Consumer Reports: Toothpaste ingredients to look out for

Many of us brush our teeth a few times a day, but do we really know what's in toothpaste?

Consumer Reports goes inside the tube to reveal the toothpaste ingredients to look out for.

If you have an older tube of Colgate Total in your bathroom, check the ingredients and if it has triclosan, toss it. Triclosan is an antibacterial that may help prevent gingivitis, but also may have some side effects including.

"Endocrine disruption, as well as impact on immunity, and contribute to antibiotic resistance," said Tunde Akinleye of Consumer Reports.

It was banned from hand soaps and body washes in 2017. It is still technically allowed in toothpastes, but essentially gone from the market. Colgate's new Total SF toothpaste doesn't contain triclosan. So what should be in your toothpaste?

"The first thing people should look for in a toothpaste is fluoride. Fluoride will help decrease tooth decay," said Dr. Michael Schwarz.

Other ingredients include baking soda or sodium bicarbonate, which may help reduce plaque, and hydrogen peroxide, which can act as a whitener, although some experts say it's not concentrated enough or on your teeth long enough to make a noticeable difference.

Then there are abrasives, calcium carbonate and modified silica, used to help remove food debris and surface stains.

And if your teeth are sensitive to hot and cold you may use a toothpaste with desensitizers. Used regularly, ingredients such as sodium citrate, casein phosphopeptide, and potassium nitrate may help relieve sensitivity.
There's also sodium lauryl sulfate or SLS. It creates foam to help circulate the toothpaste into the spaces between teeth.

So how do you know which toothpaste is right for you?

"I usually say the one you won't mind using," Dr. Schwarz said.

Some toothpastes also contain the ingredient xylitol. A few small studies suggest that when paired with fluoride, it could prevent cavities better than fluoride alone.

But a warning to pet owners, xylitol is very dangerous for dogs. .

For more information on how to get the most out of brushing your teeth, visit Consumer Reports' website.

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