Toothpaste is an essential part of many people’s daily routines, but do you actually know what you are putting in your mouth? Many people buy toothpaste based on flavor or coupons available in the store, but others have a preferred brand or even specialty toothpaste. What’s the truth about all these brands and what is the difference between some toothpastes and others?

Toothpastes vary based on their active ingredients. There are some ingredients, however, that remain the same throughout most brands:

  • Abrasive Agents: These are the rough materials that are used to scrape food particles and other stains from your teeth.
  • Flavor: Whether minty or bubble gum, most toothpastes contain some kind of flavoring.
  • Humectants: This simply refers to products in the toothpaste that help with moisture retention–keeping the paste from drying out.
  • Thickeners: Gums and other gooey molecules help toothpastes maintain their thick texture.
  • Detergents: Sodium lauryl sulfate is a common detergent in toothpastes used to create the suds you see when brushing.

Different types of toothpastes include:

  • Fluoride-rich toothpastes (anti-decay): These toothpastes contain above average amounts of fluoride compounds and are incredibly effective at preventing tooth decay.
  • Sensitive teeth toothpaste: Sensitive toothpastes are made to accommodate those with unusually sensitive teeth. These pastes interrupt pain responses and help make brushing less painful.
  • Whitening toothpaste: These toothpastes usually contain more coarse abrasives to better scrub the teeth to remove stains.
  • Anti-plaque toothpaste: Anti-plaque toothpastes prevent plaque from building up on teeth and reduce your risk of gum disease.

To find the best toothpaste for your needs have a consultation with your dentist. What you think is necessary may not actually be the best thing for your teeth. Overall the toothpaste itself will not have the greatest effect on dental health–it’s whether or not you are brushing your teeth properly and if you use floss on a daily basis. Sometimes toothpaste can be harmful to your teeth as well, such as using too much which might cause you to not be brushing properly, so ask your dentist about this too.