Selecting a Toothpaste

When you walk down the oral care aisle at the grocery store, do you ever wonder how to choose between all the toothpastes on the shelves? Here are some things to consider when making your choice.


First, pick one that has the ADA Seal on it. (If you don’t know what the ADA Seal looks like, ask your dentist!) Toothpastes that have this seal have gone through a process to show that they do what they claim to do and that they are not harmful to teeth.


Fluoride or other anti-cavity ingredients are strongly recommended for adults and kids once they’re old enough to spit out extra toothpaste rather than swallowing it. (For infant toothpastes, don’t worry about fluoride.)


Beyond that, your choice may depend on what you want or need.


Toothpastes marked as “For Sensitive Teeth” usually contain extra ingredients to try to help control sensitivity. It is most effective for teeth that are sensitive to temperatures.


Whitening toothpastes work by removing surface stains from your teeth. (Very few are actually whiteners like tooth whitening products.) These toothpastes tend to be more abrasive and should not be used all the time. They can scratch porcelain restorations (such as crowns or veneers) and wear away your tooth enamel. (Oddly enough, lost tooth enamel can make your teeth look darker rather than the lighter color you might think you’d get from a whitening toothpaste.)


Baking soda is helpful. It is a mild abrasive and it helps to counter the acids that cause cavities. It also helps reduce gum inflammation (swelling and redness).


Liquid Calcium and/or ACP (Calcium Phosphate) are being tested to see if they can help keep tooth enamel from wearing away as quickly by replacing calcium on the tooth surface. Liquid calcium may better get into crevices and rough spots to help restore luster to surface enamel.


Triclosan has been shown to reduce gum inflammation and gingivitis (but if you have periodontal disease, it will not cure it.) but some experts (not necessarily dental experts) feel that it has been overused and is causing antibiotic-resistant bacteria.


If you suffer from frequent canker sores, you may want to find a toothpaste that does not contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). Some studies indicate that SLS, which is a foaming agent, may increase canker sores in susceptible users. Just be aware that these toothpastes won’t foam up as much as the average ones do.


One newer technology is activated Edithamil which works to change the environment around the tooth so that the bacteria and other biofilm agents that stick to our teeth, cannot attach to the tooth as easily.


I hope this helps you navigate the toothpaste aisle a bit easier. If there’s a type you’re interested in, ask your dentist to recommend some brands that have that ingredient or type—particularly if you’re having trouble narrowing it down in the supermarket aisle.


Note: This advice is not intended to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare providers.


Dr. Jennifer Robb is a general dentist with an office on the Lorain/Amherst border at 1320 Cooper Foster Park Rd., Lorain, OH 44053. If you do not have a dentist, she invites you to join her office. Call 440-9600-1940. Find out more about Dr. Robb at or join her Facebook page at