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Sure, brushing your teeth is important. But what you put on your toothbrush matters just as much.
Which toothpaste is best?
A general guideline for consumers is to look for the American Dental Association's ADA Seal of Acceptance, which began in 1931 and evaluates whether products are actually effective and safe. Every toothpaste sold with the ADA seal must contain fluoride, per the organization.
"The most important thing is to get a toothpaste with the ADA seal. That means it’s been analyzed and has the correct amount of fluoride to help prevent cavities. And it will also do the other wonderful things it claims to do," said Dr. Amr Moursi, the chair of New York University's pediatric dentistry program. "The second thing is to realize that some toothpastes don’t have fluoride. Children should use a fluoridated toothpaste."
Added Dr. Wendy Xue, a dentist based in New York: "When you brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste, or use other fluoride dental products, the fluoride is applied to the surface of your teeth. This provides what is called a 'topical' benefit.'"
Is fluoride bad for you?
An article in the dental journal Gerodontology that reviewed the scientific literature on cavities has concluded that without fluoride, oral hygiene efforts have "no impact" on cavity rates. Meaning, brushing without fluoride can leave you at a greater risk for cavities.
You should brush for two minutes, ideally.
"Start using fluoride toothpaste as soon as the first tooth arrives. Use a rice-sized amount of toothpaste. There’s enough fluoride in there to help prevent tooth decay and it won’t cause any problems if they swallow it," said Moursi. "They should use that amount until age three. At three and above, switch to a pea-sized amount of toothpaste, ideally in the morning after breakfast."
And here's the kicker: "No rinsing with water. This confuses parents. Spit out the excess toothpaste because the rinsing can reduce the effectiveness of fluoride," said Moursi.
When buying toothpaste, New York-based dentist Dr. Ramin Tabib, co-founder of NYC Smile Design, had one word of caution: “Make sure it’s not too abrasive. That’s an issue.”
These are some of Amazon's top-selling toothpastes that have the ADA seal:
Crest Pro-Health Advanced Deep Clean Mint Toothpaste, 3.5, Radiant Mint, $6, Amazon
Hello Oral Care Fluoride Toothpaste for Kids Age 2 Above, Set of 4, $14, Amazon
Tom's of Maine Anticavity Baking Soda Toothpaste, Pack of 2, $10, Amazon
Colgate Total Advanced Deep Clean Toothpaste, $4, Amazon
Sensodyne Sensodyne Fresh Impact Fluoride Toothpaste, Pack of 3, $17, Amazon
AloeSense Naturally Soothing Fluoride Toothpaste, $6, Amazon
Tom's of Maine Anticavity Fluoride Children's Toothpaste, Silly Strawberry, Pack of 3, $9, Amazon