When you brush your teeth, you expect them to look whiter and brighter. (I mean, that’s what the toothpaste commercial promised, right?) But the truth is, many toothpastes are working AGAINST our smiles because they’re too abrasive!
How do you know if you have a non-abrasive toothpaste? After all, it’s not something that’s advertised by toothpaste companies. Well, don’t worry, we've got everything you need to know about toothpaste abrasiveness right here.
Why Is Choosing a Non Abrasive Toothpaste Important?
Toothpaste abrasiveness simply means "scrubbing power." While high abrasiveness is great for removing coffee stains from your white porcelain sink, for your teeth, it’s a no-go.
Sure, we want to remove surface stains, but the problem with many toothpaste formulas – especially "whitening" formulas – is they’re so abrasive that they can erode the enamel, the hard-white outermost layer of the teeth. Guess what layer is underneath the enamel? The soft dentin, which is (gulp) yellow in color! Yes, it’s a twisted case of irony for sure.
Of course, yellow-tinged teeth is just one of the concerns about highly abrasive toothpastes. Worn enamel can lead to problems like severely sensitive teeth (the dentin leads to the nerves of the teeth) and increased risk for cavities and decay. And if you've spent a small fortune on veneers, a toothpaste that's too abrasive can also wear away the glossy sheen on them. Eek!
How to tell if your enamel is thin
- Yellow, grey or translucent-looking teeth
- Sensitive gums
- Teeth are sensitive to hot & cold
- White spots on teeth
- Notches in top of teeth by gum line
- Edges of teeth becoming rough or jagged
Toothpaste Abrasiveness: Where Does Your Toothpaste Rank?
By doing a little digging, you can find out if your toothpaste is non abrasive by looking at where it ranks on the Relative Dentin Abrasivity (RDA) scale. This is a scale that measures toothpaste abrasiveness. The higher the number, the worse it is on tooth enamel!
And here's what many are shocked to learn: most whitening toothpastes fall into the highly or harmfully abrasive category on the toothpaste abrasiveness chart.
Although the FDA requires toothpaste companies to disclose this measurement before gaining approval, the law doesn’t require them to disclose how abrasive their products are on the label or packaging. For everyone who’s naturally trusting about the safety of the products they use, this can end up affecting their enamel big-time. And here’s why you should take enamel erosion seriously: once it’s gone, it’s gone forever! Unlike bone, which can regenerate, enamel does NOT grow back.
Keep in mind, though, even plain water paired with a toothbrush will have some level of abrasion because of the motion of cleaning your teeth. So although everyone uses the term "non abrasive toothpaste" it’s really low abrasion toothpaste. (Cue the "The More You Know" music!)
RDA Scale for Toothpaste
Toothpaste Abrasiveness Chart
- 4: Toothbrush + plain water
- 7: Plain baking soda
- 15: Weleda Salt Toothpaste
- 30: Elmex Sensitive Plus
- 35: Arm & Hammer Dental Care
- 37: Sensodyne ProNamel
- 40: Weleda Children’s Tooth Gel
- 42: Arm & Hammer Advance White
- 45: Oxyfresh Pro Formula Toothpaste
- 45: Weleda Calendula
- 48: Arm & Hammer Sensitive
- 49: Tom’s of Maine Sensitive
- 52: Arm & Hammer Peroxicare
- 53: cloSYS
- 57: Tom’s of Maine Children’s
- 62: Super Smile
- 68: Colgate Regular
- 70: Colgate Total
- 70: Arm & Hammer Advance White Sensitive
- 70 Colgate 2-in-1 Fresh Mint
- 78: Biotene
- 79: Sensodyne
- 80: AIM
- 83: Colgate Sensitive Max Strength
- 85: Dentisse
- 85: Rembrandt Intense Stain
- 87: Nature’s Gate
- 90: Sensodyne Fresh Mint
- 91: Aquafresh Sensitive
- 93: Tom’s of Maine Regular
- 94: Rembrandt Plus
- 95: Crest Regular
- 95: Oxyfresh Cavity Protection
- 100: Colgate Optic White
- 101: Natural White
- 103: Mentadent
- 103: Arm & Hammer Sensation
- 104: Sensodyne Extra Whitening
- 106: Colgate Platinum
- 106 :Arm & Hammer Advance White Paste
- 107: Crest Sensitivity Protection
- 110: Closeup Paste/Gel
- 110: Colgate Herbal
- 113: Aquafresh Whitening
- 117: Arm & Hammer Advance White Gel
- 117: Arm & Hammer Sensation Tartar Control
- 120: Close-Up with Baking Soda
- 120: Colgate Baking Soda Paste
- 124: Colgate Whitening
- 125: Colgate Sensitive Pro Relief, Enamel Repair
- 130: Crest Pro Health
- 130: Crest Extra Whitening
- 133: Ultra Brite
- 144: Crest MultiCare Whitening
- 145: Ultra Brite Advanced Whitening Formula
- 145: Colgate Baking Soda & Peroxide Whitening
- 150: Pepsodent
- 165: Colgate Tartar Control
- 176: Nature’s Gate Paste
- 200: Colgate 2-in-1 Tartar Control/ Whitening or Icy Blast/Whitening
- 200: Crest White Vivid
Don't see your fave toothpaste on the toothpaste abrasiveness chart? Reach out to the company. That's what their contact page is for!
Best Brushing Practices to Counteract Toothpaste Abrasiveness
To take the road less abrasive, there are many simple ways to ensure your enamel is better protected:
- Choose a non abrasive toothpaste
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush
- Always use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste or less
- Wait 30 min.–1 hour to brush after having acidic food/ drink – rinse with water in the meantime
- Use gentle circular brushing strokes, holding toothbrush at 45-degree angle; no back-and-forth scrubbing
- Switch up which teeth you brush first – a lot of abrasion occurs in the first 20 seconds of brushing
More ways to protect your enamel
In addition to proper brushing technique and using the right dental products, there are many lifestyle hacks that can keep your enamel bright and strong.
- Wear a mouth guard at night if you're a tooth grinder (custom-made ones will fit better and not be tough on your jaw vs. OTC options)
- Limit the amount of sugary and acidic food & drinks you consume
- Get help if you're suffering from dry mouth, heartburn or an eating disorder
- Quit your chewing habit (pencils, caps, and well, actual chew)
- Kick up your consumption of food/drinks that contain calcium
Is Charcoal Toothpaste Abrasive?
There are many trends making a comeback (hello, mullets!), but should the ancient Greek practice of using charcoal on our teeth be one of them? The jury is still out on this one.
Here’s what we know so far:
In a 2021 whitening-toothpaste study, it was found that charcoal toothpastes and whitening-formula toothpastes produced similar results in both their performance (whitening power) and the amount of abrasiveness they caused to the teeth, which was significant.
However, this is contradictory to other charcoal whitening research, where studies showed greater abrasion from charcoal toothpastes versus "regular" whitening toothpastes. Of note, according to study results from The Journal of Physics, the larger the size of the charcoal particles (more grittiness), the more abrasive they are to the teeth, which makes the quality of the charcoal toothpaste important.
Talk to your dentist before using charcoal toothpaste
Many charcoal toothpastes make claims for being antibacterial, antifungal, detoxifying, etc., yet there’s no clear evidence of this. (Marketing HYPE at its finest.) Some dentists also have concerns about the carcinogenic effects of charcoal toothpaste, and some studies show charcoal toothpastes actually increase decay and caries risk. If you're thinking of using charcoal toothpaste, talk to your dentist or dental hygienist about their recommendations and/or why you should avoid charcoal toothpastes. They are there to help you smile your best smile.
#1 Dentist-Recommended Non Abrasive Toothpaste
If you want to preserve your enamel AND smile your whitest, brightest smile, make the switch to dentist-recommended Oxyfresh Pro Formula Fresh Mint Toothpaste.
This top-rated, dye-free cosmetic toothpaste is a must for those with sensitive teeth, veneers, gum recession or concerns about their enamel. It gently cleans and polishes teeth with calcium carbonate – no harsh abrasive ingredients or gritty charcoal. Plus it’s freshly kissed with natural peppermint essential oil for a taste you'll absolutely love. (Hooray for no menthol burn!)
Like your favorite toothpaste ... only better!
- Super gentle: Oxyfresh Pro Formula Toothpaste boasts one of the lowest abrasion ratings on the toothpaste abrasion chart (RDA 45) to protect enamel & cosmetic work.
- Tastes amazing: You’ll LOVE this light, fresh-mint formula with essential oil. Say goodbye to the burn.
- 24/7 fresh breath: Exclusive bad-breath fighter Oxygene® will instantly freshen your breath and keep it that way all day.
- Brighter smile: Coffee, wine & tea are no match for this gentle formula. Non abrasive toothpaste cleans while protecting enamel.
- It works: Dentists love our USA-made toothpastes ... and we know that you will too. (And if you don’t, you can have your old tube back.)