On every drug facts label you find a listing of active ingredients and inactive ingredients, as well as what its used for, any warnings for the product and directions for uses.
Active Ingredients: This is the part of the toothpaste that makes its use effective. In the case of most toothpastes the active ingredient is usually for anti-plaque, anti-cavity, anti-gingivitis as well as including ingredients to help prevent tooth sensitivity. So in this portion you will normally see your fluorides such as sodium fluoride, stannous fluoride or sodium monofluorophosphate. You may also see potassium nitrate, triclosan, pyrophosphates or zinc salts as well as a myriad of other ingredients.
Inactive Ingredients: This portion includes the ingredients that make the toothpaste standup to being on the shelf as well as completing the nuts and bolts function of general toothpaste use. So these ingredients stop the paste from drying out, keep it at a good pH, stop microbial growth, make them thick enough for use and help them become foamy when used. They also include flavoring agents, abrasives and whitening agents. So in this section, which in my opinion is the most confusing you’ll see these types of ingredients:
- Propylene glycol, glycerol, and polyethylene glycol to help keep toothpaste moist
- Carageenan, cellulose and xanthan gum to thicken and hold all the ingredients together
- Sodium benzoate and methyl paraben to keep toothpaste from decaying and to prevent microbial growth
- Sodium lauryl sulphate and cocoadmidopropyl betaine to make toothpaste foam thereby helping loosening and removing plaque from the tooth surface.
- sodium saccharin, xylitol, sorbitol, sodium cyclamate to flavor the toothpaste.
- Buffering agents to make it a pH favorable for the oral environment.
- And, you may see silicas, dicalcium phosphate dihydrate or aluminum oxide which are abrasives which help remove plaque and bacteria as well.