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Name: Mandy
Status: student
Grade: 9-12
Location: CA 
Country: N/A
Date: 6/22/2005

What is the Process of development and production of toothpaste? What is the chemical composition of toothpaste?

Formulating a toothpaste is a very complex problem. There are many factors hat must be taken into account. A partial, but very incomplete list includes:

1. All ingredients must pass Food and Drug Administration regulations.

2. Cleaning agent i.e. the "soap" that is going to remove food particles and clean the teeth, abrasives to assist in the cleaning process (cannot be too abrasive or tooth enamel will be removed, cannot be too soft or plaque etc. will not be removed.

3. Flavor, must be pleasant, and must be associated with a "clean" feeling. That is why mint flavors are so popular.

4. Must have a consistency that allows it to be squeezed from the tube, but not liquify when heated to body temperature.

5. Must have the right amount of "foaminess" for the consumer. It would be entirely within the available technology to formulate a toothpaste that did not foam at all and be quite effective in all other respects. However, it would likely be a market "flop" because consumers have become accustomed to correlating "foaminess" with "cleaning power". That association is totally one of perception, not reality. Nonetheless, a "foamless" tooth paste would not likely find customer acceptance. The same psychology applies to other consumer products: It is entirely feasible to formulate a low foaming shave cream, shampoo, laundry detergent -- the list goes on and on -- but you can see the point.

So like many consumer products, the formulation of a toothpaste is a very complicated chemical, manufacturing, and marketing problem with many feed backs, that is, if you change one property you have to examine the effect of that change on all the other formulation variables.

Vince Calder

Not within my scope, but my opinion. I know there are fluorides, as they do prevent decay. Additionally, there are weak abrasiveness, my guess probably the baking soda that goes back to the first uses of tooth cleansers. There must be ingredients, for taste, aroma, probably something for a quick change of state, semi solid to thick liquid. It is not simple, a good question would be why did they decide on a tube? Was that the best way to get it on a brush?

James Przewoznik

Toothpaste has several rather independent features:

a) soap.

b) sweeteners so you cannot taste that you are literally washing your mouth out with (a) soap

c) long molecules or extremely fine powder, ("paste") to increase water's viscosity, so brush-tips push nearby crumbs a little harder

d) abrasives to push stuck-on dirt much harder, the force of a plastic bristle-tip being focused by relatively small grit (warning: important that the grit is harder than plaque, but softer than teeth)

e) fluoride, because the bone-like Calcium-phosphate in teeth gets a little stronger, or better maintained by the body, with a small percentage of highly water-insoluble Calcium Fluoride mixed in.

f) bacteria-killing chemicals

g) tooth-covering anti-adhesive chemicals ?

h) solvents or enzymes to loosen bacteria/plaque's grip

i) some defined pH (a buffered acid/base balance point)

j) some defined oxidation/reduction balance point (most are neutral, slightly anti-oxidant. Pastes with whitening peroxides are fairly strongly oxidizing.)

k) mild but persistent anesthetics to de-sensitize nerves in over-sensitive teeth

Chemicals often used to do these (you will read them in labels):

a) sodium lauryl sulfate (almost always!)

b) saccharin or other artificial sweetener, _not_ sugar

c) gum, colloidal silica powder

d) sodium bicarbonate, other salts, maybe the fluoro-apatite mineral below (a very weak, hydrated grade of it)

e) stannous fluoride, sodium fluoride, fluoro-apatite mineral: Ca/PO3/F/OH?/?

f) don't remember the specific compounds

g) cannot think of anything that can do this in a wet, bio-maintained mouth. (car wax, maybe?)

h) I sometimes brush my teeth with mouthwash. It is 21% alcohol does this real fast.

i) sodium bicarbonate, many others, maybe a drop of obvious acids and bases to trim the pH

j) any peroxides they find safe enough (a little touchy to prove that, if you ask me)

k) phenol, salicylates (related to aspirin), menthol, others

Read the labels, look up as many of the chemicals there as you can. If you have taken high-school chemistry, I think you will be able to understand many of the chemicals and how they function. Shampoos too.

Jim Swenson

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