Types of toothpaste

Brush Up on Toothpaste

Shopping for toothpaste can be confusing. Different types promise everything from whiter smiles and fresher breath to fewer bacteria and less tartar. How do you know which one is best for you?

Some brands advertise multiple benefits. Personal preference is important, but be sure to choose a brand with fluoride, which helps protect teeth from decay, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).

The next step is to think about whether you have any special needs. Examples include extra-sensitive teeth, stains, or gum disease. If so, here are some options to consider:

  • Anti-cavity toothpastes – almost all of these toothpastes will contain fluoride. The fluoride is as important as the brushing itself in preventing cavities. Brushing removes most of the sticky plaque that contains the decay causing bacteria, but most people rarely do a complete cleaning, particularly in decay-prone areas like between the teeth and in the grooves and crevices of the chewing surfaces. The fluoride works to remineralize damaged teeth even in the presence of the plaque.

  • Desensitizing toothpastes. These products help reduce tooth pain brought on by cold, heat, or sticky or acidic foods. They contain compounds that help block signals sent from the tooth surface to the nerve. But such toothpastes generally need to be used for at least a month before teeth start to feel less sensitive.

  • Whitening toothpastes. These products contain polishing or chemical agents that help remove surface stains on the teeth. They can make the teeth brighter and shinier, but only as bright and shiny as the natural color of your teeth. But they can’t remove deeper stains the way professional or at-home bleaching can.

  • Antigingivitis toothpastes. Gingivitis is a condition in which the gums become red and swollen and can bleed easily. Left untreated, it can lead to more serious gum disease and eventually tooth loss. You can buy toothpastes with anti-bacterial ingredients that help fight gingivitis.

  • Tartar-control toothpastes. These products help prevent the buildup of tartar, hardened deposits on the teeth that play host to bacteria. Just keep in mind that no toothpaste can remove tartar once it has formed. Only a professional dental cleaning can do that.


“ADA Seal of Acceptance Program.” American Dental Association. www.ada.org/1322.aspx Accessed 2013.

“Sensitive Teeth.” American Dental Association. www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/s/sensitive-teeth.aspxAccessed 2013.

“ADA Statement on the Safety and Effectiveness of Tooth Whitening Products.” American Dental Association, April 2012. www.ada.org/1902.aspx Accessed 2013.

Author: Klosinski, Susan M. Online Source: American Dental Association http://www.ada.org/public/topics/products.asp

Back to Articles