A trip to the grocery store or drugstore will make it obvious that there are dozens of toothpastes on the market these days. How are we supposed to choose between tartar control, fluoride, whitening, fresh mint, anti-cavity, gel, paste, baking soda, breath-freshening and all the other fun features promised by the toothpaste boxes? Even dentists can get a little intimidated by the wide array of choices of toothpaste on the store shelves.
If you’re concerned about your oral health, you probably have wondered: “What brand of toothpaste is the best? What variety of toothpaste should I use?”
Here are a few bits of advice for choosing (and using) toothpaste:
- Don’t buy into brand names. First of all, there is no “best” brand of toothpaste. Most of the toothpastes on the market contain the American Dental Association’s recommended ingredients. If you have a favorite brand of toothpaste, then feel free to buy it – if you like the flavor or consistency or if you’ve had a reliably good experience, then feel free to continue. But don’t worry about finding the “best” brand of toothpaste, because for the most part it doesn’t matter which brand you use.
- Find the fluoride. There are tons of different options in toothpaste. It seems like every single package is proclaiming a different and more unique combination of ingredients (“Tartar Control/Anti-cavity with Baking Soda and Sparkling Mint Crystals!”). One thing you should definitely look for is fluoride. This is one of the most important elements in preventing tooth decay – if you brush with fluoride toothpaste twice a day, you’ll be ahead of the game.
- Less is more. TV commercials have taught us that you need to squeeze a long, looping strand of toothpaste onto your brush, right? Wrong – you actually don’t need to use very much toothpaste – only about a pea-size portion will be sufficient.
- Brush longer, spit later. The way you brush your teeth is more important than the toothpaste you use. You need to brush your teeth for about 2 minutes – about as long as it takes to hum the Star-Spangled Banner. (If you’re embarrassed to hum our national anthem while you brush, set a stopwatch or use an egg timer – or use an electric toothbrush with an automatic timer setting.) If you brush for less than 2 minutes, you’re not giving your teeth the full benefits of brushing – and if you spit out the toothpaste too soon, that helpful fluoride and bacteria-scrubbing foam is not going where it needs to be.
- Floss. Okay, this one has nothing to do with toothpaste – but bear with me. Flossing is so important! And not enough people do it regularly. It doesn’t matter how carefully you weigh your options in the toothpaste aisle if you go home and fail to floss. Flossing is one of the best things you can do for the health of your gums and teeth – so keep it up.
If you feel that the toothpaste options available to you are not doing a good enough job of cleaning your teeth, or if you have special concerns (sensitive gums, receding gums, stained or discolored teeth), talk to your dentist. Your dentist can recommend a dentifrice (sophisticated medical term for “toothpaste”) that you can’t get at the store which might be able to help.