How often do you brush your teeth? We hope you brush twice a day like dentists recommend. If you do, you probably go through a lot of toothpaste. Do you have a favorite kind or flavor of toothpaste?

Have you ever given any thought to what is in toothpaste? Obviously, toothpaste helps to clean your teeth, but how does it do that? Is it soap? It certainly doesn't taste like soap! Even though you can taste toothpaste, you don't eat it, so it's not like food either. What is this stuff?

Toothpaste has actually come a long way. In ancient days, toothpastes might have been made with eggshells, oyster shells, charcoal, bark, ashes, or even crushed bones! Yuck! Would you want to put any of those things in your mouth?

Fortunately for us, modern toothpastes have come a long way. While there are many varieties of toothpastes, each with their own unique formula and set of ingredients, most toothpastes contain a similar basic set of ingredients:

  • Abrasives: Mild abrasives, such as calcium carbonate and dehydrated silica gels, help to remove stains and any unwanted matter sticking to the teeth.
  • Fluoride: Fluoride helps to strengthen tooth enamel and repair tooth decay through remineralization.
  • Humectants: In addition to the water in toothpaste, humectants, such as glycerol and propylene, are added to prevent water loss and to keep the toothpaste from drying out.
  • Flavorings: Sweeteners that do not promote tooth decay are added to provide taste.
  • Binders: Thickening agents, such as natural gums and synthetic cellulose, help to stabilize the toothpaste formula.
  • Detergents: Detergents, such as sodium lauryl sulfate, create foaming action.

In addition to these basic ingredients, specialty toothpastes can contain a variety of other special ingredients. For example, whitening toothpastes contain bleaching agents that help to make teeth whiter. Other specialty toothpastes might feature ingredients that help with issues such as tartar build-up and tooth sensitivity.

So the next time you squeeze some toothpaste onto your toothbrush, think about all the ingredients that mix together to give you a pleasant and effective cleaning experience. And be thankful you're not still using broken eggshells!

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