Is your toothpaste really that good?

Oral care

Visit any supermarket tod­ay and shelves are lined with umpteen brands of toothpaste offering you everything from nimbu, neem and namak to a variety of herbal and chemical combinations.

 They all promise the ultimate oral care experience, fresh breath, strong teeth and a smi­le that’ll draw dates by the dozens.

So do they really fulfil their claims? Can one expect a dazzling set of pearly whites at the end of a week or two of use? Which ingredients should you look for in a toothpaste next time in the market?

Dr Inderpreet of Axiss Dental says these are “all market gimmicks” and “most toothpastes contain only flavou­rants of salt and lemon”. The­se are, in fact, just varieties provided to enthuse consu­­m-ers who may be tired of using the same fluoride-based toothpaste every day, she adds. 

“The fact is that if you put neem in the toothpaste, it will turn bitter, and if you add salt to the toothpaste, it’ll adversely affect those suffering from hypertension. At best, they contain traces of these elements which will not bring any real benefit to your gums and teeth,” she informs.

“More so, a lot of teeth-whitening toothpastes that have come up in the market lately, contain abrasives (rough elements) which may erode the enamel in an attempt to over-polish it. One needs to be wary of the bleaching agents too which do more harm in the long run than good.”

Dr Zulfiqar Hafeez, consultant dentist, Asian Institute of Medical Sciences, agrees, “Toothpastes are consumer products and not medicines. Therefore brands can make any unverified claims as regards their commercial toothpastes, as compared to medicines.”

“The three ingredients a toothpaste must contain are light abrasives to clean the surface of the teeth, soap (sodium lauryl sulphate) as a foaming agent and a humidifier. These, however, must be present in the right quantity or else they’ll damage your teeth. For this, it is important to check for an IDA (Indian Dental Association) certification. Rest all is an accessory which is difficult to verify.”

Dr Inderpreet also cautions against using toothpastes for specific problems like diabetes and sensitive teeth without consultation. She says, “A lot of ayurvedic toothpastes are not IDA certified. In fact, many brands which earlier produced tooth powders but are now making toothpastes as well, should be kept at bay. We do not recommend them.”

“At the same time, sugar-free toothpastes available these days for diabetes are not the best option as advertised. They contain saccharine, an overdose of which will again harm you. Sensitive teeth, too, may have many underlying reasons which only a dentist can identify. A tooth sensitivity correction toothpaste, for example, will not heal your cavities.”

Both doctors emphasise that the right technique and regularity in brushing are more important than the brand of toothpaste you use. 

Dr Zulfiqar says, “Regularity means brushing twice and not just once a day. And use a medium to soft toothbrush, not a worn-out one.”

Dr Inderpreet says, “Children should never use adult toothpastes. They tend to swallow toothpaste while brushing and that can be very harmful. Specific paediatric toothpastes are available. Those should be given to them.” 

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