In another life, I was a medical librarian. Now as a retiree, I am making consumer health a focal point of my writing.
You’ve been brushing your teeth forever—even when you could barely reach the sink. Although your parents made you brush your teeth, you probably never gave much thought to the toothpaste or toothbrush you used, and hence, you spent maybe 30 seconds or so each time you brushed.
Well, the dental hygienist will tell you that 30 seconds is not enough. A brushing session needs to be two minutes to best get at the plaque and stimulate your gums properly.
Two minutes? An eternity! Who could do that? For a long time, I did no such thing.
Enter the Philips Sonicare toothbrush, an electric toothbrush with a head that vibrates up to 30,000 times per minute. It’s convenient, because all the models have timers that shut the motor off after two minutes. How easy, you may think.
Toothpaste and the Sonicare
Yes, the Philips Sonicare toothbrush does a good job, and, with the additional use of dental floss, you can expect greatly improved teeth and gums. The plaque formation and tartar will be so reduced that you may be able to wait a year between dental cleanings.
Users of the Sonicare toothbrush usually focus on proper brushing technique. But the choice of toothpaste is important, and becomes even more important as you reach an excellent level of brushing.
Two minutes with an electric toothbrush means that your gums and mouth tissue are going to be exposed to the ingredients in the toothpaste for a much longer time than most of us are accustomed to! This can cause sensitivity and chapped lips. You have to keep your lips closed during part of the brushing session with a Sonicare brush (unless you like your mirror splattered with foam), so your lips do get a lot of contact with your paste.
According to the instruction manual that came with my Sonicare toothbrush, the company recommends a gel toothpaste. Many gel toothpastes (especially AquaFresh) have the claim of a dazzling, sparkling, clean feeling after brushing. Many have whitening agents or abrasive agents that provide tartar control. I doubt you’ll want to continue with these toothpastes.
How to Tell if Your Toothpaste is Wrong For You
Finish brushing with your Sonicare toothbrush. Go into the kitchen and fill up a glass with cold water, and have a drink. Does the inside of your mouth feel sensitive and achy, or does it burn? Quit using that toothpaste.
After a week or two, do you suddenly have chapped lips that lip balm isn’t helping? Do you have redness and flakiness above the lip line? If you’re a woman, does wearing lipstick make the problem worse? Time to find another toothpaste.
Two Ingredients to Avoid in Toothpaste
- Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS) - Some people are sensitive to this ingredient, occasionally to the extent of having problems with canker sores. Sodium Laurel Sulfate is the stuff that makes your toothpaste foam up.
- Guaiazulene - This is a coloring additive used in many toothpastes and cosmetics.
For some reason that I don't understand, even toothpastes that don't have those two troublesome ingredients sometimes begin to cause sensitivity over time. My dentist gave me some Sensodyne Pronamel, and it was just fine for a while. But I can't use it anymore. It was fine for my teeth, but I got chapped lips again!
It's a good thing that we have lots of choices. Some of these are discussed below.
What Can I Use?
It is possible to brush without any use of toothpaste. Perhaps ask your dentist about this.
Currently, I am using Nature's Gate natural toothpaste with creme de mint. This one has worked splendidly for me. And, it is fluoride-free! It contains cranberry, pomegranate, white tea, grapeseed extract, aloe, and ginger. I highly recommend it!
Also, Burt’s Bees Natural Toothpaste may work for you (it is SLS-free). The one pictured here does have fluoride, but it worked for me just great for a long time. I'm having more difficulty finding it in my supermarket, so I switched brands.
It may be hard to get used to a toothpaste that doesn't foam when you use it, and the taste will be a little different, but you'll see the difference.
Tom’s of Maine Clean and Gentle Natural Toothpaste is another alternative (SLS-free).
Desert Essence Natural Tea Tree Oil Essence with Fennel Toothpaste or any of the Desert Essence pastes
Another good choice, if you don’t mind a taste similar to licorice. If you just can't stand licorice, try the one with mint and baking soda. Oh, and some just don’t want to use fluoride, and this toothpaste has none!
If you've got sensitive teeth, perhaps the best Sensodyne brand to use would be plain old Sensodyne maximum strength with fluoride. It has very few ingredients. Whereas Sensodyne used to have SLS in it, I've noticed that they've omitted this ingredient in many of their products. If you'd prefer to use one of the other brands of toothpaste, but have a tiny bit of gum recession on one side, you could just use the Sensodyne on that area, and the other toothpaste for the remaining square inches of your teeth.
What Else Can I Do?
- Use your Sonicare toothbrush at night only. You don’t need it first thing in the morning, because plaque takes all day to build up from the foods you eat. Use a manual toothbrush for morning brushing.
- If you have one of the advanced Sonicare toothbrushes, you’ll have a choice of settings. You can adjust your setting to “sensitive” for part of the brushing session.
- Shut off your Sonicare toothbrush before the two minutes are up. Continue with manual brushing for the balance of the time.
- Use your Sonicare toothbrush every other day.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.