Common Ingredients in Toothpaste and What They Do

Why do we use toothpaste when we brush?  Well, for several reasons. Toothpaste contains ingredients that assist in cleaning your teeth and gums by removing food debris and plaque. There are also aspects of toothpaste that refresh your breath and make your mouth feel clean. And, there are more and more choices when it comes to toothpaste on the market now. Everything from toothpaste that whitens, lessens sensitivity, and prevents cavities is available for purchase.

Most people prefer to use toothpaste for the clean feeling that’s left in their mouth afterward. Toothpaste comes in gels, pastes, or powders and has slightly different components depending on the goal of the paste. However, there are some common ingredients in all toothpaste such as abrasives, coloring agents, detergents, flavoring, fluoride, humectants, thickeners, preservatives, and whiteners. Your family Fuquay-Varina dentist is available to recommend toothpaste that addresses your specific situation when providing regular dental checkups and to help you stay on track with your oral hygiene routine. In this article, we provide information on each of the common ingredients in toothpaste so you can be aware of what each element does for your mouth.

Common Ingredients

The majority of people tend to use toothpaste when they brush. The formulas for toothpaste we use today have existed since the 1940s. Even though there are many different toothpaste options on the market today, most that fight cavities contain these common ingredients.


Fluoride is the key ingredient in toothpaste that fights decay and protects your teeth from developing cavities. The American Dental Association (ADA) reports that fluoride is a natural cavity fighter. Fluoride is a mineral that strengthens tooth enamel by actually incorporating itself into the enamel. In doing so, your teeth become more resistant to acids that grow bacteria. You can find a toothpaste that doesn’t contain fluoride, but only products that contain fluoride qualify for the ADA’s Seal of Acceptance.


Toothpaste contains abrasives to aid in removing tartar and plaque. Abrasives are the agent that provides the ability to clean your teeth. Abrasives also polish teeth and remove stains. Most of the paste on the market that is for whitening has a good amount of abrasives (in addition to bleaching agents such as hydrogen peroxide). Common abrasives include alumina, hydrated silica, dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). Be sure you aren’t using toothpaste that is too abrasive and be aware of the hardness of the brush and how firm you are brushing. These can damage enamel and inflame the gums, resulting possibly in the need to have corrective cosmetic dentistry such as crowns, veneers, or bonding.


The detergents in toothpaste allow the paste to be foamy when you brush. One of the most common detergents is sodium lauryl sulfate. The foam also ensures that the other active ingredients coat your teeth.


Toothpaste has many flavoring ingredients because the other ingredients like fluoride and detergents don’t have a pleasant taste. You can find a variety of toothpaste with mint, cinnamon, and fruit flavors. The flavoring usually comes from sweetening agents like saccharin or sorbitol. These elements taste sweet but are not sugar so there is no worry about the toothpaste causing decay. The ADA will not qualify a paste for the Seal of Acceptance if it has sugar.


Desensitizers are active ingredients that help calm teeth that are sensitive to hot or cold food and drinks, and air. Desensitizers block the pain signal before it reaches the nerve, easing the discomfort. Not all toothpaste has desensitizing elements. The ones you see that claim they are for sensitive teeth will have potassium nitrate or strontium chloride as an ingredient.

There is a new type of toothpaste on the market for tooth sensitivity called demineralization toothpaste. These contain calcium phosphate that remineralizes the enamel, in other words, it reverses small cavities.


Humectants are inactive ingredients that enable the toothpaste to retain a smooth texture and prevent it from drying up in the tube.


We all want our teeth to be white. But, whiteners are not in every toothpaste. And, whiteners don’t actually whiten teeth; they reduce stains on teeth. Look for toothpaste that is specifically formulated to whiten. Some whitening ingredients include hydrogen peroxide, carbamide peroxide, citroxain, and abrasives. The ingredients that work on stains break down and allow oxygen into the enamel, which bleaches the teeth.

Contact Hamby Family Dental Center for a Dental Checkup Today

Keep up your oral hygiene routine with regular brushing using ADA-approved toothpaste. Additionally, have regularly scheduled dental checkups so our team can keep an eye on the state of your teeth and gums. We can recommend appropriate toothpaste for your specific situation. Call us at 919-552-2431 or complete the form below to get started.

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