What is toothpaste made of?

It isn’t something we often stop to think about. But it makes sense to ask the question: what is toothpaste made of? It is a substance you are placing in your mouth every single day, twice a day.  Well, at least that’s what you aim to do!

The Therapeutic Goods Administration regulates products like sunscreen, medicines, vaccines and toothpaste. They would not approve something for use if it were dangerous. However, I believe that becoming conscious of what you put in your mouth shouldn’t end with food labels. It should extend to toothpaste labels as well. The mouth can absorb chemicals fairly easily without the need to swallow. And if you have little ones, it is impossible to make sure they don’t swallow toothpaste. Therefore, knowing what is in toothpaste is a great way to ensure you and your family are making the right choices for you. Need a local family dentist? Give Riverstone Family Dental a call on 8678 3538.


Abrasives make up about 50% of the ingredients in toothpaste. They are gritty particles which help to remove sticky plaque attached to your teeth. They do not dissolve in water. This is important because toothpaste is made up of 20-40% water and the mouth is full of saliva. Some examples of abrasives are:

  • Aluminium hydroxide
  • Calcium carbonate
  • Silicas

Abrasives can also help to remove stains caused by things you eat and drink or if you smoke.


Surfactants are ingredients used in detergents. They help to remove dirt from skin and the surfaces of objects. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is an example of a surfactant used in toothpaste. SLS is found in other things like shampoo where it is used as a foaming agent. When a product foams up, it allows it to reach all the areas it needs to clean. If you have a reaction to SLS, you can find SLS-free toothpaste.


Whether you are for or against fluoride, you will know that it is in most toothpastes. Thousands of research studies have found that fluoride is anti-cariogenic. This means it has been shown to prevent tooth decay. It also strengthens tooth enamel, helping to prevent its breakdown. This is why it is commonly found in toothpaste. It may show up on your label as:

  • Stannous fluoride
  • Sodium fluoride
  • Olaflur
  • Sodium monofluorophosphate

Anti-bacterials and Flavours

Examples of anti-bacterial agents found in toothpaste are:

  • Zinc chloride
  • Triclosan

Flavouring agents are used to either make toothpaste more favourable or to hide bad breath. Let’s face it, if something tastes good to you then you are more likely to put it in your mouth. This is especially the case with kids. Unflavoured varieties are also widely available.

The rest

Anti-sensitivity toothpastes may have ingredients which block sensitivity, they include:

  • Strontium chloride
  • Potassium nitrate

Whitening toothpastes usually add more abrasives or use carbamide peroxide to break down surface stains and make the teeth appear whiter.

There are plenty of other ‘extras’ in toothpaste. Pro-biotics, pre-biotics and various other chemicals may also be added into toothpaste. When in doubt, research the ingredients listed or ask your dentist.


I hope this blog has at least encouraged you to read your labels the next time you purchase toothpaste. At the end of the day, each of us  is responsible for what we put in our mouth. You make the right choice for you and our team can help with the rest! If you need a local, caring dentist give Riverstone Family Dental a call on 8678 3538.

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