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When it comes to caring for your teeth, there are certain tools that you need in order to get the job done properly. Toothpaste is solidly up there on the list. If you go to the store, however, you may be surprised by how many different varieties there are. Most toothpastes can be sorted into a few different categories, though.

Fluoridated Toothpaste

Fluoride is a mineral that helps keep your enamel strong so that it can protect the more vulnerable parts of your teeth. Diet and personal habits can damage enamel over time, so replenishing the minerals your enamel needs can be essential to keeping your teeth healthy. Fluoride toothpaste is the most common type of toothpaste. It’s safe to use, given that the proper amounts are used for the age and maturity of the person using it.

Whitening Toothpaste

Some people want a whiter smile but don’t want to shell out the money for whitening treatments, either from a dentist or for the DIY kits. There are some toothpastes out there that can help with whitening teeth by removing stains or at least reducing their appearance. Whitening toothpaste works because it has harsher, more abrasive cleaners in it. Of course, the tradeoff is that it can also wear enamel away if used for prolonged periods of time.

Sensitivity Toothpaste

There are plenty of reasons why you might have sensitive teeth. If you experience pain or discomfort when consuming hot or cold food and drinks, sweet or spicy foods, or when taking care of your teeth, you may want to consider using a toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth. Sensitivity toothpastes are formulated to not have irritating ingredients and may contain ingredients that help control the sensitivity of your teeth. Potassium nitrate is an example of one such ingredient that minimizes the sensation of sensitive teeth. Be patient if you don’t notice an improvement right away. Multiple applications may be needed, so it may take around a week to really see the effects.

Understanding the different types of toothpaste there are can make figuring out which one is likely to work best for you much easier. Given the sheer number of options, being able to narrow down the options based on type can be really helpful. Talk to your dentist if you’re not sure which type of toothpaste will be best for you.

Not quite sure how to best care for your teeth? Read this next: What Is the Ideal Daily Oral Health Routine?.