What Does Toothpaste Do?


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Toothpaste has become an important daily addition to the majority of people’s routine. You may brush your teeth to get fresh breathe, that nice smooth feeling when your run your tongue along your teeth or possibly because you are fully aware of what may happen if you do not. The importance of good dental hygiene is drummed into us from a young age. Bi—annual trips to the dentist and numerous television makeover shows where people’s teeth are yellow, if present at all, ensures that we are always conscious of the importance of a thorough tooth brushing a couple of times a day. It’s simple with only needing to spend two minutes each morning and night doing it, yet for some reason to many it seems like such a chore. Hopefully, this guide will help you see the importance of toothpaste in your day-to-day life as well as helping you pick the right one for you and your family.

What is toothpaste?

Toothpaste is a thick, liquid-like substance that you put onto your toothbrush. The toothpaste is designed to eliminate bad breath, remove food particles and eradicate plaque from your teeth so they are as clean and healthy as possible. Various ingredients included in more generic toothpastes, such as fluoride, aid this cleaning process. It is recommended that you brush your teeth after each meal, however this can often be an inconvenience so failing that, brushing your teeth twice a day (normally, when you wake up and before you go to bed) is sufficient to keep teeth and gums in good condition.

Toothpaste has been around for hundreds of years. It has changed from being made of powdered ox hooves and pumice to later toothpastes incorporating snail shells. The development of modern day toothpaste finally came to a head in the 20th century when it was seen that the toothpaste was causing abrasive damage to teeth. This lead to the introduction of fluoride, as it was noted to reduce cavities.

If you go to a local store in search of toothpaste, you will be met by a massive variety of different brands and within these brands there seem to be several different types of toothpaste, each claiming to specialise in performing a different function. This can cause a lot of confusion if all you want to buy is a simple toothpaste!

What is toothpaste made of?

It is required by European cosmetics legislation, that all toothpaste brands must list all the ingredients in their product so the consumer can see exactly what they are purchasing. While these ingredients may vary from toothpaste to toothpaste, there are several key components that are common throughout:

  • Abrasives: These make up around one-third of the toothpaste and are responsible for the cleaning and polishing action. They are usually chalk or silica based. How abrasive the paste is can be tested and measured on a scale to ensure that it will no cause any unnecessary tooth damage.
  • Humectants: A further 10-30% of the toothpaste is composed of humectants, which are included to stop the toothpaste from becoming slid when it comes in contact with the air.
  • Flavouring and colouring agents: These make up 1-5% of the tube. Many different flavourings are use, although there are most often some type of mint, such as peppermint. Occasionally, people may suffer irritation after using flavoured toothpaste. This can be resolved by using flavourless toothpaste, however these are not available on the open market.
  • Detergent: This comprises between 1-2% of the toothpaste and is included to help the toothpaste spread around the mouth and loosen particles, such as plaque, which are stuck to the teeth. This is done by the detergent making the toothpaste foam and increase in surface area.
  • Binding Agents: About 1% of the toothpaste product is made up of binding agents, which ensure the solid and liquid ingredients in the paste remain mixed while it is being store. The most commonly used binding agent is called sodium carboxy-methyl cellulose.
  • Preservatives: These only account for a mere 0.05-0.5% of most toothpaste. They are added to the toothpaste to inhibit bacteria from growing on the humectants and other organic products that may be including in the product.

How does toothpaste work?

There are over 500 types of microorganism that live in our mouths. Several of these microorganisms take food particles that are residing in your mouth to make plaques and acids. The acids wear away our tooth enamel, which causes us to get cavities. Also, some of the microorganisms use the food particles to make volatile sulphur molecules, which results in bad breath. To resolve these issues, you must use toothpaste with a toothbrush.

Toothpaste and its role against plaque and acid producing microorganisms

The abrasives in toothpaste act as a scrubber to physically remove the plaque off the teeth. These abrasives are used in conjunction with fluoride, which integrates itself into the enamel. This strengthens it to make it less vulnerable to the acid and plaque produced in the future. This is key when it comes to reducing the number of cavities you may get.

Alternatively, some toothpastes includes ingredients, which make the environment inside your mouth unpleasant for the microorganisms. This causes their growth to be inhibited so fewer bacteria are available to produce the plaque, acids and volatile sulphur molecules


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