What’s In Toothpaste?

Toothpaste is among the most often used personal care product.

Used daily at least, the health concerns for toothpaste come with how we use it. Not meant to be ingested, our mouths are among the most absorbent areas of the body. Health concerns assigned to the ingredients commonly found in toothpaste formulations is something to consider before your next purchase.

Toothpaste or gel is meant to be used in combination with a toothbrush to remove plaque and food, promote general oral hygiene, suppress halitosis (bad breath), and tooth decay (cavities).

Around the year 1900, a combination of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda was recommended to use with a toothbrush. Premixed kinds of toothpaste were marketed soon after but didn’t gain popularity in the US until after World War 1.

Easily replaced by the same ingredients as long ago (baking soda, salt, and water) modern commercial toothpaste is made with consumer preferences in mind. Ingredients to enhance flavor, change the colors, promote foam, and whiten are included in conventional products and their “all natural” counterparts.

Functions of Toothpaste Ingredients
20-40% of toothpaste is water. The other primary components can be grouped into 3 categories:

Surfactants — Surfactants are used mainly for their role as a foaming agent. Surfactants are also found in shampoo and soaps, their function in toothpaste is to enable the uniform distribution of the paste or gel. All the well-loved bubbles and foam while brushing your teeth? Courtesy of a surfactant.

  1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS or SDS) is the most common surfactant found in conventional toothpaste or gel products.
  2. Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate and Laurel Glycoside are alternate surfactants found in natural toothpaste brands.

Abrasives — Abrasives act as polishing agents. Making up the bulk of your toothpaste, abrasive ingredients help remove plaque from teeth.

  1. Common abrasive ingredients include calcium carbonate, silica, aluminum hydroxide, and hydroxyapatite.

Fluoride — An active ingredient added for cavity prevention, most toothpaste sold in the US has fluoride added.

  1. Sodium Fluoride is the most common form of fluoride found in dental hygiene products.

Additional ingredients that are often included in very small amounts include:

  1. Antibacterial agents like triclosan or zinc chloride to kill bacteria.
    Flavorants like peppermint, herb oils and wintergreen to make the paste pleasant tasting.
  2. Sugar alcohols to help keep the toothpaste from turning into a powder.
  3. Potassium nitrate to reduce teeth sensitivity.
  4. Sodium tripolyphosphate for teeth whitening.
  5. Gums and synthetic polymers to help the flow and stick to the brush properties of the product.
  6. Artificial colors to make the product pleasing in color.

Let’s decode some popular toothpaste products that have been reviewed and rated by GoodGuide’s science team:

Can you spot the abrasive ingredient used in the Fig & Yarrow Tooth Powder?

Can you tell which ingredients are used as flavorings and which for their antibacterial properties in Nature’s Gate Wintergreen Gel toothpaste?

Did you spot the surfactant in the toothpaste from Jason Natural Cosmetics?

You can compare the rest of the 350 toothpaste products with GoodGuide Ratings right over here >>

About GoodGuide Team

GoodGuide's mission is to provide consumers with the information they need to make better shopping decisions. The team behind creating this blog content includes GoodGuide's science and product teams, industry experts, and guest bloggers.
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