The extravagant promotion of chemical additives has always been popular with toothpaste manufacturers. Over the last thirty years these have included carbamide (urea), chlorophyll, hexachorophene, chloroform, baking soda, peroxide, sanguinaria, “antitartar” formulas, and various forms of fluoride .
A lot of “research” has attempted to back up some of these claims. The results of such research, it may not be surprising to learn, have been much more favorable to the product when the research was paid for by the manufacturer than when it was done independently.
Recently an FDA advisory panel found no convincing evidence that baking soda or sanguinaria is effective against plaque accumulation or gum disease. Some toothpaste manufacturers make the popular claim that their product has an “anti tartar” formula, implying that it can remove calculus or slow the growth of new calculus.
Any toothpaste, used in conjunction with a toothbrush, accomplishes this. While some studies show that certain chemical toothpaste additives do indeed help in removing tartar that is above the gum line, they don’t help with disease-causing under the gum tartar.
Gum inflammation, a major sign of periodontal disease, is not reduced by the use of these “anti tartar” toothpastes. Furthermore, some of these chemical additives interfere with enzymatic activity of the saliva, and questions have been raised about the long-term safety of using these formulations. Since their contribution to oral health is trivial at best, and since there are doubts about their safety, we do not recommend their use.
Of course fluoride, usually the only active ingredient listed on the toothpaste container does help reduce decay, but it is much more effective when taken internally, from a fluoridated water supply, than when applied topically. We recommend you always use a fluoridated toothpaste; like chicken soup, it cannot do any harm and may do some good.
The other ingredients in a toothpaste are, commonly: an abrasive, binding agents to hold the paste together, sudsing agents, moisturizers, flavoring agents, coloring, and water. Some toothpastes claim that they’re “natural.” This implies that they are safer than other toothpastes, but this is nonsense, pandering to those poorly informed people who think something must be good if it is “natural.” Of course, whether or not it is natural is not the point:
What is important is whether or not it is safe and effective. All toothpastes that have been accepted by the American Dental Association are safe, in the sense that they are not too abrasive. Extra money spent on a “natural” dentifrice is thrown away. Some toothpastes are specifically targeted for people with sensitive teeth, but we have found their results to be inconsistent.