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Learn More About Toothpastes

Look for the ADA Seal—your assurance that the product has been objectively evaluated for safety and efficacy by an independent body of scientific experts, the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs.

Toothpaste (Dentifrice)

Toothpaste, also called dentifrice, is essential to your daily oral hygiene routine. Toothpastes are pastes, gels or powders that help remove plaque, a film of bacteria that forms on teeth and gums. Toothpaste improves the mechanical brushing and cleaning power of a toothbrush.

What does fluoride toothpaste do?

It helps remove plaque, a film of bacteria that forms on teeth and gums every day. Plaque can cause gum disease and tooth decay. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by strengthening tooth enamel. Find out more about fluoride.

What’s in fluoride toothpaste?

Toothpaste ingredients typically consist of:

  • Mild abrasives to remove debris and residual surface stains. Examples include calcium carbonate, dehydrated silica gels, hydrated aluminum oxides, magnesium carbonate, phosphate salts and silicates.
  • Fluoride to strengthen tooth enamel and remineralize tooth decay. All ADA-Accepted toothpastes contain fluoride.
  • Humectants to prevent water loss in the toothpaste. Examples include glycerol, propylene, glycol and sorbitol.
  • Flavoring agents, such as saccharin and other sweeteners to provide taste. Flavoring agents do not promote tooth decay. (No ADA-Accepted toothpaste contains sugar or any other ingredient that would promote tooth decay.)
  • Thickening agents or binders to stabilize the toothpaste formula. They include mineral colloids, natural gums, seaweed colloids or synthetic cellulose.
  • Detergents to create foaming action. They include sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium N-Lauroyl sarcosinate.

What else can fluoride toothpastes do?

Some toothpastes contain ingredients such as potassium nitrate or strontium chloride to help reduce tooth sensitivity. Stannous fluoride and triclosan help reduce gingivitis, a mild inflammation of the gum tissue. Pyrophosphates, triclosan and zinc citrate help reduce a build-up of hardened plaque, called tartar. Modified silica abrasives or enzymes can help whiten teeth by physically removing surface stains. And some ingredients, such as triclosan, have been shown to help reduce bad breath.

How does a fluoride toothpaste get the Seal?

Fluoride toothpastes must meet the ADA’s requirements for safety and efficacy in reducing tooth decay. The ADA Council on Scientific Affairs carefully evaluates the evidence according to the requirements for Fluoride-Containing Dentifrice (PDF).

The manufacturer must provide:

  • Clinical studies in humans
  • Laboratory studies to determine the amount of available fluoride, the amount of fluoride released in one minute, and the amount of fluoride absorption in normal and weakened tooth enamel. These tests are also conducted in the ADA’s laboratory.

Doesn’t the FDA approve all toothpastes?

Yes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration insists that manufacturers of fluoride-containing toothpaste meet certain requirements for the product’s active ingredients, product indications, claims and other qualifications. However, the FDA does not test toothpastes to verify compliance. The ADA conducts extensive laboratory tests on toothpastes to determine whether they meet specific criteria for safety and efficacy. The ADA determines the product’s fluoride content, how it is released and its effectiveness on tooth enamel. 

Why look for toothpaste that displays the ADA Seal?

The Seal is your assurance that the toothpaste has met the ADA criteria for safety and efficacy. You can trust that claims made on packaging and labeling for ADA-Accepted products are true, because companies must verify all of the information to the ADA—even claims for which a product might not be Accepted. For example, although the ADA gives its Seal to toothpastes that can show they are effective in reducing cavities, the ADA would not give its Seal because a toothpaste is low in abrasion. Nonetheless, before a company could make a “low in abrasion” claim, it would need to provide supporting data to the ADA.

Look for the ADA Seal because products with the ADA Seal say what they do and do what they say.

What products have earned the ADA Seal of Acceptance?

Get a Complete List of ADA Accepted Toothpaste

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