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Ingredients of a Toothpaste

Nicks J Sep 30, 2018
In these health conscious times, the ingredients used in toothpaste may be a cause for concern. The choice of the right toothpaste does help promote healthy teeth, which is why it is important that we know what kind of ingredients are used in toothpaste.
We all know toothpastes are used to clean our teeth. It improves oral health, and reduce the formation of dental plaque (bacteria that causes dental diseases). Regular cleaning with it ensures healthy and strong teeth. But have you ever wondered about the ingredients in toothpaste? Each ingredient in toothpaste has a specific function.
Toothpaste ingredients are classified as, either active or inactive.
Active ingredients are those, that strengthen and protect the teeth from bacteria. They work to improve your dental health. On the other hand, inactive ingredients do not clean your teeth. They are added to keep the texture, and improve the taste of the toothpaste. Let's take a look.

Active Ingredients


This is the most important ingredient of a toothpaste. This compound prevents tooth decay, and makes teeth stronger. Fluoride compounds restrict the growth of dental plaque.Today, most toothpaste brands contain sodium fluoride (NaF); however, some brands also use sodium monofluorophosphate to protect teeth from cavities.
When it comes to preventing tooth decay, one can certainly rely on fluorides. Bacteria thrive on food particles trapped in the oral cavity after having meals. These microbes secrete some acid that are known to damage teeth. Fluoride safeguards teeth from damaging effects of this acid.
If tooth decay in its initial stages, then fluoride in toothpaste can even correct this dental problem. Most importantly, daily use of fluoride toothpaste is crucial to maintain enamel strength. Fluoride makes the enamel powerful enough to successfully thwart any kind of bacterial attack.
In the presence of fluoride, the enamel is better equipped to deal with acids released by the bacteria. In layman's terms, with regular use of toothpaste, say goodbye to those enamel problems and keep those pearly whites shining for years to come.

Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate (Anti-tartar agents)

Dental tartar is formed due to deposition of magnesium and calcium on the teeth. Pyrophosphates stop formation of tartar by removing these elements from the saliva. Tartar as we know results from years of deposition of minerals from saliva on the teeth.
Initially, a thin coating (plaque) develops on the teeth that hardens and turns black over time, which is nothing but tartar. In order to prevent this hardened dental plaque from occurring, anti-tartar agents are added in the toothpaste.

Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking soda)

This is an abrasive, and provides a mild teeth whitening action. It neutralizes acidic saliva, thus maintaining an alkaline environment in the mouth, even hours after brushing. An alkaline environment is not favorable for and hampers the formation of dental plaque. It is a natural teeth whitener and hence effective to remove stains.
It is an effective teeth cleaning agent and due to its abrasive action it can clear off those brown and yellow stains. While brushing, baking soda infiltrates the tooth's enamel, which helps to reduce the appearance of the stains that are on the surface of the teeth.

Triclosan or Xylitol (Antibacterial agents)

Triclosan restricts the formation of dental plaque and has the ability to destroy bacteria. Sometimes, zinc citrate or zinc chloride is also used as an antibacterial agent, to control dental plaque.
The combination of zinc chloride and triclosan is effective against bacteria and gum disease. The antibacterial ingredient triclosan basically prevents the bacteria from producing a specific enzyme that is required for its existence.

Desensitizing Agents (Potassium nitrate, strontium chloride, potassium citrate)

Some people experience acute pain, while eating sweet or frozen desserts, such as ice cream. This happens due to tooth sensitivity problems. Toothpastes containing desensitizing agents help to relieve discomfort and pain that accompanies sensitive teeth.
Potassium nitrate is added in toothpastes that are formulated for people with sensitive teeth. Using these toothpastes that contain potassium nitrate for a few weeks works to decrease the tooth sensitivity.

Hydrogen Peroxide (Whitening or abrasive agent)

It performs the function of polishing and cleaning the teeth. It is used in toothpastes to remove stains on the surface of teeth. It is an excellent teeth whitening agent that can give a distinctive shine to your teeth. Other than making the teeth whiter, hydrogen peroxide is found to destroy bacterial growth in the oral cavity.

Non-active Ingredients

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (Foaming agents)

These components of toothpaste promote the foaming action. The foaming action ensures that the toothpaste does not spill out of the mouth, while brushing.

Alginate or Xanthan (Binding agents)

Binding agents maintain the consistency of toothpaste. It binds all the ingredients in toothpaste together. Hydrocolloids, such as alginate or xanthan, are often used as binding agents.

Sodium Benzoate or Ethylparaben (Preservatives)

Preservatives play an important role in keeping the toothpaste free from micro-organisms. Sodium benzoate prevents the buildup of micro-organisms in the toothpaste, and is the reason why there is no need to keep toothpastes in refrigerators.

Humectant (Water, sorbitol or glycerin)

This is also an essential ingredient of toothpaste, as it does not allow the toothpaste to dry up. Humectants hold or retain moisture, so that the paste does not become dry, when not in use. However, when exposed to air (when the toothpaste cap is kept open), its ability to hold moisture reduces drastically.


Nowadays, a number of flavors are used, to impart a yummy taste to the toothpaste. People experience fresh breath due to these enhanced flavoring agents. Mint is the most popular flavor, that ensures you enjoy brushing your teeth.

Sodium Saccharine (Sweetening agent)

This ingredient is added to the toothpaste to make it sweet. Toothpaste without a sweetening agent does not taste good. Hence, to make it fit for oral use, sodium saccharine is used.

Titanium Dioxide (Coloring agent)

Coloring agents give a pleasing color to the toothpaste. Titanium dioxide is commonly used to give toothpaste its white color. Artificial dyes are added to make red, blue and green toothpastes.
Ingredients such as vitamins, herbs, mouthwash, etc., are often added in the formulation of toothpaste, to make it more effective in controlling bad breath and plaque formation. A point to note that although toothpaste ingredients contribute to keep teeth and gums healthy, oral care is incomplete without flossing.
So, besides brushing twice a day, make sure to floss your teeth daily and of course don't forget to take a trip to your dentist for professional cleaning once in a year.