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Section Questions and Answers

Toothpaste

"The use of fluoride-containing dentifrice (toothpaste) is critical for dental caries prevention." U.S. Surgeon General's Report

  1. Is it important to use toothpaste?
  2. What important active ingredients do toothpastes contain?
  3. Why is fluoride an important ingredient of toothpaste?
  4. Is fluoride in toothpaste safe for children?
  5. What are desensitising agents?
  6. Why are anti-bacterial agents necessary in toothpaste?
  7. Why are plaque and calculus reducing agents necessary in toothpaste?
  8. Why are abrasives used in toothpaste?
  9. Why have whitening toothpastes become popular?
  10. What claims do different toothpaste manufacturers make for their products?
  11. What are the natural alternatives to conventional toothpastes?

 
1. Is it important to use toothpaste?

  • It is. Toothpaste protects, cleans and polishes teeth. It makes oral hygiene more efficient.
  • It has a fresh taste and smell, and freshens the breath.
  • Modern toothpastes contain ingredients which are crucial to oral health. Brushing twice a day with toothpaste is essential to maintaining a healthy mouth.

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2. What important active ingredients do toothpastes contain?

  • Some or all of the following may be included in the same toothpaste:
    • Plaque and calculus reducing agents
    • Anti-bacterial substances
    • Fluoride
    • Breath fresheners
    • Desensitising agents
    • Abrasives
    • Whitening ingredients

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3. Why is fluoride an important ingredient of toothpaste?

  • Fluoride can reduce and even prevent tooth decay:
    • It remineralises (hardens) the initial softening of tooth enamel in the decay process.
    • It increases the resistance of teeth to decay.
    • It decreases the formation of decay-inducing acid in dental plaque.
  • Most toothpastes contain fluoride.

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4. Is fluoride in toothpaste safe for children?

  • There are toothpastes with a suitable fluoride content for children, but these should be used sparingly and wiped away with a muslin cloth for children under two years old.
  • Before using a fluoride toothpaste, children should be able to rinse out the toothpaste after their teeth are brushed. The amount of fluoride swallowed after rinsing is not significant or harmful.
  • Only a pea-sized "blob" of toothpaste should be used for small children, and their brushing should be supervised up to the age of six.
  • Toothpastes are for brushing teeth and should not be swallowed. This is worth remembering, particularly with children.
  • Try to minimise the swallowing of toothpaste.

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5. What are desensitising agents?

  • Desensitising agents make the dentine in a tooth less sensitive to hot and cold, and to sweet flavours.
    • Dentine is normally covered by the enamel over the crown of a tooth and by the cementum over the roots.
    • When the enamel layer near the gum margin has worn thin, the dentine becomes exposed.
    • The same applies when the cementum of the roots has been worn away.
    • Teeth then become sensitive to temperature changes or to sweetness.
    • The main desensitising agents are strontium and potassium chloride.
    • Regular use of a toothpaste containing desensitising agents will diminish or even cure the problem.

See Anatomy for the inside of a tooth

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6. Why are anti-bacterial agents necessary in toothpaste?

  • Anti-bacterial agents help to prevent the formation and build-up of bacteria and plaque, which cause decay and gum disease. Bacteria are normally present in the mouth.
  • Triclosan is one of the main anti-bacterial agents used in toothpaste.

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7. Why are plaque and calculus reducing agents necessary in toothpaste?

  • Plaque is the main cause of gum disease and tooth decay.
  • Brushing twice a day with a toothpaste that contains plaque-reducing agents, will help to control plaque.
  • Plaque can harden into tartar or calculus, which can only be removed by a dentist.
  • An anti-calculus agent may help to prevent plaque from hardening on the teeth.

See Decay

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8. Why are abrasives used in toothpaste?

  • Abrasives are used to remove stains from teeth and make them look whiter and cleaner. Abrasives usually contain a fine sand which assists the cleaning.
  • Toothpastes that are designed for smokers with nicotine-stained teeth usually contain abrasives.

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9. Why have whitening toothpastes become popular?

  • Whiter teeth are seen as more youthful and attractive.
    • Teeth naturally darken and yellow with age.
    • Whitening toothpastes can gradually lighten the colour of the teeth, or can maintain the lighter colour achieved by other whitening treatments.
    • These toothpastes usually contain mild abrasives and/or bleaching agents.

See Whitening for how to use whitening toothpaste

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10. What claims do different toothpaste manufacturers make for their products?

  • Toothpastes perform a number of functions. Here are some of the manufacturers' claims relating to:
  • Breath freshening
    • Freshens breath.
    • Freshens breath for longer.
    • Protects against bad breath.
    • Has a natural breath freshener.
    • Tastes fresh and minty.
    • Removes bacteria build-up that can cause bad breath.
  • Prevention of decay and gum disease
    • Reduces cavities and plaque.
    • Helps stop adult tooth decay.
    • Helps retard and prevent decay on roots of teeth and along gum lines.
    • Has an anti-cavity oral cleanser.
    • Helps prevent gum line erosion.
    • Remineralises and strengthens tooth enamel.
    • Has anti-bacterial (germ-fighting) ingredients.
    • Reduces plaque and tartar.
    • Promotes healthy teeth and gums.
    • Fortifies weak and sensitive gums.
    • Helps fight receding gums.
  • Sensitive teeth
    • Formulated for people with sensitive teeth.
    • Clinically proven relief from the pain of sensitive teeth.
  • Tooth whitening
    • Whitens teeth.
    • Dramatically whitens teeth.
    • Gentle whitening for people with sensitive teeth.
    • Clinically proven to significantly whiten teeth.
    • Restores teeth to their natural whiteness.
    • Helps restore ageing teeth and gums to a healthier, white and younger look.
    • More whitening, less abrasion.
    • Lower in abrasion. Leaves no rough surfaces for stains to adhere to.
    • Removes stain and reduces stain build-up.
    • Gently yet effectively removes stains.

See Whitening

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11. What are the natural alternatives to conventional toothpastes?

  • There are many toothpastes which contain natural ingredients, and claim to be natural toothpastes.
  • These contain no harsh abrasives, synthetic sweeteners or artificial flavours or colourings.
  • Some common natural ingredients in dental products are:
    • Tea Tree oil
    • Baking soda
    • Wintergreen
    • Aloe Vera
    • Echinacea
  • Claims made for natural toothpastes are:
    • Made from fresh herb extracts and essential oils in an all natural base.
    • All natural. Contains fresh plant extracts.
    • Contains no saccharin or artificial sweetener.
    • 100% natural, no detergents, no artificial colourings and cruelty free.
    • Soothing and stimulating.
    • Anise flavour will freshen your teeth.
    • Non abrasive.

See Alternative Dentistry

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