The Truth About Trendy Toothpastes

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Drugstore aisles are now jammed with so many choices, it's enough to make your teeth ache. Here, what's hype and what's not.

THE CLAIM: "Foaming action"

THE VERDICT: The paste transforms to foam in your mouth in order to penetrate hard-to-reach places. But foaming action is strictly a matter of personal preference -- you don't get a "skip flossing" pass.

THE CLAIM: "Fluoride free"

THE VERDICT: In these, aloe and peppermint oil replace fluoride, in response to fears of cosmetic damage to enamel from too-high doses of fluoride. But only children who swallow paste are at any risk. For the rest of us, fluoride is an essential cavity fighter.

THE CLAIM: "Natural"

THE VERDICT: You won't find artificial colors, flavors, or fragrances in these, but the jury is still out as to whether their tooth decay- and plaque-fighting ingredients, such as xylitol (a natural cavity-fighting sweetener) and cranberry extract, work as well as traditional formulas. If you go natural, pick one that at least contains fluoride.

Got bad breath? Find out which food cures it here.

THE CLAIM: "12-hour germ fighting"

THE VERDICT: While all fluoride toothpastes kill bacteria, these use a stronger antibacterial agent (triclosan) formulated to fight germs up to 12 hours after brushing. Research has shown that triclosan is safe to use, but the FDA is examining it to determine whether it contributes to antibiotic resistance.


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