Dental Care

How Toothpaste Works

Let’s see how toothpaste works in reality. No one doubts that brushing their teeth every day with toothpaste can strengthen the teeth and improve oral health. 

After all, research has proved repeatedly that brushing with toothpaste helps keep our teeth and gums healthier.

Having an understanding of the overall mechanism as well as the specific roles played by individual ingredients can help you choose the toothpaste that will be right for your particular situation.

In a sense, your mouth is a complete, self-contained little world. It provides a warm, moist environment with a steady supply of food for microscopic organisms. 

More than 500 types of bacteria and other microorganisms can be living within your mouth, although most are beneficial.  Many of them aid the digestive process by breaking down the food particles in your mouth, and others can help fend off illness and disease.

The Other Side of the Coin

Unfortunately, some microorganisms in your mouth are not beneficial.  For example, bacteria called streptococcus mutans contribute to bad breath and can lead to dental plaque, tartar and gum disease. 

The presence of streptococcus mutans and other "bad" bacteria is one of the main reasons practicing good dental hygiene is important.  When you know how toothpaste works, it is easy to see that brushing with toothpaste is one of the best ways to defend your teeth and gums against the damaging effects of these harmful microorganisms.

In a separate article we discuss how bacteria are able to live within your mouth, but we'll recap it here.  In short, the warm, moist environment inside your mouth is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, especially when they are able to feed on food particles remaining on and around your teeth. 

As the bacteria digest these bits of food, they produce acids and volatile sulfur compounds ("VSC's") as metabolic byproducts.  If not removed quickly, the acids will start eating away and eroding the enamel on your teeth, eventually causing tooth decay and cavities. 

The VSC's produced by the bacteria are responsible for the offensive odor when you have bad breath.  Brushing with toothpaste is your first defense against these issues.  In fact, you can reduce or prevent both problems by knowing toothpaste works, brushing with it and then properly flossing your teeth.

How Toothpaste Works

Toothpaste is an effective dentifrice for more than one reason.  For example, most toothpaste contains mild, tiny abrasive particles

Although they must be abrasive enough to physically scrub the stains, bacteria and plaque from your teeth, they must also be gentle enough to accomplish their purpose without damaging the enamel.  When combined with the brushing action, these abrasives help dislodge plaque, bacteria and food particles from your teeth much more effectively than simply brushing with plain water.

Fluoride also can provide benefits and is one of the ingredients in most toothpaste.  Fluoride incorporates itself into acid-weakened tooth enamel, strengthening the teeth and increasing their resistance to future acid attacks. 

Finally, the presence of fluoride promotes a chemical reaction that pulls calcium and other minerals into the enamel, strengthening and re-mineralizing your teeth.  Despite fluoride's benefits, however, some people prefer using fluoride-free toothpaste because of concerns relating to potentially harmful effects fluoride might have on their health.

How toothpaste works is depending on its use and ingredients. Many of today's toothpastes also include some newer ingredients.  Xylitol and Triclosan are two examples of ingredients that provide antibacterial properties. 

They can inhibit the growth of oral bacteria and therefore hinder the formation of plaque on your teeth.  We all know plaque can cause cavities and gum disease if not addressed promptly, but these ingredients in toothpaste can help.

Common Ingredients

Each brand of toothpaste uses a slightly different set of ingredients in order to meet the needs of different people. 

However, in addition to abrasives and fluoride, most toothpaste contains a detergent to produce foaming, a humectant to prevent it from drying out, a thickening agent to provide texture and allow the paste to stay on the brush, a preservative to prevent bacterial growth within the toothpaste itself, and coloring and flavoring agents.

As you see how toothpaste works is slightly dependent of the brand and procedure you follow.  In general it is a brushing aid, worth of using.


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