Ever since antifreeze chemicals were discovered in toothpaste produced in China several years ago, people have been increasingly concerned about the ingredients found in toothpaste. Luckily, anti-freeze is not found in toothpaste sold in the United States as it is illegal.
Toothpaste consists of several different ingredients that leave our teeth feeling fresh and clean.
So if you’ve ever wanted to know what’s inside that gooey paste that you smear against your teeth everyday, read on.
The Ten Main Ingredients In Your Toothpaste
1 – Fluoride
Fluoride is the only active ingredient found in all toothpastes. It wasn’t until about 50 years ago that fluoride was first added to toothpastes. Fluoride only makes up about 0.15% of most toothpastes, although prescription-strength fluoride toothpastes contain more than 1% of fluoride.
To learn why fluoride is so important, read about the three ways fluoride protects your teeth.
2 – Abrasives
The abrasives found in toothpastes are what help scrape the plaque off of our teeth. I think it’s important to mention that many whitening toothpastes contain too many abrasives, which can wear down the enamel or cementum on your teeth and cause your teeth to be sensitive.
Read this article to learn why whitening toothpaste isn’t making your teeth any whiter.
Some examples of abrasives in toothpastes are mica, calcium carbonate, calcium pyrophosphate, dicalcium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate, and hydrated silica. The mineral mica not only acts as an abrasive, but can add an exciting glitter effect to toothpaste, making the urge to brush almost irresistible!
3 – Detergents
Detergents make people feel like the toothpaste is working by creating bubbles and making the toothpaste foamy. The main detergent in toothpaste is known as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS.) Some researchers believe that sodium lauryl sulfate causes canker sores, but that’s a topic I’ll discuss in a future article.
4 – Flavors
Flavors are added to most toothpastes. Some common flavors are bubblegum, fruit, mint, and cinnamon. The purpose of the flavors are to mask any unpleasant tastes in the toothpaste and they can also help to freshen your breath by masking the bad odors in your mouth.
5 – Moisturizers and Humectants
A humectant is something that keeps a substance moist. Humectants in toothpaste are what keep the toothpaste nice and smooth and help keep it from drying out. Some commonly-used humectants are glycerin, sorbitol, and water.
6 – Antibacterial Agents
Certain toothpastes contain Triclosan, which is an antibacterial and antifungal agent. It is commonly found in antibacterial soaps. Not too long ago, Colgate started adding it to its toothpaste to create the Colgate Total brand that claims to protect teeth from plaque for up to 12 hours.
7 – Preservatives
Preservatives are added to toothpastes so that microbes don’t grow in the toothpaste and spoil it. It would probably be frustrating if you had to refrigerate your toothpaste — especially if you have teeth that are sensitive to cold temperatures! Thanks to preservatives, toothpaste is safe for many months at room temperature.
8 – Colors
Colors can give toothpaste an attractive appearance. When I was a teenager, I remember my mom had bought some “natural” toothpaste. Being a toothpaste junkie, I decided to try it just for fun to see how it worked. It was a dark brown color and looked pretty gross and tasted even worse. I never used that toothpaste again. A little bit of color could have gone a long way in improving that toothpaste!
9 – Sweeteners
Toothpastes usually contain a substance to make them taste sweet so that we enjoy brushing. Most toothpastes contain saccharin, aspartame, or xylitol to add a bit of sweetness.
10 – Thickeners
In case the toothpaste is too runny, manufacturers can add ingredients that thicken the toothpaste to form a nice, smooth consistency. Carageenan and xanthan gum are common thickeners added to toothpastes.
Those are the main ingredients in toothpaste. However, some special formulations of toothpaste can include other ingredients such as the ones listed below:
- Baking Soda (I mentioned sodium bicarbonate above, but some toothpastes go above and beyond and add lots of baking soda to their toothpaste.)
- Anti-tartar (find out what tartar is)
- Anti-sensitivity compounds
Toothpaste requires many ingredients to work the way it does and to have the appearance and taste that it does. The ingredients I have listed are those common to toothpaste sold in the United States, however international brands may vary. If you know of any ingredients I missed or have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear about them below.
Thanks for reading!