When you go to the store to pick out a toothpaste, you have plenty to choose from. In fact, there is shelf after shelf of the minty-fresh product—so much of it, in fact, that even such a seemingly simple task can be a little confusing.
The good news is that there’s got to be the perfect toothpaste for you there on the shelf, somewhere (right?).
Read on for a summary of some different kinds of toothpaste—and some help in choosing which one is the best for you.
Do You Have Tartar?
Tartar is what happens when plaque has formed on your teeth and has built up over time. Tartar is harder to remove than plaque, and if it builds up too much it can lead to gum disease.
Tartar control toothpaste keeps tartar build-up from getting worse. However, if you have tartar that has been on your teeth for a while, your dental hygienist will have to scrape it off (and, if tartar is a problem for you, they will probably recommend you start using tartar control toothpaste).
If you have a tartar problem, make sure you look for toothpaste that specifically says “tartar control”—other kinds of toothpaste are not as effective at fighting tartar.
Do You Want Your Teeth to Be Whiter?
Whitening toothpaste can work in a few different ways. It may have abrasive ingredients that polish teeth and ingredients to remove stains. Or, these types of toothpaste may have ingredients that just make the tooth look less colored.
This kind of toothpaste can only remove surface stains, such as stains you might get when smoking or drinking a lot of coffee. It doesn’t change the natural color of teeth or work on stains that are below the surface of teeth.
It can take two to six weeks for you to see a difference if you use whitening toothpaste. It is considered safe to use daily—however, if it is used excessively, whitening toothpaste has been known to damage tooth enamel.
Do You Have Sensitive Teeth?
Sensitive teeth can be extremely painful. If you have sensitive teeth, you know it without a doubt—it hurts to eat something hot and/or cold, and it can even hurt to breathe in cold air.
Some kinds of toothpaste for sensitive teeth work by blocking the pathways of nerves and reducing the sensitivity.
There are many kinds of toothpaste out there for sensitive teeth. However, the bad news is that many of these can take up to 4 weeks to help you feel better. You should also pay attention to the directions on the label—most toothpaste for sensitive teeth should only be used for a short time.
And, don’t forget that your sensitivity may be caused by something that toothpaste won’t help—if the toothpaste doesn’t seem to be working, it might be time to go see a dentist to investigate the cause of your tooth pain.
Do You Need Fluoride?
If your head is spinning from all your toothpaste choices, you can’t go wrong with picking a fluoride toothpaste.
Fluoride is very important in fighting cavities and helping to keep teeth strong. Even if you have fluorinated water, brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste is recommended, just to make sure you have that layer of protection that fluoride offers.
Whichever toothpaste you choose, it is a good idea to pick one that has that American Dental Association seal of approval on it. If you have any concerns about your teeth or toothpaste, of course, you should ask your local dentist what kind they advise you to use—they will be able to tell you the best kind of toothpaste you should use for your specific dental needs.