Ever read the back of the toothpaste box and wonder, what exactly are the ingredients and wonder why the is it in my toothpaste?

On every drug facts label you find a listing of active ingredients and inactive ingredients, as well as what its used for, any warnings for the product and directions for uses.

Active Ingredients: This is the part of the toothpaste that makes its use effective. In the case of most toothpastes the active ingredient is usually for anti-plaque, anti-cavity, anti-gingivitis as well as including ingredients to help prevent tooth sensitivity. So in this portion you will normally see your fluorides such as sodium fluoride, stannous fluoride or sodium monofluorophosphate. You may also see potassium nitrate, triclosan, pyrophosphates or zinc salts as well as a myriad of other ingredients.

Inactive Ingredients: This portion includes the ingredients that make the toothpaste have an extended shelf life as well as make it what it is. These ingredients stop the paste from drying out, keep it at a good pH, stop microbial growth, make them thick enough for use and help them become foamy when used. They also include flavoring agents, abrasives and whitening agents. So in this section,  these types of ingredients:

  • Propylene glycol, glycerol, and polyethylene glycol to help keep toothpaste moist
  • Carageenan, cellulose and xanthan gum to thicken and hold all the ingredients together.This is a natural extract which is derived from seaweed,specifically Irish Moss.Carageenan is also used in ice cream and jello to stiffen them.
  • Sodium benzoate and methyl paraben to keep toothpaste from decaying and to prevent microbial growth
  • Sodium lauryl sulphate(SLS) and cocoadmidopropyl betaine to make toothpaste foam thereby helping loosening and removing plaque from the tooth surface.In our experience in the office,a significant number of people have reactions to SAS,requiring them to seek out SAS-free toothpastes.
  • sodium saccharin, xylitol, sorbitol, sodium cyclamate to flavor the toothpaste.
  • Buffering agents to make it a pH favorable for the oral environment.
  • And, you may see silicas, dicalcium phosphate dihydrate or aluminum oxide which are abrasives which help remove plaque and bacteria as well.There are varying amounts of these ingredients in commercial toothpastes.In this office,we say to patients if when you still have the used/foamed toothpaste in your mouth(ie,just before spitting it out),and you bite down,if you feel there is a very obvious sandy,abrasive feel,one should be very careful not to brush too aggressively so as to not cause unnecessary abrasion to the teeth and gums.
  • when in doubt,ask your dentist or Hygienist of any concerns you may have with your brand of toothpaste.