It all started with the index finger, which people eventually replaced with “chewing sticks...”

It all started with the index finger, which people eventually replaced with “chewing sticks…”

[Editor’s Note: This article is part one of a three part series. You can also read part two and part three.]

The variety of choices we have for dental care products has grown rapidly in the past one hundred years. Some time-tested tools have achieved classic status. The toothbrush and toothpaste come immediately to mind. But the list hardly ends there.

Today, we have electric toothbrushes, water flossers, gum stimulators, whitening products, and denture preparations.

In this three part series we’re going to dig into the details about dental care products.

Part one of our dental care products tour will look at toothbrushes, toothpaste, and mouthwash.

Manual Toothbrush

The history of the toothbrush goes all the way back to at least 5000 years before the current era (BCE), according to Thomas P. Connelly, D.D.S. It all started, he says, with the index finger, which people eventually replaced with “chewing sticks,” a name for the twigs that people simply chewed on. These were first used in ancient Babylonia around 3500-3000 BCE.

Now, flash forward all the way to the 1930s. That’s when the toothbrush, as we know it, finally arrived on the scene thanks to the invention of nylon, which quickly found its way into toothbrushes in the form of bristles.

What it does: Toothbrushes help scrape away food particles and plaque, the film that forms on teeth after eating, which is the primary cause of tooth decay.

Why it’s important: Aside from the fact that chewing on twigs is kind of gross, a sturdy, modern toothbrush is the first and best way to keep your teeth clean and healthy.

Who should use it: Only people who want to keep their teeth.

Electric Toothbrush

With electricity came a whole flood of inventions that just as quickly disappeared or never even saw the light of day. We’re thinking, for example, of Thomas Edison’s epic fail, the electric pen, which, rather than push ink, poked holes. (Seriously, you can look it up.) The electric toothbrush, on the other hand, is here to stay.

What it does: Just what a manual toothbrush does, but with far less manual work on your part.

Why it’s important: According to Consumer Reports, it might not be all that important. “In the past, Consumer Reports has said electric and manual toothbrushes are equally effective as long as you brush teeth thoroughly for 2 minutes, twice a day. An electric toothbrush may help, however, if you have arthritis or a dexterity problem that makes thorough brushing difficult.”

Who should use it: Anyone who is able to use a manual toothbrush should be able to use an electric one. Kids, of course, may need a little help at first. And if arthritis or another problem affects your ability to use a manual toothbrush, an electric brush may be just what you need.


When did toothpaste make it’s first appearance, you ask? According to Dr. Connelly, “ancient Egyptians were making a ‘tooth powder’ as far back as 5000 BC.” This tooth powder, he says was the first toothpaste. It “consisted of ash from ox hooves, myrrh, eggshell fragments and pumice,” he notes. Tasty.

What it does: Like soap, toothpaste lubricates and traps dirt – food particles, plaque, and other germs, in this case – so they can be rinsed away more easily, leaving the teeth clean, or at least cleaner than before.

Why it’s important: While brushing goes a long way toward getting teeth clean, brushing with toothpaste can be an even more effective combination. Dentists recommend you use toothpaste with fluoride.

Who should use it: Just about everyone. Talk with your dentist about the right type for you and your family members.


Did you know there are three basic categories of mouthwash? Which type is right for you?

Did you know there are three basic categories of mouthwash? Which type is right for you?

How did there get to be so many rinses to choose from? And how can you narrow it down to make the best choice?

Well, it may help to know that there are three basic categories of mouthwash: antiseptic rinses, mouthwashes that contain fluoride, and ones that offer cosmetic benefits.

What they do: The antiseptic type is intended to help fight tooth decay. It attacks plaque, the film of bacteria that would otherwise build up on the surface of your teeth. Mouthwashes with fluoride also help fight tooth decay. However, they work by making the enamel surfaces of your teeth resist plaque better. Finally, the cosmetic mouthwashes do little more than mask bad breath, though they may taste or feel refreshing as well.

Why it’s important: Using a dental rinse may be very important in some cases, and it may not be recommended at all in other situations.

Who should use it: Depending on a person’s situation and whom you ask, the question whether to use a daily mouthwash or oral rinse may have different answers.

Unlike toothbrush and toothpaste, there is some leeway for when and if to use mouthwash as part of a dental hygiene routine. So, it’s important to discuss mouthwash use with your dentist.

The Dental Care Products Overview as Just Begun

Today, many dental care products vie for our attention. We’re all pretty familiar with the top 3 covered in this post. However, do you know what all those other products are for, why they’re important, or who should be using them?

To learn more, read part two and part three of our dental care product overview.


Choosing the right type of toothpaste may not seem like rocket science. However, it is important to know what options exist and which ones are best for individual needs. For example, a person who has sensitive teeth would not want to use the same type of toothpaste that someone who wants to whiten their smile uses.
This toothpaste guide will cover which types are the best for different oral needs based on key ingredients.

Best Toothpaste For Sensitive Teeth

Research suggests that as much as 46 percent of Americans have or have had tooth sensitivity at least once during their lives. Sensitivity may last a few minutes or several days. Both hot and cold foods and beverages may trigger sensitivity. The sensitivity may be due to enamel erosion, new fillings or several other reasons.

There are many toothpaste products designed to help relieve the sensitivity feeling and any pain associated with it. These toothpastes typically include strontium chloride or potassium nitrate. Both substances build up blocks in the pathways that span from the tooth’s surface to the tooth’s inner nerves.

Although the effects are lasting when people use the toothpaste as directed, relief may take up to several weeks for some people. Some products may also include a mild analgesic for instant pain relief.

Best Toothpaste For Teeth Whitening

People who want to maintain a bright white smile should choose a good whitening toothpaste in addition to any teeth whitening product that may already be used. Whitening toothpastes are popular for people who drink coffee, tea, wine and other staining liquids frequently.

There are a few misconceptions when it comes to this type of paste. First, many people believe that whitening toothpastes contain bleach. Nearly all whitening products that come in the form of toothpaste do not contain bleach. They normally contain substances such as baking soda that are gently abrasive and bind to stains.

The combination of these qualities helps the substance stick to stains on the teeth and lift them away without causing harm to the enamel. Several of the best whitening toothpaste products contain a small amount of peroxide to remove stains and lighten the color of the teeth.

Best Toothpaste For Tartar Control And Bad Breath

A layer of bacteria-filled plaque forms on the teeth after eating. When plaque is not removed, it turns into hard tartar deposits and is hard to remove. Dentists can remove it with a professional cleaning. However, tartar buildup on the teeth can further damage the enamel and cause bad breath.

When it builds up under the gums, it can lead to gum disease and gum-line cavities. Products with zinc citrate or tetrasodium pyrophosphate are designed to combat tartar. People who have chronic bad breath may also have a large amount of oral bacteria.

Toothpastes that also contain triclosan are beneficial for this. Triclosan is an antibiotic designed to kill some types of oral bacteria. When choosing a paste for tartar control, experts recommend choosing one with multiple plaque-fighting agents.

Best Toothpaste For Enamel Protection

Sugar, acidic foods, poor dental hygiene and genetics are all common causes of poor enamel on teeth. When enamel is gone, it cannot be fully restored. Although some products claim to do this, they actually have agents to help strengthen the teeth to prevent further damage.

The best way to enjoy strong enamel is to prevent erosion instead of trying to treat broken-down enamel. Dental experts recommend that all adults and children use a toothpaste with fluoride to protect tooth enamel every day.

When bacteria feed on sugars and other substances on the teeth, an acid is formed that normally damages enamel. Fluoride helps prevent the damage by strengthening and re-mineralizing tooth enamel. It is best to brush with a fluoride toothpaste twice daily.

Always read the toothpaste ingredients on a package before buying it. Keep in mind that the ingredients are listed in order from the highest concentration to the lowest. Never buy a paste that contains the toxic substance diethylene glycol. It is found in some products that were made in China.

The FDA actually recommends avoiding all toothpaste products that were made in China. Although there are many brands claiming to be the best, choosing quality over price should always be a priority. Quality toothpastes are approved by the ADA. If a paste has the ADA seal, this also means it contains fluoride. Remember that it is important for any toothpaste to contain fluoride.

By practicing good oral hygiene and using the right toothpaste, it is easier to avoid the high costs of oral diseases and extensive dental work. Since extensive work is expensive even with insurance, it is best to receive the free or low-cost preventative cleanings and exams covered by an insurer to maintain oral health.

Teeth whitening before and after

Having teeth professionally whitened by a dentist is the safest way to keep them their brightest.

Everyone wants white, healthy-looking teeth, but professional teeth whitening can be expensive. No wonder home teeth whitening is such a hot search topic. We’re all looking to save money without (hopefully) sacrificing our pearly-whites!

Even in tough times, though, people are apparently willing to spend a little extra to ensure a winning smile. Industry analysts at IBISWorld report that, in the face of a difficult economy during 2012, the Teeth Whitening Product Manufacturing industry was still able to grow. The analysts estimated the industry’s revenues for 2012 at nearly $383 million, a 3.7% increase over 2011.

Having your teeth professionally whitened by a dentist is always the safest way to keep your teeth their brightest. But for those who are looking for a more affordable alternative, home teeth whitening products and a few homemade alternatives may be able to help. Here’s a rundown.

The basic ingredient in most whiteners: peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide are the key bleaching ingredients used in most tooth whitening products. Whichever type is used, the peroxide safely bubbles away on the surface of tooth enamel and helps to scrub away stains. Teeth get whiter when the concentration of peroxide is higher and when the peroxide is left in contact with teeth longer.

…gums can become irritated if the peroxide solution they contain is trapped against the gums.

There are some possible side effects of using teeth whitening products that contain peroxide, though. For example, some people temporarily experience increased tooth sensitivity after using products that contain peroxide. In addition, when using trays and strips with peroxide (see below), gums can become irritated if the peroxide solution they contain is trapped against the gums.

And here’s the kicker: after bleaching teeth with a peroxide-based product, the enamel is more receptive to new stains for 48 hours.

Home teeth whitening products for routine care

With more and more home teeth whitening products available, whitening teeth can be part of anyone’s daily oral care routine. Today, there is a variety of toothpastes and oral rinses that can help make teeth whitening at home easy and practically automatic.

Typically, toothpastes that help to whiten teeth are made with slightly abrasive particles. The abrasives help to scour away stains. However, because the abrasives used in home whitening products are not as strong as those used by dental hygienists, it may take a few days before you see noticeably whiter teeth when using whitening toothpastes alone.

…a variety of toothpastes and oral rinses can help make teeth whitening at home easy and practically automatic.

Whitening mouthwashes and rinses are also available for daily use. These generally contain a small amount of peroxide that washes away minor surface stains before they have a chance to become more permanent. Whitening rinses stay in contact with teeth for a very short time, though, which means their effectiveness is typically lower compared to whitening toothpastes. Still, using the two types of products together may help you maintain a healthy smile.

Breaking away from the routine: trays, strips, and paint-on teeth whiteners

In addition to using whitening toothpastes, mouthwashes, and rinses as part of the daily tooth care routine, a variety of additional home teeth whitening products are available. These include trays, strips, and paint-on teeth whiteners.

Dentists generally agree that using teeth whitening trays or strips delivers the most dazzling results at home. Unlike toothpastes and rinses, trays and strips keep the tooth whitening solution in contact with teeth longer, so the results are more dramatic. Achieving results that are more striking also requires a greater time commitment. To achieve the desired shade of whiteness, most manufacturers recommend using trays or strips for a specified period each day for several days.

…paint-on teeth whiteners offer yet another option.

For those who find trays and strips uncomfortable (due to sensitive teeth, for example), paint-on teeth whiteners offer yet another option. The whitener is painted directly onto the surface of teeth, so no trays or strips are needed. The paint-on whitening solution is less likely to get on the gums, where it can cause irritation.

Natural teeth whitening home remedies

Can you whiten your teeth using walnut tree bark or with banana peels? It turns out there are a few natural teeth whitening recipes you can experiment with at home.

One of the most widely recommended home tooth whiteners is baking soda. Baking soda is a safe, mildly abrasive powder that can help scour away surface stains on teeth. Similar to the solution in teeth whitening trays, baking soda can be rubbed on teeth after being mixed with a few drops of hydrogen peroxide. Let it remain on the tooth surface for a few minutes, and then rinse it away.

Be careful to keep the baking soda solution on your teeth only…

You can also whiten teeth by brushing with a solution of three parts baking soda and 1 part water. Be careful to keep the baking soda solution on your teeth only, though. In combination with a toothbrush, baking soda can be hard on your gums and may cause irritation.

If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can find numerous articles online about whitening teeth using exotic ingredients, such as fresh sage leaves, hardwood ash, and walnut bark. A word of caution, though: check with your dentist or dental hygienist before you go too far out on a limb, so to speak.

Easy does it!

While you can use simple ingredients at home to get teeth whiter, getting them their whitest (especially if there is any moderate to severe staining to begin with) will probably mean making a trip to the dentist. If you do try whitening your teeth at home using natural ingredients, be sure to go slowly and allow your teeth and gums to rest and recover between treatments.

…never repeat a natural teeth whitening treatment more than once a week until you reach the shade of whiteness desired.

A good rule of thumb is to never repeat a natural teeth whitening treatment more than once a week until you reach the shade of whiteness desired. After that, reduce treatments to once a month at most, or better still, every other month. Otherwise, you run the risk of wearing down tooth enamel, increasing the risk of cavities, and developing tooth sensitivities.

Do you have a favorite home teeth whitening solution? Let us know what has worked for you in our comment section below. We’d love to hear from you!

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Baking soda and water.

Add a teaspoon of either baking soda or sea salt to a cup of water, gargle and spit, and then rinse with clean water.

Have you run out of a basic oral hygiene product? No problem.

There are a number of fairly common household items that can stand in for your favorite toothpaste or dental floss until you can make it to the store.

Here are a few time-tested tips and tricks for making do with what you (probably) have on hand the next time you run out of dental care basics or – bummer! – your 2 year old accidentally drops your toothbrush into the john.

Oral care without a toothbrush:

  • Use your finger: place a dab of toothpaste on your pointer finger and rub all the surfaces of your teeth
  • Try a wash cloth: Wrap a terry wash cloth around a fingertip, apply paste, and use the improvised brush to brush as normal
  • Chew sugar free gum: Chewing sugar free gum when you can’t brush can help to reduce plaque and prevent cavities

Oral care without toothpaste:

  • Do without: use your toothbrush dry or with a little water to brush as you normally would
  • Use baking soda or sea salt: dampen the bristles of the toothbrush and dip them into a shallow dish of either baking soda, sea salt or a mixture of both, and go to it – Gently!
  • Use coconut oil: place a small amount of coconut oil (which recent studies suggest can help fight tooth decay) on your toothbrush and brush as usual

Oral care without floss:

  • Try a toothpick: while a toothpick is certainly not the recommended method for cleaning between teeth, it’s still better than nothing when there’s no floss on hand
  • Use a length of sewing thread: gently draw the thread between your teeth as you would with dental floss, but be careful that it does not snap up against the gum too aggressively
  • Use a piece of paper: while not really workable for cleaning all your teeth, a piece of paper may help to dislodge articles between front teeth when dental floss or another interdental device is unavailable: careful though – paper can cut

 Oral care without mouthwash:

  • Make a baking soda or sea salt rinse: add a teaspoon of either baking soda or sea salt to a cup of water, gargle and spit, and then rinse with clean water
  • Try vinegar: like salt, vinegar is one of the most ancient of mouthwash ingredients; simply gargle, spit, and rinse
  • Raid the liquor cabinet: in a pinch, an alcoholic beverage such as vodka or brandy can be used as an effective oral rinse

Don’t put off replacing basic oral hygiene products

Of course, none of the tips and tricks above are meant to be permanent replacements for dentist-approved oral care products. However, the next time you forget to pack a toothbrush or discover there are only 2 inches of dental floss left, at least you’ll have some ideas to help you get by.

And here’s a final tip – stock up on the items you use, and you’ll never have to try any of the tips in this post.

So, what do you use when you run out of an oral hygiene product?

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