Can Rubbing Toothpaste on Your Gums Really Protect against Decay?

Published:March 28th, 2012

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According to a research team from Sweden it can. The team from the University of Gothenburg have found rubbing toothpaste into your gums after lunch can help protect teeth against the risk of decay, provided it’s combined with brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing in the evening. The study found that rubbing toothpaste onto your teeth could increase the protection given by fluoride by up to 400%, but the researchers were using high-fluoride toothpaste which is available without prescription in Sweden.

The study involved 16 participants who were asked to brush either two or three times a day, and to test the finger rubbing technique. Scientists found that massaging in toothpaste was as effective at increasing the amount of fluoride in the mouth as brushing your teeth a third time.

Rubbing your teeth with toothpaste in this way could be an easy way of getting an extra dose of fluoride during the day, especially after lunchtime, but it should be regarded as an extra preventative measure, as it can’t replace brushing with fluoride toothpaste in the morning and evening.

The lead scientist on the study, Dr Anna Nordstrom also pointed out that people shouldn’t rinse their mouth after brushing. This is because rinsing your mouth with water immediately after brushing removes fluoride ions that would otherwise stay in your mouth and saliva, helping to protect your teeth for longer. It is better to simply spit out the excess.

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that is found in many foods and drinks, and which helps strengthen the enamel layer on teeth, protecting them from decay. In some countries the public water supply is fluoridated, and around 60% of the water in the US contains fluoride compared to just 10% in England.

The Controversy over Fluoridated Water
There has been a lot of controversy over its use in the public water supply, as some people think it’s a threat to general health, but the British Dental Association feels fluoridation is safe and effective method of reducing dental decay. Fluoridation in water is very carefully controlled as if the levels are too high it can be toxic, and all water naturally contains some fluoride.

Water has been fluoridated in the US for more than 65 years, and has been touted as being a successful way of reducing dental decay right throughout the community, regardless of the individual’s economic situation. It’s estimated its use has reduced decay by up to 40 to 60%. Dental decay has definitely decreased significantly since water began being fluoridated, but it has also decreased in areas where water isn’t fluoridated.

Around the same time fluoride began being introduced to public water supplies, public awareness about their dental health also increased and it became much easier to obtain better quality dental care. More dental clinics were introduced, and it became commonplace to use fluoride toothpaste, and even fluoride mouthwashes. Many dentists began giving extra doses of fluoride to patients and regular checkups.

The argument against the addition of fluoride to public water supplies is that most of us obtain enough fluoride through regularly brushing our teeth, and through ingesting foods and drinks that naturally contain fluoride.

About the author

Alison, is a UK born and educated dental professional with over 25 years experience.

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