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What is Abrasive Toothpaste?

By Laura Evans
Updated May 17, 2024
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People have been using different methods to clean their teeth for thousands of years. Today's toothpaste is much improved over the ground bones and oyster shells than humans once used on their teeth. Toothpastes that are commonly used today include ingredients to keep teeth healthy and clean, including abrasives. The trick is to find an abrasive toothpaste that is good enough to remove the plaque, stains, and debris on and between the teeth, while not so tough that the abrasives attack the enamel, or the outside covering of the teeth.

One of the most important ingredients in any toothpaste is fluoride. Fluoride, which is actually sodium monofluorophosphate, stannous fluoride, or sodium fluoride depending on the brand, absorbs into the enamel of the teeth. This makes the enamel more resistant to acids that could damage the tooth.

Abrasives are another important ingredient in toothpaste. A number of different ingredients are used to make toothpastes abrasive. These abrasives can include silica and alumina. Other ingredients might be calcium phosphates or calcium carbonate.

Today's toothpaste includes additional ingredients such as detergents to create the toothpastes' "foamy" appearance when brushing and thickeners for the right toothpaste density. Other ingredients include preservatives to keep bacteria from growing in the toothpaste, humectants to keep moisture in the toothpaste so that the toothpaste does not dry out and crumble, and colorants so that toothpaste has an attractive appearance. Toothpaste also needs to taste good. Manufacturers add flavorings and artificial sweeteners for this reason.

Using a highly abrasive toothpaste can result in having teeth that are more yellow in appearance. This because as tooth enamel wears away, the next layer below the enamel, dentin, becomes more visible. Dentin is more yellow than enamel. In addition to changing the color of the teeth, a highly abrasive toothpaste can result in teeth that are sensitive to heat and cold.

People who are concerned about the condition of their teeth, including how white the teeth are or any sensitivity to temperatures that their teeth might have, should make an appointment and discuss the issues with their dentists. A dentist may suggest using a less abrasive toothpaste. In addition, the dentist may recommend procedures to try to whiten the teeth as well as keep the teeth, gums, and mouth healthy.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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