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All Toothpastes Are Not Created Equal

If you have ever visited the dental care isle at your local grocery store, you know that there are literally dozens of different dental products that advertise, “tooth whitening” or “tartar control.”  We place a lot of value on clean, white teeth in today’s society.  Everywhere you look there are bright, pearly-white smiles in the media and this has lead to an increase in the availability of whitening and tartar control formulas on the market.  In fact, I bet if you opened up your medicine cabinet at home and looked at the toothpaste you use everyday, it likely claims that it whitens your teeth or controls the development of tartar on your teeth. Toothpastes that advertise whitening and tartar control have been around for about 20 years so we are now able to evaluate some of the side effects of long-term use.  Advertisements can be misleading.  When toothpaste claims that it provides a specific outcome, it is important to know the method in which it works to achieve this outcome.  When it comes to whitening and tartar control, it probably works different than you think and incorrect use of whitening and tartar control toothpastes could be damaging your teeth and gums.

The Ingredients & How They Actually Work

When you read a toothpaste advertisement that says tooth whitening, most people think that it will change the color of their teeth.  This is a common misconception.  The ingredients that toothpaste manufacturers use work by removing surface stains caused by coffee, tea, smoking and food.  They ingredients are abrasives that polish surface stains and enzymes/chemicals that dissolve surface stains.  They do not physically lighten your teeth or change the color of your teeth.  In fact, long term use of chemical and physical abrasives found in these toothpastes can cause gum recession, excessive enamel wear and notching on the roots of teeth.  Once the gum tissue recedes or enamel wears away, it never grows back.  Most people who use whitening toothpaste have so little surface stain on their teeth that the benefit they receive does not justify the damage they are causing to their teeth and gums.

It is similar with tartar control toothpaste.  Tartar control toothpaste does not remove existing tartar but partially inhibits the development of new tartar buildup through the use of sodium based chemicals and abrasives.  Just like whitening toothpaste additives, tartar control toothpaste additives have been linked to thinning of the enamel over time. 

RDA Values of Toothpastes

Currently, toothpaste manufacturers have no regulations on the abrasive content they are allowed to put in their toothpaste.  However, the American Dental Association has created a standardized laboratory test called the RDA Abrasives Index to measure these abrasives and many toothpastes have been tested. The RDA Abrasives Index of toothpastes range from 0-250 with 100 being the maximum recommended abrasive value for daily home use.  Call us today for a list of safe toothpastes. 

The Better Alternative:

At Auburn Family Dental, we educate our patients about the harmful effects of long-term use of whitening and tartar control toothpastes.  If you want clean and white teeth, we recommend that you bleach your teeth with professional whitening products and have your teeth cleaned regularly to remove tartar build-up.  Professional teeth bleaching will actually change the color of your teeth without damaging your enamel or gum tissue.  And having a professional teeth cleaning regularly will eliminate tartar build-up keeping your teeth and oral tissues healthy. As we progress through the 21st century, many people are becoming more conscious of product ingredients.  Reading labels to learn about what is in the food and healthcare products we use is the norm.  Choose your toothpaste wisely.  Know the RDA Value of the toothpaste you use daily and you can prevent long-term damage to your teeth and gums.


If you are interested in a whiter and brighter smile without the use of harmful whitening / tartar control toothpastes, call Dr. Marie Durflinger for an appointment today at 253-833-2200.  With a new patient exam, digital x-rays and cleaning, you will receive a complimentary set of custom bleach trays and professional whitening gel.

 This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 19th, 2012 at 9:01 pm and is filed under Dr.Durflinger's Published Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.