One of the first things we notice about people is a shiny, white smile – the type of smile that lights up a room and causes others to smile back. Fluoride, found in most toothpastes, is a natural mineral that hardens tooth enamel, preventing cavities and helping to keep teeth healthy. However, for those who have some common sensitivity to fluoride as an additive in community water supplies, fluoride-free toothpaste is an effective alternative. Reasons for sensitivity include the age of the brusher, aggressive tooth-brushing or some other aversion.
So without the protection provided by fluoride, how does fluoride-free toothpaste protect teeth? The answer is in the ingredients. Let's take a look at the most commonly found active ingredients in some fluoride-free toothpastes and how these ingredients protect teeth.
Sugar alcohol, Xylitol, is naturally found in small amounts in some fruits and vegetables and is often used as sugar-free sweeteners in chewing gum and hard candy. Not only is it a wonderful sugar substitute for diabetics, but it also reduces plaque (one of the main contributors to gum disease) and helps prevent cavities.
Green Tea Extract
Green tea is all the rage for many tea drinkers, and it also has some valuable attributes when it comes to oral health. According to Mr Charles Lew, Principal Dietitian at Ng Teng Fong Hospital, who was quoted in this Singapore Ministry of Health article, “Green tea protects against bacteria-induced dental caries and bad breath because the phytochemicals in green tea have antibacterial properties.” It also prevents bad breath, also known as halitosis in its chronic form.
Papaya Plant Extract
Papayas are known for their treasure trove of black seeds, and they're loaded with potassium and vitamin C. But papain, the enzyme inside a papaya tree, possesses its share of benefits as well. Most notably, explains the SFGate, papaya plant extract helps to whiten teeth by breaking down stains left over from certain foods.
Oranges contain an abundance of citric acid. When plaque mineralises on teeth, the result is a build-up of tartar. Citric acid assists in reducing the amount of tartar on teeth treated with it, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in the US.
Similar to citric acid, notes the NCBI, zinc citrate aids in the reduction of oral bacteria in the mouth. When left untreated, plaque collects on teeth and gums, resulting in gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease. Zinc inhibits the production of the bacteria that contribute to gingivitis.
Also known as sodium bicarbonate, baking soda serves multiple purposes when it comes to teeth cleaning. Like some of the above ingredients, baking soda fights plaque. It also functions as a stain remover, which leads to a brighter smile.
If toothpaste with fluoride isn't for you, going the fluoride-free route can clean your teeth just as well. But as part of any good oral health plan, be sure to include flossing every day and regular visits to your dentist.