31 May 22

How does toothpaste work?

How does toothpaste work?

We all use toothpaste every day to get our teeth clean. But for such a ubiquitous product, have you ever stopped to ask what’s in it, or how it actually works? 

Toothpaste has to do a few things well in order to work: remove plaque on your teeth, lift away acid, and leave your mouth feeling fresh. But did you know that getting rid of traces of food in your mouth is only part of your toothpaste’s job? The other task toothpaste has to tackle is the acid that is created in your mouth by microorganisms. Like it or not, there are, in fact, 700 species of microbes living in your mouth, which feed off food remnants in your mouth. These microorganisms leave acid behind that can damage your enamel and contribute to gum disease.

To fight this and get your mouth clean, most brands of toothpaste use a few key ingredients:

  • Fluoride is probably the best known toothpaste ingredient. It’s actually a mineral found in nature, and makes your teeth more resistant to decay. Fluoride works chemically by fighting the acid that is left behind on your teeth by microorganisms. Dental research has consistently shown that fluoride in toothpaste is safe and effective (which is why it’s a key ingredient in Parla).
  • Mild abrasives. In order to be effective, toothpaste needs an abrasive agent that can dislodge food particles and those pesky microbes from your teeth and gums when you brush. This abrasive action works by preventing the formation of plaque, which can not only cause cavities, but can contribute to more serious issues, like dental disease. These days, these abrasives can take many forms, but the earliest dental abrasives were used by the ancient Egyptians when they ground up rock salt, pepper, herbs and flowers into a fine powder.
  • Antibacterial agents. Some toothpaste includes antibacterial agents that help fight plaque and bad breath. 
  • Flavouring agents. Every toothpaste you try has a slightly different flavour, thanks to slight variations in flavour and sweetness. These ingredients are required to mask the flavour of other ingredients, which aren’t as pleasant as mint, for example—the use of which also dates back to ancient Egyptian dentistry!

Many toothpaste brands—but not Parla—also include these ingredients:

  • Palm oil, which shows up in many cosmetics and other products you’ll find in your bathroom and kitchen. It is a cheaply-made oil that is used as a dispersant, removing food particles and bacteria from your teeth.
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate is a surfactant, sometimes called a detergent. It blends the molecules of all the toothpaste ingredients together, and is the reason why your toothpaste gets foamy when you brush. 

Here’s the downside: some of these ingredients aren’t so great for humans or for the earth. Palm oil, in particular, exacts a heavy toll on biodiverse habitats because of clearcutting practices. In fact, according to the World Wildlife Fund, the heavy reliance on palm oil by many manufacturers of cosmetics and other household products has resulted in widespread devastation of tropical rainforests. This, in turn, displaces a number of endangered species.

Similarly, sodium lauryl sulfate is a known skin, eye and respiratory tract irritant. It also is dangerous for some aquatic life. It is a serious ingredient that is highly regulated in many countries because of the health risks it poses. And yet, it is permitted in toothpaste and other items you’ll find in your bathroom, even though there are alternatives in the dentistry world.

This is what sets Parla apart. At Parla, our focus is on protecting your teeth and the planet. That’s why our toothpaste includes the good ingredients that fight plaque and disperse acids from your teeth, but skips the palm oil and sodium lauryl sulfate. We are proud to make toothpaste that doesn’t contribute to the disruption of diverse habitats and keeps you safe from unnecessary ingredients. When you use Parla, you can rest easy knowing that you’re doing your part to get your teeth clean without harming the earth.