Sudsers, abrasives, humectants and binders? What are those? They are ingredients in your toothpaste!

Can you name an ingredient in your toothpaste? I bet I can guess the first one that popped in your mind. Is it fluoride? That is probably the most famous ingredient, and yet it is not in every toothpaste (make sure your read the label when you’re toothpaste shopping!). When it does get in the mix, it is not a major ingredient because a little goes a long way.

Another ingredient that probably came to your mind was mint flavoring (or tooty fruity, maybe?). While the taste of toothpaste is important to everyone, it is also just a minor ingredient. So let’s take a look at what *is* in your toothpaste that does such important work twice every day!

Sudsers are cleaning agents, very much like the soap you use to wash your hands. They make bubbles with the water in your mouth to help loosen and carry away debris on your teeth. A common sudser is sodium lauryl sulfate, which you might actually find listed on your hand soap bottle! It puts a whole new meaning to washing your mouth out with soap, right? But you should stick with the toothpaste and don’t get any ideas about putting hand soap in your mouth! Yuck!

Abrasives have been used to clean teeth since before toothpaste was invented. Way back in history, people would use sand and pumice (volcanic glass) to grind the stains off their teeth. It maybe did the job, but it also would do a lot of damage to the tooth enamel. Today, abrasives are much kinder, made out of hydrated silica, chalk, or baking soda.

Binders thicken toothpaste and hold (or bind) the ingredients together. LOTS of products other than toothpastes use binders. One very common binder is carrageenan, which is derived from red seaweed – yum!

Humectants also help to hold ingredients in the toothpaste together, like binders, plus they keep moisture in it. They can add to the flavor and feel of the paste, too. Some common humectants are sorbitol (an artificial sweetener) and glycerin.

Are you impressed with the sophisticated composition of your common toothpaste now? Tonight after you brush, be sure to look at the ingredients of you toothpaste and see if you can guess the purpose of each one!