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Toothpaste Ingredients: Understanding Surfactants and Their Role

It is everywhere

Toothpaste is one thing that you will find at each home since it is one of most common products as it is responsible for the oral hygiene routine by removing the teeth decay, and to perform this task efficiently a good toothpaste has to be chosen, the choice of the proper toothpaste differs according to each person's case and reference.

What's in the toothpaste?

Toothpastes are used mainly to prevent debris and plaque formation and keep the mouth healthy and clean other than these purposes people's choice can vary according to their preferences between whitening, removal of stains, sensitive toothpaste or toothpaste with anti-calculus properties, but have anyone before read the ingredients that differs one type of toothpastes from the other ? If you did so then it goes without saying that you are familiar with the fundamental ingredients of a toothpaste which are: abrasives to remove materials adhering to the surface of the teeth, humectants to prevent water loss and hardening of the toothpaste, fluoride to prevent caries, preservative to stop the microorganism's growth, binders to prevent the separation of the toothpaste and sweeteners to improve the taste.

Did you know that toothpaste contains surfactants?

One of the most interesting ingredients in the toothpaste is the surfactant, what can be the role of surfactant in a toothpaste, isn't it in soaps? The surfactant plays a vital role in its presence in the toothpaste but first do you know what the surfactant is? The word surfactant is derived from Surface active agent term, mainly surfactants are  amphiphilic   molecules which is a molecule that containshydrophilic head (water-loving) and hydrophobic tail (water-hating), and it is usually the salt of the long-chain fatty acid. One of the most utilized surfactants in the toothpaste industry is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate over the past 50 years and it is the salt of lauryl alcohol, the concentration range vary between (0.5%-2%).Sodium lauryl sulfate is an anionic surfactant because of the negative charged sulfate head ( the red labeled part) which is hydrophilic while the twelve carbon chain resembles the hydrophobic tail, the surfactant addition to the toothpaste gives it many privileges; specifically the foaming ability of the toothpaste because of the lowered surface tension which gives an even distribution of the toothpaste, Aids in the tooth brushing process through interdental plaque loosening in places where the toothbrush can't reach, enhances the cleaning effect Increases the thickness of the formulation and leaves a satisfaction feeling, improve hard water resistance properties. Surfactants also have wetting and emulsifying properties which contributes to the cleaning process through the removal of plaque which gives it indirect antimicrobial activity.

Is the surfactant bad for the tooth enamel?

It was claimed that surfactants in the toothpaste is responsible for destroying the oral mucosa and gingivitis (inflammation in the gingiva) based on the fact that detergents can destroy the red blood cells, but if this true then the toothpaste should have done a lot of damage in the mouth, a study was conducted in Freiburg University to show the effect of different surfactants on the keratin layer of the oral mucosa and the results have stated that the concerns about the surfactant damage to the keratin layer and oral mucosa is to be unfounded since there was no damage as long as the surfactant concentration is below 2% as mentioned by the Federal Health Agency (FDA).

Imagine a toothpaste without the surfactant.

Have you ever imagined brushing your teeth with a loose, oily, non-foamy product? Of course no, that is the toothpaste without a surfactant, the cleaning effect also will decrease therefore the presence of the surfactant in toothpaste is fundamental for the structure and the function of toothpaste.

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