[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.
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.
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.
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.
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.