It’s a lesson we’ve been taught since we were young: Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Seems simple enough, right? But with so many toothpaste choices out there, how do you know which type is best? And are there any that can could damage your teeth?
Some of the ingredients in toothpaste that are meant to enhance your dental health can also do harm, but only if some simple guidelines aren’t followed. For instance, the abrasive properties of toothpaste are what remove plaque, which can lead to decay. But a toothpaste that’s too abrasive could damage your enamel. Fluoride, which prevents cavities, is rarely harmful, but if you have small children, you need to be careful with their fluoride intake. If they get too much, their teeth could experience some cosmetic issues, and it could even be toxic if too much is swallowed. However, such problems are easy to prevent.
When you purchase toothpaste, look for its relative dentin abrasion (RDA) value on the box, which lets you know how abrasive the toothpaste is. Abrasives are used to remove plaque and stains, therefore helping to prevent problems like cavities, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. If the RDA is lower than 250, it’s safe to use. A toothpaste with a higher value may be too abrasive for your teeth, potentially causing damage to your enamel.
Whitening toothpastes may be even more abrasive because they contain some agents that are not present in regular toothpastes. It’s a safe bet to buy whiteners that come with the ADA (American Dental Association) Seal of Acceptance, which guarantees that the product you’ve chosen meets their safety and effectiveness standards.
Some toothpaste ingredients can cause reactions, including canker sores, ulcers, or a rash or redness and swelling around the mouth or on the tongue. This is often due to toothpaste flavoring, such as spearmint, peppermint, or cinnamon, or such irritants as citric acid and other chemicals. Your dentist may recommend a natural toothpaste, or one with alternate flavors, such as orange, strawberry, or grape.
Fluoride and Kids
Both the ADA and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend fluoride for cavity prevention in children older than age 2. Children who use fluoride toothpaste before that age are at risk for enamel fluorosis, a condition in which white lines or streaks appear on the teeth before they break through the gums. Once the teeth appear, there is no longer a risk for fluorosis.
Although rare, swallowing too much toothpaste can be toxic to children, so place only a pea-sized amount on the toothbrush. Lower-fluoride toothpastes are available for kids, but make sure to speak to your children’s doctor or dentist before offering them any fluoride toothpaste. Also remember to supervise your children when they brush their teeth, and have them spit excess toothpaste into the sink.
Look for the ADA Seal
The good news is you can avoid most toothpaste-related issues by buying toothpastes that have the ADA Seal of Acceptance. This ensures that the product contains no ingredients that lead to decay, such as sugar, and that all ADA safety and efficacy requirements have been met.
Have questions about your dental health? Need to find a dentist for you or your child? If you live in or near Minneapolis/St. Paul, make an appointment to visit the state-of-the-art offices of Dr. Steven Hagerman, where you’ll find a relaxed, family atmosphere. Call for an appointment at (651) 646-2392.