What do toothpaste and cereal have in common?


Nothing.  Absolutely nothing. Except there are a million brands, promising you the good life, and a really cute boyfriend.

I guess there’s always hope.  The first habit we learn in life after saying “please and thank you” is to brush. Wash your hands, brush your teeth and say “please and thank you” and the world will be yours.

Oh, that it were so simple.  And we would be wise to brush after eating cereal – all that sugar and stuff. That’s about all they have in common.

Today I went to the drug store to buy some toothpaste.  Oh my gosh.  How do you choose?  I was brought up on Colgate – and to this day I use nothing else.  But my teeth are getting crooked and a lifetime of coffee is taking its toll. Dear Mr. Colgate, you have let me down, I’m leaving you.

So I scanned the tooth paste aisle for something new.  Boy did it deliver.

Toothpaste is not always paste. It can be a gel, powder, or paste that you brush onto your teeth and gums to help get rid of accumulating plaque and improve your oral health.

This once-lowly staple has become big business, with annual sales of $1.5 billion. Toothpastes today come in a dizzying range of colors, flavors, and formulations. There are trendy dispensers for products that purport to whiten teeth, sweeten breath, calm sensitive molars, and even stop gum disease. I think toothpaste can offer world peace.

“As recently as 10 to 12 years ago, there wasn’t that much of a choice for patients,” says Dr. Kenneth Burrell, D.D.S., senior director of the American Dental Association (ADA)’s Council on Scientific Affairs.  So, what the heck is toothpaste anyway?

What’s in Toothpaste?

The exact composition of different toothpastes may vary slightly depending on the benefits being touted by the particular brand (such as whitening teeth or reducing gum inflammation). In general, toothpastes include the following ingredients (ick):

  • Abrasives, such as magnesium carbonate, dehydrated silica gels, calcium carbonate, hydrated aluminum oxides, and phosphate salts.
  • Glycerol, sorbitol, or other so-called “humectants,” substances that keep the toothpaste from drying out.
  • Thickeners like seaweed or mineral colloids, synthetic cellulose, or natural gum to give the toothpaste a homogeneous appearance and texture.
  • Fluoride to help make tooth enamel stronger and more resistant to decay.
  • Flavoring agents that do not cause tooth decay, such as saccharin.
  • Detergents, such as sodium lauryl sarcosinate, to make the toothpaste foamy.

sweettartssqueez Reading the toothpaste label is about like reading your cereal ingredients.  Makes you want to swear off forever. 

My mother had a great tip for me and to this day I finish off my tooth brushing with a dip in the baking soda.  I may have not so great teeth, but they’re the ones I came with.

Oh, by the way, I purchased a brand labeled Sweet Tarts Squeez. Now I’m off to find that cute boyfriend.


5 thoughts on “What do toothpaste and cereal have in common?

  1. Emily,
    Just an addendum to your article.
    My TMJ doc. noticed that I had receeding gums to a little degree. He told me to use Crest Sensitivity, as all other sensitivity toothpastes are not good for your teeth. (He had already had skin grafts for the gum recession that he has). FYI and others.
    Now off to the 50 cents store that we love so much.

  2. Martha,

    Just thought I’d mention this. I had a great reduction in TMJ after I found out that I had a condition that makes me unable to eat wheat, rye, oats, barley, spelt, and all those other names that mean wheat. This condition is not only vastly underdiagnosed in this country, but is also, for some strange reason, increasing in prevalence, and it is not nearly as rare as once thought.

    Just yesterday a dentist friend and I were e-mailing back and forth, and she commented that the only thing that the dentists are told about celiac disease is that it causes an increase in those little ulcers in the mouth (something like anthus ulcers, I think??).

    Saturday I went to hear a lecture from a pediatric gastroenterologist from USC who does research in celiac and related conditions. She was talking about testing family members, and commented that she took one look at the brother of one of her patients and immediately knew he had to have celiac disease as well. One of her slides of a severe case of undiagnosed CD showed marked enamel damage — I have enamel damage, and not just that caused by those years of grinding my teeth, either. When there’s enamel damage is when you also have to expect osteoporosis, so that’s a good observation for a dentist to make as well. I hear that dentists are beginning to test for Vit D deficiencies in their offices lately, so a low Vit D level just might be a clue that there’s an underlying celiac condition.

    I am simply amazed at all the symptoms gluten sensitivity can be responsible for, in addition to the GI symptoms that most people think of if they even know what the disease is.

    I think the multitude of symptoms is what is so confusing to diagnostians. When some of them see the long list of symptoms that don’t seem to match, they immediately think “this has got to be depression.”
    Well, patients can have that as well, as the chemicals released by the immune system in overdrive more easily pass through the blood brain barrier which may be part of the problem, but alot of neurological problems are caused from malabsorption of vitamins and other nutrients.

    Once all forms of medical practitioners begin to think of celiac disease when they see some of these seamingly unrelated conditions, particularly those that don’t respond to the usual treatments well, then alot more people are going to be referred for the appropriate tests to rule out the possibility of celiac disease. I know a VERY excellent neurologist who took one look at a neurology specialist who does alot of work related to gluten sensitivity in England, and when he looked up his research on his computer, he shrugged it off saying, “He thinks it causes everything.”

    This lack of understanding, even among many otherwise reputable gastroenterologists is why the largest national organization for celiac disease is focusing alot of it’s attention on educating physicians in the months ahead. The campaign for raising awareness through the media and various events has greatly increased the number of people being diagnosed, but it’s still only about 5 % of those who actually have the disease, so that’s not very good.

    It takes, on average, around 10 years to get the correct diagnosis, and cost billions of dollars in health care costs before it’s diagnosed in the USA.
    I think they said the screening blood test only runs around $40 bucks, so this is why physicians need to be trained to look for this disease. The prevalence study done a few years ago showed about 1 in 100 people given the appropriate blood test with their donation of blood, showed positive for celiac disease. Undiagnosed celiac disease can result in all kinds of cancers, not just T-cell lymphoma, if left untreated, but the good news is that once on treatment, the inflammatory responsible goes dramatically down fairly quickly, along with alot of pretty bad symptoms as the gut repairs itself. The treatment, of course, is a gluten free diet for life, but it’s well worth it.


  3. Hi – I like Crest Whitestrips Premium. A little pricey, but they do the job in only three days if you use them twice a day for 30 minutes. Lasts a long time too and I’m a huge coffee drinker. I also like those that you put on and they dissolve in a few minutes. Can’t remember who they’re by but you can find them at any drug store. They work well and don’t cause you to talk funny like the others.


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