In a series of dental articles, the Saskatoon dental team at Neesh Dental share interesting dental information and education. In our latest post, we discuss – Do I Really Need Toothpaste?
Do I Really Need Toothpaste?
We are occasionally asked do I really need toothpaste? Brushing your teeth with a product designed to make your mouth feel fresh is a pleasure. But from a practical standpoint, that tasty paste is unnecessary. Brushing your teeth with a product designed to make your mouth feel fresh is a pleasure.
Dental plaque is a sticky, colourless biofilm of bacteria and sugars that is constantly in the process of forming on our teeth. Dental plaque is acidic and can break down tooth enamel and cause cavities to form. Plaque can also irritate your gums, causing gingivitis (red, swollen, bleeding gums), infections and eventually tooth loss.
Plaque is the primary cause of cavities and gum disease. If you don’t consistently remove plaque from your teeth it can harden into an even sticker substance called tartar, which provides a perfect environment for bacteria colonies to grow under your gums and on your teeth.
One of the best ways to control plaque is brushing your teeth thoroughly at least twice a day. But you don’t need toothpaste to do this, just a soft toothbrush and good brushing techniques will remove plaque. Flossing, limiting sugary food and drinks, and regular checkups and professional cleanings should keep your teeth in top shape.
Regular preventive care, including professional cleanings, definitely reduces the chance of serious dental health issues. Dental insurance often pays 100% of the cost of dental checkups, knowing that the investment in preventive care will enable the insurance company and its customers to avoid costly restorative treatments over time.
Why You Might Want To Use Toothpaste
- Toothpaste tastes good. Mint is by far the most popular flavour for toothpaste in the U.S. but you can purchase toothpaste flavoured like bacon, banana, basil, bubblegum, coffee, curry, eggplant, honey, lemon, peach, pumpkin pudding, yogurt and many more tastes that you never expected to encounter on your toothbrush.
- Most toothpaste contains fluoride, and dentists agree that topical fluoride treatments help keep tooth enamel strong and cavity-resistant.
- Toothpaste can help address dental concerns such as sensitive teeth, whitening, very early tooth decay, and gum disease issues. Ask your dentist or dental hygienist for recommendations on the right toothpaste for your teeth.
- Whatever type of toothpaste you choose to use, don’t mimic commercials and smear your brush with a huge stripe of the stuff.
- A pea-sized drop is sufficient.
What Is In Toothpaste?Standard (non-organic) toothpaste typically contain a set of ingredients that include:
- Abrasives to clean bacterial film and debris from your teeth: Examples: Calcium carbonate, dehydrated silica gels, hydrated aluminum oxides, magnesium carbonate, phosphate salts and silicates. Silica is the whitening ingredient in most whitening toothpaste.
- Detergents for cleaning and the foamy lather we expect from toothpaste. Examples: sodium lauryl sulphate, sodium N-Lauryl sarcosinate.
- Fluoride – all American Dental Association (ADA)Accepted toothpaste contain fluoride, even organic ones.
- Flavour including sweeteners such as saccharine. No ADA-Accepted toothpaste contains sugar.
- Treatment additives such as tetrasodium pyrophosphate for tartar control, potassium nitrate or strontium chloride to reduce tooth sensitivity, Stannous fluoride and triclosan for reducing gum inflammation and removing plaque.
- Humectants to keep the toothpaste moist. Examples: glycerol, propylene, glycol and sorbitol.
- Binders to stabilize the toothpaste formula. Examples: mineral colloids, natural gums, seaweed colloids or synthetic cellulose.
Organic toothpaste tends to be paraben free, sulphate free, does not contain Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate, and has no artificial (synthetic) colours or flavours or sweeteners. It may contain natural preservatives as opposed to EDTA, Formaldehyde or Parabens. If you tend to get a lot of small pimples or rashes around your lips, or canker sores inside your mouth you may want to try a toothpaste that does not contain Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate. Some people are sensitive to it.
How Long Have People Been Using Toothpaste?
The first known toothpaste recipe dates back to the fourth century AD. You take one drachma of rock salt – that’s one-hundredth of an ounce – two drachmas of mint, one drachma of dried iris flower and 20 grains of pepper, crush them together and …ta-dah! You have just made yourself a batch of the world’s oldest toothpaste.
This recipe was written in Greek on a scrap of papyrus that has been dated to the fourth century AD. The Egyptian scribe added an explanatory note, explaining that the recipe created a “powder for white and perfect teeth.” The papyrus was recently found (again) in the basement of a Viennese museum, with a huge cache of other documents that had been rescued from an 18th-century trash heap.
Egyptians would have mixed the paste with a bit of their own saliva and then used their fingers to scour their teeth. Modern dentists who made and then tried the paste said it was harsh on their gums, but left their mouths feeling clean and perky. They also said that the recipe aligned with traditional home medicinal practices that are still in use around the world. Classical herbals list Iris as good for a toothache and for sweetening the breath. The pepper would have stimulated the gums, mint would have added the fresh taste we still love in modern toothpaste, and rock salt would have been a purifying abrasive.
Egyptians had many recipes for tooth powders. Favoured ingredients included the powdered ashes of oxen hooves, crushed myrrh, burned egg shells, and powdered pumice stone.
The Persians liked using burnt shells of snails and oysters. In China, a mix of ginseng, various mints, and salt was the preferred recipe. The Romans mixed salt, chalk, their own urine and crushed brick into a paste that apparently made their teeth bright and clean (urine’s bleaching and softening abilities were also widely utilized in laundering clothing until a century or so ago).
Many Europeans modelled themselves after the ancient Greeks, cleaning their teeth with a rough cloth (usually linen) or a sponge that they’d dipped into a paste made of ashes, sulphur oil and salt, until well into the sixteenth century. Napoleon Bonaparte thought the whole sooty rag thing was tacky, he used a silver plated toothbrush and expensive, opium-laced toothpaste to scrub his teeth.
In 1873, Colgate released the first mass-produced the first toothpaste. It was called Crème Dentifrice and was sold in a jar. By 1896, the name had changed to Colgate Dental Cream and it was packaged in collapsible tubes. Fluoride was introduced in 1914 and was quickly added to the majority of toothpaste on the market.
The Importance of Professional Dental Cleanings
No matter what flavour toothpaste you prefer, good oral hygiene and regular dental care is the best way to keep your smile healthy and beautiful. You can remove most of the plaque from your teeth on your own, with a consistent oral hygiene routine, but professional cleanings are essential to rid your mouth of plaque (and perhaps tartar) that you can’t remove at home.
At Neesh Dental in Saskatoon, a beautiful, healthy smile that lasts a lifetime is our ultimate goal when treating patients. Your personal home care plays an important role in achieving that goal. Our team of Saskatoon dentists and support staff try to always share interesting articles, dental facts and dental hygiene tips so you can take good care of your teeth. Contact us today to book a Saskatoon dental appointment.