Understanding common misconceptions about toothpaste

From trendy charcoal products to glittery packaging that promises to whiten your teeth, there are plenty of toothpastes on supermarket shelves these days. But how do you know what to trust?

Below, we separate fact from fiction to help you make an informed decision next time you find yourself stumped at the toothpaste aisle.

There’s no scientific evidence to support the benefits spruiked by charcoal toothpaste

With optimistic promises of whitening your teeth, removing stains and drawing out toxins, charcoal toothpaste has gained traction for its so-called benefits. And while this new trend may have historical origins, the fact of the matter remains: there are no long-term studies to support the use of charcoal toothpaste.

In fact, the abrasive nature of charcoal toothpaste could actually be doing more harm than good. Theoretically, the scrubbing nature that promises to remove superficial stains may wear down enamel and gums, meaning long-term use could result in tooth sensitivity as well as inflammation, trauma, or recession of the gums. Additionally, the charcoal itself has the potential to discolour crowns, bridges and veneers.

Whitening toothpaste doesn’t change the natural colour of your teeth

Unfortunately, no toothpaste is a miracle worker. Similar to charcoal toothpaste, whitening products can help treat surface stains but do not go any deeper than that. The ingredients that work to break down stains include very low concentrations of bleach, a chemical called blue covarine, and abrasives that polish the surface of the tooth.

Again, these ingredients can prove to do more damage than good by wearing down the tooth enamel. If you’re after a whiter smile, a professional whitening treatment may help you achieve much more solid results. This is where a peroxide solution actively breaks down the colour pigment beyond the surface of the tooth. There are also some great whitening products available. Those that are prescribed by your dentist are often stronger and more effective than those bought online or at a chemist.

Sensitive toothpastes do work – as long as they contain the right ingredients

For those who can’t enjoy a hot coffee or a cold ice cream without wincing in pain, sensitive toothpastes provide much relief. And thankfully, this relief isn’t simply a placebo effect: sensitive toothpastes are backed by science to block pain signals travelling from the tooth surface through the enamel to the sensory nerves within the connective tissue.

Specifically, three different active ingredients work to desensitise the nerves and gradually build up resistance: stannous fluoride, potassium nitrate, and strontium chloride.

However, it should be noted that sensitive toothpaste can only help to alleviate a certain degree of erosion and associated pain. In cases where the root surfaces are exposed or gum tissue has been worn away, dental procedures may be required, such as the application of bonding resin or a surgical gum graft. In more severe cases, a root canal may be necessary, whereby the soft core of the tooth is treated.