Choose tooth­paste with flu­o­ride

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - YOUR DAILY BREAK - An­thony Ko­maroff Ask Dr. K

I’m con­fused by the many types of tooth­paste on phar­macy shelves. What should I look for in a tooth­paste?

To pre­vent cav­i­ties and tooth de­cay, you need to brush away plaque — that sticky, bac­te­ria-laden ma­te­rial that builds up on teeth. It’s best to brush at least twice daily: once af­ter you eat break­fast, and then again be­fore you go to sleep.

When it comes to plaque re­moval, your tooth­brush does most of the heavy lift­ing. If you were forced to give up ei­ther the tooth­brush or tooth­paste, you’d give up the tooth­paste. For­tu­nately, it’s easy to have both.

And tooth­paste def­i­nitely helps, in sev­eral ways. It re­moves stains and leaves your mouth fresher. Com­mer­cial tooth­pastes are a con­coc­tion of abra­sives, foam­ing agents, wa­ter and binders. Fla­vor, color and sweet­en­ers are added. They may also con­tain agents to pre­vent cav­i­ties, com­bat gum dis­ease, make teeth less sen­si­tive or whiten teeth. Here are some in­gre­di­ents you may see high­lighted on la­bels:

• FLU­O­RIDE. Choose a tooth­paste that con­tains flu­o­ride, which helps pre­vent tooth de­cay.

• TRICLOSAN. This in­gre­di­ent helps fight the gum dis­ease known as gin­givi­tis. It also helps re­duce plaque, in­flam­ma­tion and bleed­ing of the gums.

• ANTI-SEN­SI­TIV­ITY IN­GRE­DI­ENTS. Some tooth­pastes are de­signed to re­duce sen­si­tiv­ity of teeth to heat and cold. It might take a few weeks of us­ing an anti-sen­si­tiv­ity tooth­paste be­fore you no­tice any im­prove­ment. You can use anti-sen­si­tiv­ity tooth­pastes that also con­tain flu­o­ride as your ev­ery­day tooth­paste.

• ABRA­SIVES. When choos­ing a tooth­paste, con­sider its level of abra­sive­ness. A lit­tle bit of rough­ness helps re­move plaque and stains, but too much can strip away tooth enamel. Us­ing a tooth­paste that’s too abra­sive can lead to per­ma­nent tooth dam­age, par­tic­u­larly around the gum line. If you don’t smoke and have few stains, a low-abra­sive tooth­paste is best for you. The Amer­i­can Den­tal As­so­ci­a­tion (ADA) is­sues its Seal of Ac­cep­tance only for tooth­pastes that are mildly to mod­er­ately abra­sive. So look for the ADA seal of ap­proval on the tube.

• WHITENERS. Tooth­paste mak­ers have bom­barded the mar­ket­place with prod­ucts that claim to whiten teeth. All whiten­ing tooth­pastes con­tain mild abra­sives that help re­move sur­face stains. Whiten­ing tooth­pastes that dis­play the ADA Seal of Ac­cep­tance also have chem­i­cal or pol­ish­ing agents that boost their stain-re­moval power.

A pa­tient asked me once, “I know you’re not sup­posed to swal­low the tooth­paste, but is there any dan­ger if you do?” Swal­low­ing small amounts of tooth­paste, which oc­ca­sion­ally hap­pens with all of us, car­ries no risk. How­ever, some peo­ple ap­par­ently de­lib­er­ately swal­low larger amounts of tooth­paste (don’t ask me why). That can cause prob­lems. The flu­o­ride and the triclosan, in large amounts, can cause ab­dom­i­nal symp­toms and even more se­ri­ous prob­lems, in­clud­ing seizures.

Fi­nally, don’t forget to floss reg­u­larly. No mat­ter how thor­oughly you brush your teeth, it’s im­pos­si­ble to reach the plaque and food de­bris that lodge un­der the gum line be­tween your teeth. Your teeth and gums will thank you.

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