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Are you better off without toothpaste?

When you think of dental hygiene, a toothbrush and toothpaste immediately come to mind. A cult has been built around toothpaste – a thousand different varieties, brands, flavors, and functions exist. Each new commercial touts a different dentist’s recommendation, and consumers are left baffled in the drugstore aisle wondering if whitening specialties really work. Unfortunately, all of this time and attention spent on toothpaste may be terribly unnecessary, as our reliance may spring out of habit instead of need.

Overuse of toothpaste has been identified as actually causing certain conditions such as thinning of tooth enamel and heightened sensitivity. If you were taught that the more you brush your teeth, the whiter they will become, you could be a potential toothpaste abuser. As you brush your teeth harder and more often, the enamel wears down, the dentine becomes closer to the tooth’s surface, and the tooth appears darker instead of whiter. Mistaken beliefs about toothpaste can lock patients into a cycle of increased tooth damage.

As with all things in life, no singular factor is completely causative. Tooth abrasion is the result of pressure, time, and speed during brushing in addition to the abrasives found in the toothpaste itself. Poor habits such as grinding and drinking excessive amounts of soda further aggravate the situation. However, recognizable patterns have emerged in studies where toothpaste is isolated.

Brushing with water and brushing with toothpaste show different degrees of wear. As studies continue to measure the factors contributing to tooth damage, dentists are split over weighing the costs and benefits of toothpaste. Proven benefits such as fighting cavities and gum disease are not to be overlooked – however, at what cost?

Sources: Moore, C., Addy, M. and Moran, J. (2008), Toothpaste detergents: a potential source of oral soft tissue damage?. International Journal of Dental Hygiene, 6: 193–198. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-5037.2008.00307.x

Ferreira, Meire Coelho et al. “Effect of Toothpastes with Different Abrasives on Eroded Human Enamel: An in Situ/ex Vivo Study.” The Open Dentistry Journal 7 (2013): 132–139. PMC. Web. 15 May 2015

Bolay S, Cakir Fy, Gurgan S. Effects of Toothbrushing with Fluoride Abrasive and Whitening Dentrifices on Both Unbleached and Bleached Human Enamel J Contemporary Dent. Practice 2012; 13(5): 584 – 589