What Toothpaste Ingredients Do for Your Teeth

What Toothpaste Ingredients Do for Your Teeth

You wake up every morning, head to the bathroom, squeeze a dollop of toothpaste on your toothbrush, and start scrubbing away — but have you ever wondered what exactly is in your toothpaste? 

Toothpaste has many ingredients that make it an effective solution for fighting against plaque and tartar buildup. Below, we’ll give you an overview of some of the most common (and important) ingredients, as well as how to get the best results from them. 

What Ingredients Are in Toothpaste?

Toothpastes can have many ingredients, depending on each brand’s unique formula. However, there are five common ingredients that most cavity-fighting toothpastes share. Let’s take a closer look at them below. 


Fluoride is the #1 cavity-fighting toothpaste ingredient. It’s a mineral that strengthens the enamel on your teeth, which helps to prevent decay. While you can still find toothpastes that don’t contain fluoride, they aren’t the best choice for your oral health. All tubes of toothpaste with an American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance contain fluoride. 


Abrasives are inactive ingredients that are common to many toothpastes. Although they don’t work to prevent cavities or gum disease, they play a critical role in removing food debris and surface stains from your teeth. 

Today’s toothpaste abrasives are usually in the form of calcium carbonate, hydrated aluminum oxides, and dehydrated silica gels. These ingredients have become more gentle over the years, but it’s important to keep in mind that scrubbing them too firmly against your teeth can result in damaged enamel and inflamed gum lines. 


Whether you’re a fan of classic mint or you prefer a sweeter bubblegum, you can find many toothpaste flavors on the market. The truth is, while fluoride and abrasives are great for cleaning your teeth, they don’t taste all that great. That’s why flavoring is needed. 

Toothpaste flavoring comes from sweetening agents like saccharin or sorbitol, which help toothpaste taste sweet without needing any sugar that can lead to tooth decay. 


Humectants are ingredients that help maintain toothpaste’s smooth texture. They trap water in the formula to keep it from drying out and crumbling. The most common humectants used are sorbitol (also a flavoring agent), glycol, and glycerin. 


Detergents are ingredients that make your toothpaste foam up when you start brushing. They ensure that your toothpaste is fully coating your teeth. Sodium lauryl sulfate is the most common detergent used in toothpaste. 

Which Toothpaste Formula Is Best for You? 

When you’re standing in the toothpaste aisle of your local drugstore or grocery store, your options can be a little overwhelming. The shelves are usually stocked with hundreds of different toothpaste brands, formulas, and flavors. While most of them share the five common ingredients listed above, there are a number of add-ins that can be included to treat special oral care needs, such as whitening for sensitive teeth. 

With that in mind, how do you choose which toothpaste formula is best for you? 

While you can start by looking for the five ingredients listed above, you’ll have the best luck asking your dentist for a personalized recommendation. Your dentist will know your specific oral health needs and which toothpaste will help them. 

How to Get the Full Effect of Your Toothpaste Ingredients

The ingredients in your toothpaste are important, but they can’t do all the work by themselves. There are also some actions you should take to ensure they’re giving you the best results. 

Spit, Don’t Rinse

Most people rinse their mouth with water once they’re done brushing their teeth. However, some of the latest research shows that rinsing actually washes away the protective coating our enamel gets from the fluoride in toothpaste. 

Instead of rinsing, you can better help your toothpaste work its magic by simply spitting out excess paste and saliva once you’re done brushing, then letting the fluoride coat your teeth for a while after. You should refrain from rinsing, drinking, or eating for a good 30 minutes after you’ve brushed. 

Maintain a Healthy Brushing Schedule and Technique

A proper brushing schedule and technique also help your toothpaste do its job well. It’s important to brush at least twice per day, for about two minutes each time. Brush gently (preferably with a soft-bristled toothbrush), covering the outer surfaces, inner surfaces, and chewing surfaces of your teeth completely. 

The right toothpaste and proper brushing are only the first steps to achieving a healthy smile. Step three is visiting your dentist for regular cleanings and checkups! Schedule your appointment with our team at West Michigan Dentistry for comprehensive oral care.