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30 Tutorials in Chemistry by Wai Shun Lau

Brush up that smile

Imogen Howard examines what is in your toothpaste and why it is there

© Rido/

Have you ever considered the chemistry behind the twice-daily ritual of brushing your teeth? Toothpaste manufacturers offer us a bewildering array of choices of products, promising whiter smiles, fresher breath and freedom from tooth decay. Let us examine the chemical ingredients that help us to grin with confidence.

Toothpaste is made up of four major components: abrasives, foaming agents, sweeteners and flavourings. Each of these plays a different, yet important, role in maintaining oral health. The sweeteners and flavourings are used to improve the taste of toothpaste. Typically in the UK, these include compounds that provide the aroma of mint, making the toothpaste feel cool and fresh (CHEMISTRY REVIEW Vol. 31, No. 4, pp. 16–19).

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30 Tutorials in Chemistry by Wai Shun Lau

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