Toothpastes: Their uses and Benefits

The battle is on for the best brand of toothpaste. Campaigns have moved from the TV screens and supermarkets to the streets with each brand trying to out do each the other. Sales and marketing has taken a whole new dimension. But the question still remains WHAT MAKES A GOOD TOOTHPASTE ?

Before the advent of toothpaste the chewing stick (muswaki ) was and still is, in many rural areas, the predominant tool of cleaning teeth. Not all trees were chosen for the task in fact the Neem (Muarabuine) tree was the most favorite. The sap produced by this chewing stick has a disinfectant property that helps neutralize the acid produced by the bacteria while killing them at the same time. This resulted to reduced incidence of dental cavities and gum disease.

Modernization has brought with it soft, sweet, refined and processed foods. Foods such as maize, cassava, sugar cane have been replaced by chips, cake, biscuits, chocolates, bread, spaghetti, rice offering no roughage that is good for strong teeth and jaw development. As a consequence dental diseases have been on the increase. This has led to the development of toothpastes and mouthwashes with the chewing stick being abandoned as not being modern enough.

Living in the 21century we can't turn back the clock but we can adopt the necessary advanced technology in germ defense to better our oral health.

Good toothpaste should have fluoride. Benefits include:

•Fluoride helps put back minerals lost in the teeth by reversing early stages of tooth decay.

•Fluoride is useful in making the teeth resistant acids produced by bacteria or acidic foods thereby protecting teeth from developing cavities.

•Fluoride reduces build up of plaque and tartar offering protection for your gums keeping them strong and healthy.

•Fluoride not only helps develop strong teeth in children's growing teeth but helps to harden adults' teeth. Remember teeth like bones become more vulnerable as we age.

Another necessary ingredient in toothpaste is an abrasive agent namely silica. Care must be observed that the abrasive is not too harsh to cause excessive wear leading to tooth sensitivity. To check if the abrasive is too harsh run the toothpaste on your tooth surface with your tongue if it feels gritty be assured that there shall be excessive loss of your tooth surface. Smoker's toothpastes have especially very harsh abrasive agent to clean off the nicotine stains. So do some of the branded tooth whitening pastes. Long term use can lead to permanent loss of the tooth outer surface (enamel) making the teeth hypersensitive with no resolution.

Some toothpastes have herbal components that include cloves, garlic, Aloe Vera, chamomile, myrrh etc. Their curative effect has not been well documented and is based on various feel good factors. Some people have found them beneficial while others obtain no remedial effect. Choice is dependant on one's lifestyle and beliefs.

Other ingredients are usually foaming agents increasing the wash ability of the toothpaste.

Flavoring agents are occasionally present. They offer no therapeutic value but provide a pleasantry taste to the mouth.