Toothpaste recipe for success | know.de

Who would have thought that there could be such a great variety of bacteria, viruses and fungi in our mouths? Millions of representatives of about 150 different species of bacteria live in the warm and humid climate of our mouth. Among them are harmless microbes that have important and positive functions, but are also harmful species that can cause great harm if too many of them settle. With proper oral hygiene, this hustle and bustle can be controlled and diseases like tooth decay and gingivitis prevented.

dental plaque culprit

Known as a breeding ground for diseases of the teeth and gums, plaque is a layer that settles on the teeth over time and is also called biofilm or plaque. After brushing your teeth, when you feel that your teeth are soft and clean, your teeth are free of this plaque and surrounded by a protective layer of saliva and proteins called granules.

However, over time, more and more bacteria adhere to these granules and after about two hours a thin biofilm begins to form, which after a while can be felt as a rough or furry feeling on the teeth. This layer is made up of microbes and protein-rich mucus, which they use to protect themselves and contact the Earth. There are now ideal conditions for bacteria to reproduce in this biofilm. As a result, particularly harmful species can quickly gain the upper hand.

Sugar is to blame: Harmful bacteria get their energy from the sugar in our food and produce acids that attack our teeth and harmless bacteria. So the number of harmful bacteria continues to increase over time. Tooth decay can develop as a result of the permanent acid attack on our teeth and our gums can become inflamed with other irritants from bacteria.

fight against biofilms

Fortunately, it takes a while before the bacteria multiply enough to attack the teeth to the point where we feel cavities. However, it is necessary to remove the biofilm regularly and as soon as possible. It is brushing our teeth.

But what exactly happens when we brush our teeth and how does toothpaste help us? First of all, toothpaste contains the so-called cleaning molecules that are responsible for mechanical cleaning. These are very fine particles, for example made of chalk, silica or microplastics. Together with the brush, it acts like gentle sandpaper that removes plaque and bacteria.

Scrubbing and brushing bodies are supported by so-called foaming agents, which ensure the typical foam of toothpaste when brushing teeth. This foam ensures that the toothpaste is distributed evenly and breaks up food debris and dental plaque. Diluted and unwanted ingredients in the mouth are now embedded in the toothpaste and can be simply rinsed out.

Other toothpaste ingredients that should not be underestimated are sweeteners and flavorings such as mint. Because the active ingredients present, such as cleaning agents and foaming agents, do not necessarily guarantee a pleasant taste on their own.

Fluoride against tooth decay

Fluoride is probably the most important ingredient in toothpaste. This is not used directly for cleaning, but it is an active ingredient that causes a chemical reaction in the mouth and thus prevents tooth decay.

How it works? Our teeth are made of a mineral called calcium phosphate. If the harmful bacteria in the plaque are now producing their own acids, this ensures that the calcium phosphate is broken down and that our teeth, so to speak, degrade very slowly. Bacteria can penetrate deep into the teeth, destroy them more and more and cause infections there – caries develops.

To prevent this, we use fluoride these days. This reacts with the calcium from our saliva to form calcium fluoride. This is a substance very similar to the calcium phosphate in our teeth and therefore can be incorporated into it. Without fluoride, calcium phosphate naturally forms in our saliva, which is embedded in damaged teeth and thus “remineralizes”. However, the advantage of calcium fluoride over calcium phosphate is that it is hardly damaged by acids. Thus, the teeth are more resistant to acids dangerous to bacteria and tooth decay occurs less quickly.

And fluoride has more benefits. On the one hand, it also supports natural remineralization, that is, the incorporation of calcium phosphate into the tooth. On the other hand, it disrupts the metabolism of bacteria. This means that they can produce fewer acids and cause less damage to the teeth.

From East Africa to Arabia to India, “natural” toothbrushes were almost always made from twigs or cut roots of the toothbrush tree (Salvadora persica).

hayatikayhan, Getty Images

Dental health for a long time

However, it took a long time before we were able to clean and maintain our teeth with this advanced system. In the past, people used cleaning products such as salt, ash, eggshell, or even a pumice stone to keep their teeth clean. A task now performed more gently by the cleaning agents in toothpaste. At the time, the powder made with the mentioned ingredients was simply rubbed on the teeth. Honey or mint is sometimes added for flavor.

In India and large parts of the Islamic world, on the other hand, toothbrushes have been used for dental care. Chew on the buds, roots or twigs, then clean the teeth with the worn out pieces. It seems that people had the right instincts back then. Because the tree contains substances that act against bacteria and even small amounts of fluoride.

However, fluoride with its dental protective effect was not discovered until much later. In 1874, a German doctor was able to prove the positive effect for the first time. This was done through experiments with a dog that extracted its tooth before and after fluoride treatment and examined it. Today we owe a long success story to toothpaste and fluoride as we can clean our teeth effectively and fewer people suffer from tooth decay.

Leave a Comment