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Dr. Leonard Tau, of the Pennsylvania Center for Dental Excellence, stopped by Talk Philly to talk about shopping for toothpaste and decoding the labeling.

For more info on the Pennsylvania Center for Dental Excellence, click here.

The Truth about Trendy Toothpastes
Drugstore aisles are now jammed with so many choices, it’s enough to make your teeth ache. Here, what’s hype and what’s not.

THE CLAIM: “Foaming action”

THE VERDICT: The paste transforms to foam in your mouth in order to penetrate hard-to-reach places. But foaming action is strictly a matter of personal preference — you don’t get a “skip flossing” pass.

THE CLAIM: “Fluoride free”

THE VERDICT: In these, aloe and peppermint oil replace fluoride, in response to fears of cosmetic damage to enamel from too-high doses of fluoride. But only children who swallow paste are at any risk. For the rest of us, fluoride is an essential cavity fighter.

THE CLAIM: “Natural”

THE VERDICT: You won’t find artificial colors, flavors, or fragrances in these, but the jury is still out as to whether their tooth decay- and plaque-fighting ingredients, such as xylitol (a natural cavity-fighting sweetener) and cranberry extract, work as well as traditional formulas. If you go natural, pick one that at least contains fluoride.

THE CLAIM: “12-hour germ fighting”

THE VERDICT: While all fluoride toothpastes kill bacteria, these use a stronger antibacterial agent (triclosan) formulated to fight germs up to 12 hours after brushing. Research has shown that triclosan is safe to use, but the FDA is examining it to determine whether it contributes to antibiotic resistance.

THE CLAIM: “Whitening”

THE VERDICT: Most provide whitening not bleaching by using an abrasive to remove stains and thus whitening them. The toothpaste is not on the teeth long enough and the ingredients are not powerful enough to actually bleach teeth. If you want to bleach your teeth the safest way – you should contact your dentist.

• Sensodyne Iso-active foaming gel ———foaming action

• Toms of Maine Sensitive – Fluoride Free

• Spry Toothpaste – Natural (has xylitol and aloe)

• Colgate Total Advanced Whitening – contains tricolsan for germ fighting

• Crest Baking Soda & Peroxide Whitening Toothpaste – whitening

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