Toothpaste is a paste or gel dentifrice used with a toothbrush as an accessory to clean and maintain the aesthetics and health of teeth. Toothpaste is used to promote oral hygiene: it serves as an abrasive that aids in removing the dental plaque and food from the teeth, assists in suppressing halitosis, and delivers active ingredients (mainly fluoride) to help prevent tooth and gum disease (gingivitis). Most of the cleaning is achieved by the mechanical action of the toothbrush, and not by the toothpaste. Salt and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) are among materials that can be substituted for commercial toothpaste. Toothpaste is not intended to be swallowed, but is generally not very harmful if accidentally swallowed in small amounts. Ingredients
In addition to 20-42% water, toothpastes are derived from a variety of components, including three main ones: abrasives, fluoride, and detergents. Abrasives
Abrasives constitute at least 50% of a typical toothpaste. These insoluble particles help remove plaque from the teeth. The removal of plaque and calculus helps minimize cavities and periodontal disease. Representative abrasives include particles of aluminum hydroxide (Al(OH)3), calcium carbonate (CaCO3), various calcium hydrogen phosphates, various silicas and zeolites, and hydroxyapatite (Ca5(PO4)3OH).
Abrasives, like the dental polishing agents used in dentists' offices, also cause a small amount of enamel erosion which is termed "polishing" action. Some brands contain powdered white mica, which acts as a mild abrasive, and also adds a cosmetically pleasing glittery shimmer to the paste. The polishing of teeth removes stains from tooth surfaces, but has not been shown to improve dental health over and above the effects of the removal of plaque and calculus. Fluorides
Fluoride in various forms is the most popular active ingredient in toothpaste to prevent cavities. Fluoride occurs in small amounts in plants, animals, and some natural water sources. The additional fluoride in toothpaste has beneficial effects on the formation of dental enamel and bones. Sodium fluoride (NaF) is the most common source of fluoride, but stannous fluoride (SnF2), olaflur (an organic salt of fluoride), and sodium monofluorophosphate (Na2PO3F) are also used. Stannous fluoride has been shown to be more effective than sodium fluoride in reducing the incidence of dental caries and controlling gingivitis.
Much of the toothpaste sold in the United States has 1000 to 1100 parts per million fluoride. In European countries, such as the UK or Greece, the fluoride content is often higher; a NaF of 0.312% w/w (1,450 ppm fluoride) is not uncommon. Surfactants
Many, although not all, toothpastes contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or related surfactants (detergents). SLS is found in many other personal care products, as well, such as shampoo, and is mainly a foaming agent, which enables uniform distribution of toothpaste, improving its cleansing power. Other components
Triclosan, an antibacterial agent, is a common toothpaste ingredient in the United Kingdom. Triclosan or zinc chloride prevent gingivitis and, according to the American Dental Association, helps reduce tartar and bad breath. A 2006 review of clinical research concluded there was evidence for the effectiveness of 0.30% triclosan in reducing plaque and gingivitis. Flavorants
Toothpaste comes in a variety of colors, and flavors intended to encourage use of the product. Three most common flavorants are peppermint, spearmint, and wintergreen. Toothpaste flavored with peppermint-anise oil is popular in the Mediterranean region. These flavors are provided by the respective oils, e.g. peppermint oil. More exotic flavors include anise, apricot, bubblegum, cinnamon, fennel, lavender, neem, ginger, vanilla, lemon, orange, and pine. More unusual flavors have been used, e.g. peanut butter, iced tea, and even whisky....
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