Updated: 2/7/2020

When you go to the store to buy a new tube of toothpaste, you expect it to be a simple task. Yet when you arrive at the toothpaste aisle, the number of choices is overwhelming. Should you get whitening? Extra-whitening? Tartar control? What’s the difference, and which one is best for your teeth?  There are many things to consider when buying toothpaste, so we put together this helpful guide to help make your decision easier.

Types of Toothpaste

Confused by the different types of toothpaste available? Find out what they all mean so you can decide which one is best for you.


Most toothpaste contains fluoride, a special chemical that aids in cleaning teeth and strengthening enamel. However, there has been some controversy over how essential to dental hygiene fluoride really is, so if you’re worried about the possible side effects, you may want to opt for a non-fluoridated toothpaste instead.

Sensitive teeth

If your teeth are bothered by extreme temperatures or other irritants, sensitive toothpaste may be the best option for you. These toothpastes contain special ingredients which help block pathways that lead to nerves in the teeth.


Whitening toothpastes don’t usually contain bleaches; instead, they contain abrasive components that help polish the teeth and remove stains. This may sound harmful, but studies have suggested that whitening toothpaste is no more harmful than other toothpastes. However, you may want to keep in mind that whitening toothpaste doesn’t do the job of a professional bleaching – it simply helps to remove minor stains and touch up a faded smile.

Tartar Control

When plaque isn’t removed from the surface of teeth, it turns into a hard substance called tartar. This is hard to remove and can ultimately lead to gum disease, so it’s important to try to prevent it. Tartar control toothpaste contains ingredients that helps to prevent tartar from forming on the teeth, so if you’re prone to tartar build up, you may want to consider this toothpaste.

Ingredients to Beware Of

Once you’ve figured out the type of toothpaste you want to use, check the back of the labels for some ingredients that can be harmful to your teeth. Use your best judgment on which ones you want to avoid; it may not be possible to elude them all.

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: This chemical has been known to create a variety of health problems, especially if ingested. It can stay in the body for up to five days, accumulating in vital organs such as the heart, liver, brain and lungs. If combined with certain other chemicals, sodium lauryl sulfate can turn into harmful carcinogens.
  • Diethanolamine(DEA): DEA has been known to disrupt hormones and form harmful nitrates that form cancer.
  • Propylene Glycol: An active component in antifreeze, propylene glycol can be absorbed through skin and affect the brain, liver and kidney, causing abnormalities. Be careful not to get toothpaste containing this ingredient on your skin!
  • Triclosan: Triclosan is a chemical that has been classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a pesticide. It produces risks for both the environment and human health, as many suspect that it may be a cancer-causing chemical.

Top Toothpastes

If you still can’t decide on a toothpaste, try one of these. Real Simple recently released a list of toothpastes that they believe are the best. Here’s some of the ones that made the cut and why.

1. Colgate Total Enamel Strength. Earning the title of “Best Overall,” Colgate Total Enamel Strength fights plaque and bacteria for up to 12 hours, leaving your mouth always feeling clean and fresh. In addition, it protects your enamel, so you don’t have to feel guilty about drinking a sugary and acidic soda during the day.

2. Tom’s of Maine Clean and Gentle Care. If you’re looking for a toothpaste that also helps heal bitten cheeks or even a sore throat, Tom’s of Maine Clean and Gentle Care is the toothpaste for you.

3. Burt’s Bees Fluoride-Free Natural Whitening Toothpaste. To avoid all harmful chemicals, this all-natural toothpaste by Burt’s Bees contains  cranberry extract and silica, instead of artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners.

4. Luster White 7 Toothpaste. The best whitening toothpaste, according to the list. It contains seven polishing ingredients, and is said to noticeably brighten smiles in just one week of use.

5. Crest Pro-Health Sensitive Shield. If your teeth are sensitive, try out this “Best for Sensitive Teeth” toothpaste. It creates a strong barrier around teeth to prevent delicate nerves from being irritated.

If you have any questions about the best toothpaste for you, you can always ask your dentist. Your dentist will be able to recommend products for you and tell you if the toothpaste you’re currently using is doing a decent job or not.