The Ultimate Toothpaste Guide

You need some more toothpaste, and you’re in the store, standing in front of a host of options. There is “whitening” toothpaste, other kinds that mention fluoride, others that mention tartar control, and still more that say they’re made for “sensitive teeth.”

But all of these characteristics are good right? So what do you choose? Often, because we don’t really know what to look for, we end up choosing the cheapest thing we can find. It’s not the end of the world, but it can help to be more informed.

What to look for

Check out the ingredients label on a toothpaste. Look for fluoride. Flouride is awesome because it strengthens the enamel of your teeth every time it’s applied. It also helps remove plaque, and reduces the risk of gum disease.

  • Zinc citrate, pyrphosphates, triclosan: All help reduce the accumulation of plaque or tartar.
  • Potassium nitrate: helps calm the nerve of the tooth, so this is a good ingredient for people with sensitive teeth.

When a toothpaste says that it whitens, that usually means there is some kind of abrasive substance added to the paste, to remove surface stain in the act of brushing. Overuse of this kind of toothpaste may actually lead to the wearing down of the enamel layer, however. And the whitening effect won’t be very dramatic, so be wary.

Can I buy the cheap stuff?

There have been studies that suggest the brushing action is actually more important than the toothpaste itself, meaning you’d still see benefit from brushing with just water.

But you don’t want to give up the benefits of fluoride, so use toothpaste. Look at the ingredients to determine if the toothpaste is a high quality. You’ll notice that some toothpastes have a higher or lower level of fluoride. This can often be a clue.

Some recommend looking for the seal of approval from the American Dental Association. This can be a good place to start if you’re in a hurry. But generic brands may be just fine, and not carry that seal.

Does brand matter?

Brand certainly doesn’t matter as mush as the TV commercials say it does. In most cases, the brand doesn’t matter at all. More expensive brands may have a higher percentage of helpful ingredients however, so read those labels!

Ask Dr. Larsen if the toothpaste you’re using is good enough. He may recommend a specific variety for your teeth.

How Do I Know If I’m Grinding My Teeth?

Bruxism Diagnosis and Treatment in Utah County

Most people don’t realize it, but grinding or clenching teeth is common. In fact, many people who clench or grind their teeth don’t even realize they do it.

Clenching: Holding the teeth together and tightening the jaw muscles.
Grinding (bruxism): Moving the jaw with the teeth held together.

Teeth Grinding. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Grinding results in the visible wear and flattening of the teeth, which can become obvious to the patient and especially the dentist. Clenching results in less obvious flattening and wear, but soreness and pain can still result from the tightening of jaw muscles.
So even if you don’t remember clenching or grinding your teeth, check for wearing and flattening where the teeth come together. Furthermore, if you are experiencing jaw pain or stiffness and you aren’t sure of the source, come talk with Dr. Larsen, who can identify bruxism and prescribe treatment to help with your symptoms.

How Common is Bruxism?

Bruxism is most common in childhood, and prevalence decreases with age. Many people clench and grind their teeth, but most of the time it is not problematic. When pain and teeth damage arise, that is when a person needs assistance.
Many children and adults grind their teeth while sleeping, so it is not a conscious habit they can break. Others apply the strain on their teeth during times of concentration, anger, or stress. When the mind is occupied in this manner, during rush hour traffic in Utah County for example, it’s easy to not realize the wear you’re putting on your teeth.

Why Does It Hurt Us?

The human jaw is quite powerful. It is not uncommon for people to be able to bite with their molars in excess of 200 pounds of pressure, studies show. That is a lot of strain on the teeth, especially if the pressure is repeated over and over again.


At our office, which serves north Utah County, including Highland, we treat many cases of bruxism with a simple dental appliance that you wear in between your teeth. It’s very comfortable, easy to get used to, and much like wearing a retainer. Dr. Larsen will consult with you about how often and when it should be worn.
In some cases, medication may help to relax the muscles in the jaw. Certain relaxation techniques may also be recommended. Bruxism treatment with Dr. Larsen can be an important choice for getting rid of jaw pain, headaches and more.
Call for an appointment: (801) 756-4440