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Column: Many toothpaste options on market

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Dear Dr. Rick Farnsworth, D.D.S.: “Which toothpaste should I use when there are so many options?”

A commonly asked question that I get almost every day.

To better answer that question it is important to know where cavities come from. There is only one cause of cavities, acid.

Most people are aware that if sugary foods or drinks are consumed, there is bacteria in the mouth that converts those sugars into an acid. As the pH of the mouth drops below 5.4, the enamel will demineralize and a hole or cavity is created and needs to be treated. This drop in pH around the teeth can come from the bacteria in the mouth or from other sources like acidic drinks: coffee, sodas, wines or sports drinks. For a person that doesn’t consume acidic drinks, but who is still having problems with cavities, we need to look at stomach acid as the possible culprit. People with GERD, acid reflux, or who just have a more acidic system oftentimes are constantly fighting off tooth decay.

If acidity is the only source of tooth decay, then to reduce or even eliminate cavities, the acid needs to be neutralized. One of the best ways to neutralize acid is with sodium bicarbonate — or in other words, baking soda. The other ingredient that is very beneficial in remineralizing and strengthening the teeth is the mineral fluoride. Arm and Hammer ™ has a great product line that contains baking soda and fluoride, but the brand of the toothpaste is not as important as the ingredients.

Something to remember is that the toothpaste is just the carrier for medications, so when you rinse right after brushing you’re not getting all of the potential benefits. It is recommended that after brushing for 2 minutes that you spit out the foam and wait 10-15 minutes and allow the baking soda to neutralize the acid and the fluoride to harden the tooth. In certain cases, where a lot of tooth decay is present or a person is at high risk for decay, a dentist might recommend a prescription-strength toothpaste.

Sensitivity Toothpaste

For people with sensitive teeth, meaning hot and cold temperatures are bothersome when there are no signs of decay, there is a toothpaste designed to help reduce that sensitivity. These often contain a compound of strontium chloride or potassium nitrate, which helps to block the pathway to the nerve of the tooth and helps to relieve discomfort. These toothpastes can often take 4-8 weeks to have a noticeable result.

Tartar Control Toothpaste

All people have a thin layer of bacteria that coat the surface of the teeth, this is called plaque. If plaque is not removed soon after building up through proper oral hygiene techniques, plaque can harden on the teeth and below the gums. This is then referred to as tartar or calculus. For people who struggle with a fast buildup of calculus, tartar control toothpastes are recommended. These reduce the speed in which the plaque can harden and turns into tartar. Once plaque is hardened, the only way to remove it is to have a hygienist or dentist remove it with specially designed instruments, which is why the ADA recommends regular dental visits at intervals determined by your dentist.

Whitening Toothpaste

Almost everyone wants to have a nice white smile, right? To help people achieve this goal there is available a whitening toothpaste. These toothpastes contain very small abrasive compounds that removed surfaces stains by polishing or binding to and pulling the stains from the teeth. It should be noted that whitening toothpaste will not whiten any dental work that is already in place, such as veneers, crowns or composite fillings. If you don’t get the results you are looking for from whitening toothpaste, then ask your dentist about in-office whitening, which is effective at removing not only surface stains but also those found deeper in the tooth.

Armed with a better understanding that acid is the only cause of tooth decay, you can now determine which over-the-counter brand is best for you.

Dr. Rick Farnsworth, D.D.S., of Jason C. Campbell, D.D.S. Cosmetic & Family Dentistry will answer your oral health questions. Please email Dr. Farnsworth at jcampbelldds@yahoo.com. You can learn more about his dental practice’s services at www.PrescottDentist.com or call 928-776-1208.