Each day – several times a day – we use a small portion of toothpaste in order to remove debris, germs, and other substances from our teeth. It is so natural, that most of us do not put much thought into the activity; however, once we become parents, this all changes.

understanding toothpaste for parents

Immediately, we start asking, “What is toothpaste?”, “How does toothpaste work?”, “What is in toothpaste?” We want the best for our children. We want to ensure that only the safest products go into their care. It does not matter if it is ingredients from their favorite foods, or a dab of toothpaste to clean their teeth. Toothpaste consists of inactive and active ingredients that aid in combating cavities, reducing the risk for oral health diseases, and cleaning the mouth. In this comprehensive two-part series, you will learn basic facts about toothpaste and will be introduced to the ingredients contained in these dental health products.


The first and perhaps the most important ingredient in toothpaste today – whether designed for adults or children – is fluoride. This is a natural mineral that aids in strengthening the enamel of the teeth. In turn, this makes the teeth less susceptible to experiencing the harmful effects of acidic-based foods and beverages, such as the development of cavities. When choosing toothpaste for your child, it is imperative to ensure that this ingredient is included. Fluoride-containing toothpastes are the only toothpaste products that possess the Seal of Acceptance of the American Dental Association. Additionally, this is the main ingredient that aids in completely neutralizing the bacteria-based acids in the mouth.


Abrasives are the next ingredient found in toothpaste products. These aid in the removal of debris from the mouth and help to eliminate stains. In ancient times, various types of products served as abrasives. The Egyptians were known to utilize crushed up eggshells. The Romans were known to crush up the shells of oysters. Today, toothpaste manufacturers use more gentle types of abrasives. The most popular ones include hydrated aluminum-based oxides, calcium carbonate, and silica gels that are dehydrated. These products gently scrub and thoroughly clean the teeth, without damaging the enamel.

Little girl in pink pajamas in bathroom brushing teeth

Thickening Ingredients

The toothpastes currently available on the market contain ingredients that help to thicken the substance. These ingredients help in ensuring the solid phase of the toothpaste is allowed to be properly suspended within the liquid phase. They aid in preventing the liquids in the product from separating from the other ingredients within the toothpaste. These ingredients also help in making sure that bacteria are prevented from experiencing a breakdown within the pyrophosphates. The pyrophosphates are the substances that help in keeping tarter from building up in the mouth, help the toothpaste to be flexible enough to squeeze onto a toothbrush, and stay on the toothbrush. Popular thickening ingredients include Sodium Polyphosphate, Hydroxyethyl Cellulose, Sorbitol Solution, and Xanthum Gum.

In this guide, you have learned about three of the most important ingredients in today’s toothpastes – fluoride, abrasives, and thickening agents. Next week, we will continue this series. As a parent, it is imperative to know what is going into your child’s mouth, and why. We encourage you to bookmark our blog and to return next week to learn more: https://richmondpediatricdentistry.com/