow down that overwhelming selection of toothpaste to a more manageable few.
There are a few common types of toothpaste out there today. However, it’s important to realize that many kinds of toothpaste fit into one or more of the categories that suit different needs.
Fluoride toothpaste contains fluoride compounds to help prevent tooth decay. Fluoride works by strengthening, and even helping repair, tooth enamel. Many public water supplies are treated with small amounts of sodium fluoride. Fluoride treatments at the dentist are also available. Fluoride toothpaste varies in the amount and type of fluoride compounds they contain and can come in a variety of flavors that appeal to both adults and children.
If you’d like your teeth to look a little whiter, whitening toothpaste is a great option. They’re not as effective as dedicated whitening products like whitening strips, but they can help you maintain whitened teeth. However, keep in mind that many whitening kinds of toothpaste can be more abrasive than regular toothpaste and may weaken the enamel of your teeth. If you use them, give your teeth an occasional break by using less abrasive toothpaste as well!
Some people experience pain when their teeth are exposed to cold, heat, or touch—even the gentle pressure applied when brushing their teeth. If you experience this condition, called dentin hypersensitivity, you can use desensitizing toothpaste to make brushing a more pleasant (or at least not painful) activity.
Anti-plaque toothpaste help prevent plaque from accumulating around your teeth, reducing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. There are a variety of anti-plaque compounds out there, including Triclosan (an anti-bacterial compound) and zinc citrate (which supports your immune system).
Toothpaste for kids may or may not have fluoride in them—and that’s actually not a problem. First of all, the physical action of brushing (and flossing) loosens plaque and helps protect your teeth. Typically, toothpaste made for children has fruity flavors and lower levels of fluoride in case of swallowing.
To be honest, the most important choice you make is to brush and floss regularly. The best type of toothpaste for you to use is one that supports your oral care needs, and that you will use twice a day, every day.