Most people brush their teeth at least twice a day (if not more) and they likely establish a routine, as well as certain preferences for performing the task. People will usually grow accustomed to using a specific type of toothbrush and a certain brand of toothpaste. And while toothpaste is not something that people will typically think too much about, it might surprise many to know exactly what their favourite brand contains!
If you are planning to pursue dental assistant training, you will learn that the average toothpaste contains a wide range of ingredients – and some of these might not be entirely healthy! Read on to find out what toothpaste is actually made of, and how it affects your pearly whites.
Students enrolled in dental assistant programs understand that, contrary to popular belief, fluoride does not clean your teeth – it’s actually used for strengthening and hardening the tooth enamel.
Most toothpaste brands contain abrasives. These are the ingredients responsible for actually cleaning the teeth. Some examples of abrasives include baking soda, calcium carbonate and silica. Professionals in the industry know that toothpaste containing high levels of abrasives can actually do more harm than good, since they can weaken the enamel.
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is the surfactant that is used in most toothpaste. It is a detergent that’s responsible for creating foam while brushing. Though it helps break down stains and dirt, it can also be quite tough on the teeth and can be the cause of canker sores.
Individuals who have earned their dental school diploma recognize that subjecting the human body to too much triclosan – the antibacterial agent that’s most commonly used in toothpaste – can sometimes be harmful. However, studies have shown that there is too little of it in toothpaste to cause any real harm. And since trilcosan is used to fight bacteria found in plaque, the teeth and gums actually benefit from this ingredient.
Since some other ingredients may taste pretty awful, sweeteners – like stevia, xylitol or saccharin – are used to improve and balance the flavour of toothpaste. Experts in the field will normally recommend using products that contain xylitol, because it also increases the flow of saliva and can even prevent tooth decay.
If you’ve ever wondered how most toothpastes get their colouring, anyone with a career in the dental industry can confirm that there are artificial dyes (Blue #1 and Blue #2) which are used to achieve those pretty shades of blue and green. However, if these colorants are swallowed, they can irritate the respiratory system, as well as the digestive tract. This is why most dental professionals will warn patients about swallowing too much toothpaste!
The Best Way to Use Toothpaste
The secret ingredient behind any effective toothpaste is actually the person applying it to the toothbrush. Once you’ve completed your training and have entered the workforce, you will find yourself providing patients with these helpful tips on the best uses for toothpaste:
- Avoid using too much toothpaste – a dollop the size of a pea is more than enough.
- Take at least two minutes (or more) to perform a thorough cleaning
- Pay attention to ensure that you’ve brushed all areas of the mouth
A certified dental assistant can confirm that the brushing technique is far more important than the toothpaste that’s being used – however, it is always important to look at the ingredients when selecting (or recommending) a toothpaste, because as you now know, there are some ingredients that can be somewhat harmful.
What do you like most about your go-to toothpaste brand?