What is toothpaste?

Toothpaste is a soft substance that is used in the process of brushing teeth. It is usually housed in a tube which can be squeezed to eject it onto a tooth brush. Toothpaste is available in an ever increasing number of varieties but what they all have in common is that their primary purpose is to aid in cleaning teeth. Cleaning teeth means removing particles of food left over from eating and the plaque which is formed by the food. Plaque needs to be removed so that dental decay and gum disease cannot begin to take hold. Toothpaste also tends to be 'flavoured' so that the user's breath is freshened after use and some help to aid in the whitening of teeth.

In order to clean teeth tooth paste contains certain chemicals which are ideally suited for the purpose.

Fluoride is added to most toothpaste because of its properties of helping to strengthen the enamel of your teeth. Enamel is the hard substance on the outside of teeth and is a crucial, first line of defence. If it is compromised, teeth might begin to decay as small holes or cavities are formed.

Detergent removes the food debris and plaque from the teeth and helps create fresh breath.

Abrasive too helps to remove debris and plaque. They also help to rid teeth of stains. Abrasives have to be carefully formulated so that they are not too harsh on the teeth and won't risk damaging them.

Humectant helps to keep the toothpaste adequately moist and of the desired texture. It is not active in the cleaning of teeth, it is added so that toothpaste can be stored for a long time and remain in the same, usable state.

Thickener, like humectant, is not an active ingredient; it just helps with the texture of toothpaste by making sure that the ingredients bind together properly.

Flavourings and Colourings are added to make individual toothpaste distinctive. This is often a branding issue and makes some people choose certain toothpastes over others. Certain flavourings might be added that actually have oral health benefits too, like some herbs which are associated with relieving gum disease.

These ingredients are common to most toothpaste but some might focus their branding on one or more aspect, like fluoride or the flavouring or colouring used.

Toothpaste is widely available in super markets, pharmacies and smaller retailers.