Does toothpaste really matter?
Well, yes, in so far as you want to steer clear of ingredients such as fluoride, sodium lauryl sulfate, and triclosan, not to mention artificial flavors and colors.
But when it comes to removing plaque, not really.
This literature review, published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, considered 10 randomized controlled trials and controlled clinical trials of adults in good health. Its authors found very little difference in plaque removal, whether toothpaste was used or not.
On average, 49.2% of plaque was removed when brushing was performed with a dentifrice, and 50.3% of plaque was removed when toothbrushing was performed without a dentifrice. The descriptive analysis indicated that the majority of the comparisons did not show an additional effect of dentifrice use. Regarding the meta-analysis of post-brushing scores, no significant difference was observed between toothbrushing with and without a dentifrice…. The meta-analysis of incremental data (as means or percentages) supported and strengthened these findings.
“The cumulative evidence for this systematic review,” conclude the authors, “demonstrates that there is moderate certainty that toothbrushing with a dentifrice does not provide an added effect for the mechanical removal of dental plaque” [emphasis added].
So why use it?
Well, there’s the psychological effect. A minty, cool feeling signals “clean” to us. The nice taste might also be incentive to brush for the recommended full two minutes. But toothpastes can also deliver other ingredients that may be helpful in supporting good oral health – antimicrobial oils, for instance, or whitening agents such as clay.
But for the basic job of breaking up the biofilm? No toothpaste needed.
Originally from Gary M. Verigin, DDS, inc.