What Is Toothpaste, Really?

What Is Toothpaste, Really?

Every toothpaste is built up in a similar way, in order to keep our mouth healthy, teeth strong and breath fresh, the difference is the ingredients used for this process. Most toothpastes have five main components that make them a toothpaste: Abrasive, Sweetener, Surfactant, Remineralizing agent, and Glycerin/Water. There are many ingredients that can fulfill each functional purpose, but which ingredient is used makes a difference.


Why do we brush our teeth? Well, cavities appear when bacteria in the mouth metabolizes carbohydrates left in the mouth. They produce an acid that wears down the enamel of the tooth, creating little crevices. The crevices become a perfect breeding ground for the bacteria that multiply, and cause further damage, the crevices wear through the enamel and cause cavities. Cavities are painful and can lead to dangerous infections. 


In order to keep the mouth healthy we brush our teeth regularly removing leftover carbohydrates and plaque - a film on the teeth containing bacteria.


Let’s have a look at the five main components to a toothpaste:


There is an abrasive - this is what the bristles scrub against our teeth in order to remove plaque. Common abrasives used are calcium carbonate, dehydrated silica gels, hydrated aluminum oxides, magnesium carbonate, phosphate salts and silicates. 

Here at Tusk, we choose calcium carbonate - a naturally occurring mineral that can be used as a dietary supplement, proven to be great for cleaning teeth without harming them. This is what most natural toothpaste products use.


There is also a sweetener. This might sound contradictory, we all know that sugar is bad for our teeth! However, polyols (or sugar alcohols) are sweeteners, commonly found in vegetables and fruit, that the bacteria in the mouth don’t process well. This means they can sweeten the toothpaste without contributing to cavities. The most commonly used sweetener is sorbitol - it’s cheap and tastes great! 

At Tusk we choose to use Xylitol and Erythritol - It has the same beautiful sweet taste as sorbitol, with the added benefit of fighting cavities. For more details on polyols preventing cavities, check out this review. (elaborate on effects) (why are these better than sorbitol)(include studies and pictures)


Toothpaste generally contains a surfactant - this is what makes the toothpaste foam when we brush, which makes it easier to spread the toothpaste around in the mouth, creating an experience we enjoy. Most commonly used is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), which can irritate the mouth and cause canker sores in some people. 

At Tusk we have chosen to use Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate, derived from coconuts, which helps to spread the toothpowder while being gentle on the mouth.


Most toothpastes also include a Remineralizing agent, which helps in the fight against tooth decay by creating a protective layer over the teeth. Most commonly used for this is Fluoride. A thin layer of fluoride attaches to the tooth, making it more resistant to acid decay (cavities). The issue is that fluoride is the most reactive element and is highly toxic to humans, especially the little ones. Regulations help make toothpaste safer, but some people choose not to run that risk.

That’s why at Tusk, we have chosen to use Calcium Hydroxyapatite. Calcium Hydroxyapatite has shown to be just as effective as fluoride in protecting our teeth, and has no toxic effect in the human body! 


Finally, toothpastes contain Glycerin. In order to create a paste or gel there needs to be water in the product, and to avoid it drying out glycerin is added. There are claims that glycerin can coat the teeth and prevent remineralization. Although there is little backing for these claims, at Tusk we have found it easy to avoid this ingredient, since we don’t add water to our product. Simple! This also means our product takes up less room, can be brought on a plane and doesn't require a plastic tube - winning!

Tusk Toothpowders also contains two other ingredients: Sodium Bicarbonate and essential oils.


The Sodium Bicarbonate fights bad breath by raising the pH of the mouth, making a less friendly environment for the bacteria. Sodium Bicarbonate also whitens the teeth by removing stains.

Essential oils are there to create a fresh taste in the mouth, we are using peppermint and eucalyptus in our powder. They also have the added benefit of being antibacterial.