What Kind of Toothpaste Should I Use?

We hear this question all the time.  And you might be surprised to find out that it is actually a tough question for us.  There is no single correct answer to it.  We have to know quite a bit about you and your current oral health to give you the best recommendation.

What is the Purpose of Toothpaste?

Most people think that the purpose of toothpaste is to remove dental plaque from the teeth.  That assumption is not quite correct.  You can remove plaque with just a toothbrush and water.  Of course, floss is also necessary, but for the sake of this article, we will restrict our comments to Toothbrushing alone.  For information on how important floss is, read our prior blog here.

Toothpaste is not a requirement for plaque removal.  Its main function lies in acting as a carrier of certain ingredients to the teeth and gums.  Because each of these active ingredients serves a different purpose, you need to understand both your specific needs and the specific actions of the ingredients.

What Ingredients are Most Common in Toothpastes?

With each popular ingredient described here, we will explain its purposes, who should look for that ingredient, and who should avoid it.


Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral proven to strengthen teeth enamel and prevent cavities.  Most over-the-counter toothpastes contain fluoride, and so do many prescription toothpastes.  Because of its great cavity-fighting ability, those with a high risk for cavities should always use a fluoride toothpaste.  Fluoride also helps strengthen teeth and fights tooth sensitivity, so those with sensitive teeth may benefit from a prescription-strength fluoride toothpaste.

The only people we recommend to avoid fluoride are infants.  Even toddlers should have a small pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste when parents brush their teeth.

Potassium Nitrate

Potassium nitrate is a chemical added to toothpastes to reduce tooth sensitivity.  It produces a calming effect on the nerves within the tooth over time.  Most toothpastes containing potassium nitrate will market themselves as “anti-sensitivity” products.  It is important to note that this ingredient takes time to work, so you have to use this toothpaste consistently for about two weeks before you will notice an improvement in your sensitivity.

Toothpastes containing potassium nitrate are a good choice for people with sensitive teeth due to gum recession and root exposure.  They will probably not reduce sensitivity due to large cavities or cracked teeth.  For those, you need dental treatment.

Biotene® Brand

Biotene is not an ingredient, but a brand of oral health care products.  Biotene is important for the ingredients it does NOT contain.  It leaves out all of the harsh chemicals that can irritate the soft tissues lining the inside of your mouth.  It does not contain sodium lauryl sulfate, which creates foaming action.  It does not contain strong flavorings like cinnamon, to which many people are allergic.  Biotene is the best toothpaste of choice for people with soft tissue disorders that make the inside of the mouth burn or tingle.  This includes burning mouth syndrome, lichen planus, dry mouth, geographic tongue, and others.

Biotene is safe for anyone to use at any time.  It is mild and hypoallergenic.

Whitening Abrasives

Whitening toothpastes contain tiny abrasive particles that function to polish away surface stains from enamel.  Those with the Seal of Acceptance from the American Dental Association have testing to prove their safety, but there are many on the market without this seal.  It is important to check the label because toothpastes that are not deemed safe could be too abrasive and actually remove enamel with frequent use.

People with healthy teeth and no sensitivity can use any whitening toothpaste with the ADA’s Seal of Acceptance.  Anyone with sensitive teeth or gum recession should avoid using abrasive toothpastes.  The roots exposed by receding gums do not have the protective coating of enamel, and their softer structure is even more susceptible to damage from abrasion.

More Questions about Which Toothpaste is Best for You?

Call 940-382-1750 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning.  Once we understand your unique risk factors, we can give you a customized toothpaste recommendation to help your smile stay healthy and beautiful as long as possible.

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