Toothpastes have evolved immensely since their earliest forms, when they served primarily as a toothbrush aid to attempt to make the teeth less yellow and freshen the mouth. Beginning with the 1950’s public health breakthrough when dentifrices began use as vehicles to deliver fluoride, continual scientific advancement in toothpaste formulation technology has yielded increasingly efficacious products. A broad array of toothpaste types for nearly every indication has made it possible to tailor selection to meet the majority of patients’ daily oral hygiene needs.
Patients often look to their dental care providers for guidance on which toothpaste is most appropriate. Nearly all dental professionals would concur that the most important ingredient in a marketed toothpaste is fluoride. For many patients, a multi-benefit toothpaste with bioavailable stannous fluoride will be a wise choice, given that it fights so many common conditions and issues simultaneously (caries, plaque, gingivitis, acid erosion, dentinal hypersensitivity, dental calculus, oral malodor). A product that provides noticeable results and is convenient to use is more likely to encourage compliance. Other patients may elect to use a single-indication dentifrice, or make a choice based on their unique preferences for flavors and brushing sensory experiences.
However, an understanding of the differences between dentifrices goes a long way to ensuring a good match between a patient’s unique oral health needs and knowledge of products that will help them to achieve their goals. Future research and development undoubtedly promises to expand even further the usefulness of toothpaste as a delivery system for ingredients that enhance health and quality of life.