Is Your Toothpaste Helping or Harming Your Teeth?

by | Feb 5, 2020 | Dental Health, Oral Hygiene

The toothpaste market is a $26 billion industry. There are hundreds of options to choose from. Looking for a paste that cleans your teeth, gives you fresh breath, and maybe even whitens, can be pretty overwhelming, especially with all kinds of over-the-top claims about the effectiveness of this brand or that, many of which seem a little suspect, to say the least.

Yet there’s one quality of toothpaste that often goes overlooked, and that’s how abrasive it is. 

Abrasives are used in toothpaste to clean and polish. The biofilm that forms on your teeth between brushings – a/k/a plaque – is slimy, sticky stuff. A mild abrasive makes it easier to remove it from your teeth. Too much abrasion, though, can damage your teeth. 

The standard way of measuring this is Relative Dentin Abrasion, or RDA. The lower the RDA number, the less abrasive. While the ADA says that any toothpaste with an RDA below 250 may be considered “safe,” anything over 100 is still considered “highly abrasive.” (Of course, the ADA also insists that fluoride is safe, so there’s that.)

Here, you can see many major toothpastes ranked by RDA:

RDA chart

Dental Integral

You might notice that the more abrasive toothpastes tend to be whitening pastes, where the greater abrasivity is to help remove surface stains from the teeth. Yet research has shown that these lend themselves to greater erosion of enamel and dentin alike.

Once you narrow your choices to products with RDA numbers below 100 and then cut out those with fluoride, triclosan, SLS, or other questionable ingredients, choosing becomes a whole lot easier. You may also be surprised that one inexpensive alternative to toothpaste, baking soda, actually has a super-low RDA of 7. 

But you might be even more surprised to realize that you actually don’t need to use toothpaste at all. Your movement of the toothbrush – and interdental cleaners – do all the heavy lifting in your hygiene routine. (No wonder your hygienist is always talking with you about cleaning technique, right?) It’s the mechanical action of brushing, not the toothpaste, that does most of the work. 

Yet it’s understandable that most folks still gravitate toward toothpaste, if only for the cool, minty fresh taste while you brush. One all-natural paste you might try is Tooth & Gums Essentials from The Dental Herb Company. Made with natural herbs and essential oils, the product is fluoride-free and contains no artificial ingredients. 

Truly optimal oral health, however, has less to do with your choice of toothpaste and far more to do with your diet. Good nutrition is the foundation of good health, oral and otherwise. Take care of that, and you go a long way toward keeping your teeth and gums healthy for a lifetime. 

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