Toothpastes or Dentrifices : Composition and properties

Imagine a single day when you had forgotten to brush after two consecutive meals. Remember that feel of rough texture of your own tongue over your teeth and that sensation of your own bad breath. How would our life become if we did not have this magical product formulated till today? Could we enjoy the close-up breathy talks or make our beloved ones feel special by kissing them? Let’s forget kissing! I doubt whether we will be comfortable even to talk face to face.

But, the invention of toothpaste and its application has made our life better in many ways. We should feel lucky that we didn’t have to live the age where people had to brush their teeth by using fibres from twigs and bamboos and toothpaste was out of imagination. The incorporation of fluoride and other medications in toothpaste has made it possible that regular brushing will not only clean your teeth and give you a fresher breath, will strengthen it by remineralising it and prevent developing caries.
Recently, we have been hearing about toothpastes that can heal even the cavitated carious lesions after a month of use! Let’s see what essentially is present in the toothpaste.
Abrasives: In dental jargon, toothpaste is often called dentrifice. They help in removing food debris and plaque by facilitating the use of toothbrush. As the main purpose of the dentrifices is to remove the plaque formation on the tooth surface, all toothpastes contain significant amount of abrasives as their component. Calcium carbonate (CaCO3) , Silica, Sodium hydroxide (NaOH), calcium hydrogen phosphates,hydroxyapatite, zeolites, etc. are the most commonly used abrasives. They polish the teeth and remove the plaques which minimizes the tendency to develop caries. Almost all toothpastes contain about more than fifty percent of abrasives.

Fluoride:Another important ingredient of modern day toothpaste is fluoride. Fluoride helps prevent dental caries by converting the hydroxyapatite crystals of enamel and dentin into fluorapatite which is much more resistant to acid demineralization as compared to hydroxyapatite. Fluoride is supplied most commonly in the form of sodium fluoride (NaF). Stannous fluoride (SnF2) and sodium monofluorophosphate (Na2PO3F) are also used. Generally, 1000-1500 parts per million (ppm) fluoride is used in standard toothpaste products. Use of fluoridated toothpaste has been recommended to prevent dental caries and also to revert the incipient caries.

Surfactants: Toothpaste also contains some foaming agents like sodium lauryl sulfate which are also called surfactants. The main function of these surfactants is to lower the surface tension and help spread the toothpaste material all over the oral cavity, including the embrasures, deep sulcus and gingival col region. These agents help reduce proximal caries or class II caries which generally occur at the contact areas of posterior teeth.

 In addition to these, various coloring agents, flavoring agents, sweeteners, hydrating agents, etc. are added in toothpaste. Antibacterials like triclosan and zinc chloride are added to reduce gingivitis. Strontium chloride and potassium nitrate added in some toothpastes are believed to treat sensitivity (dentin hypersensitivity). Similarly, glycerol, sorbitiol and polyethylene glycol (PEG) are added to hydrate the paste and prevent it from drying turning into powder. Toothpastes are flavored  like mint, neem, orange, vanilla, cinnamon, lemon , ginger,  etc. to make them more appealing and desirable.

Next time you buy your toothpaste, make sure it has added fluoride and some of the medications. If you want some teeth whitening paste, select the one having large amount of abrasives or the one having two or more abrasives. If you suffer from sensitivity, see whether the paste contains potassium nitrate/strontium chloride or not. Great! Now you can choose your toothpaste as per your needs. Take Care!