Abrasive Toothpaste – Are Your Oral Habits Hurting Your Teeth?

You use toothpaste to help clean food particles and plaque from your teeth, similar to washing your hands with soap to remove dirt and bacteria. What is the best kind of toothpaste to get teeth clean?

You may not know that there are ingredients in toothpaste that affect your teeth in surprising ways. Some manufacturers incorporate crystals or grit into their toothpaste to be more abrasive, claiming whitening action and cleaning power. These abrasive agents can cause serious damage to your tooth enamel. The enamel that protects your teeth is as thin as an eggshell and brushing too hard with this type of toothpaste might be harmful to the tooth.

Must all toothpastes be abrasive to work?

There are different ingredients used to make toothpaste and tooth powder, which are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.  The category of relative dentin abrasivity, or RDA value, is used by the American Dental Association to test and score the abrasion of the toothpaste.

The ADA test utilizes real human teeth that are mounted within a brushing machine and then subjected to a constant stroke speed and pressure for a period of time, using the toothpaste. Based on the test results, the toothpaste is scored between 1 and 250. The ADA considers anything over 100 is considered to be highly abrasive, and recommends scores below 200, as follows:

  • From 0 to 80 = low abrasion
  • 70 to 100 = midrange abrasion
  • 100 to 150 = highly abrasive
  • 150 to 250 = considered harmful to teeth

Very few manufacturers publish their RDA scores on the toothpaste tube or box. Here are some examples of well-known toothpastes, ranked from low to high:

  • Arm and Hammer Dental Care – 35
  • Colgate Regular – 68
  • Sensodyne – 79
  • Crest Regular – 95
  • Colgate Whitening – 124
  • Crest Multicare Whitening – 144
  • Colgate 2-in-1 Tartar Control – 200

Avoid Abrasive Toothpaste – Use an Ultra-Soft Toothbrush

Whether the abrasivity of a toothpaste is high or low, the toothbrush itself is key to the potential for abrasion. Many people either brush too aggressively or they use a standard, hard-bristled toothbrush that can wear away tooth enamel over time. Sometimes, a person will hurriedly brush fast and hard to get the job done sooner. When a highly abrasive toothpaste is used in this scenario, it greatly increases the potential for damage to the tooth enamel over time.

It’s Up to You

You can improve your dental health by being alert to brushing too hard and carefully selecting a less abrasive toothpaste that will not hurt the enamel. Erosion of enamel leads to yellowing of the teeth (the dentin layer becomes visible through thinned enamel), dents in teeth, cracks, chipping, pain, discomfort and sensitivity.

When you clean your teeth with an ultra-soft toothbrush, one with a soft, gel-like textured tip, you will remove the plaque from the surface without scraping the enamel. Your aim is to leave your teeth feeling clean and reduce any abrasion that can cause permanent damage to the enamel and your smile.