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Chemicals Used in Colgate Toothpaste

author image Keri Gardner
Based in Michigan, Keri Gardner has been writing scientific journal articles since 1998. Her articles have appeared in such journals as "Disability and Rehabilitation" and "Journal of Orthopaedic Research." She holds a Master of Science in comparative medicine and integrative biology from Michigan State University.
Chemicals Used in Colgate Toothpaste
A woman is putting toothpaste on her toothbrush. Photo Credit: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images

Colgate introduced jars of toothpaste in 1873 and by 1896 packaged it in squeezable tubes. Toothpaste ingredients changed as science advanced. Currently, Colgate manufactures 16 types of toothpaste, each containing its own specific ingredient list. Active chemical ingredients affect the human body, while fillers, dyes, flavors and carriers comprise the inactive portion. Advanced scientific studies complicate chemicals in toothpastes of today’s world.

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Consumed sugars encourage oral bacterial growth, and bacteria produce acids. The acids break down tooth enamel, allowing decay. Incorporation of fluoride to toothpaste occurred after the discovery that Americans living in the Southwest were resistant to rampant tooth decay of the early 1900s. The rate of tooth decay related directly to the amount of natural fluoride in the water. Fluoride chemically hardens tooth enamel, maintaining natural tooth protection.

Anti-microbial Compounds

Toothpaste anti-microbials decrease oral bacteria growth. Some examples of toothpaste additives include hexatidine/zinc citrate, triclosan, amylogucosidase/glucose oxidase and sodium fluoride/sodium monofluorophosphate. Colgate Total contains triclosan, which kills a wide range of bacteria. Triclosan binds to teeth with the assistance of a copolymer, providing 12 hours of protection. Also, decreasing oral bacteria enables continued fresh breath.


Most toothpastes incorporate sodium lauryl sulfate or lauryl sarcosinate as detergents. Detergents cause the foaming action we associate with toothpaste. The foam keeps the toothpaste in our mouths and removes dirt and grease from our teeth. Sometimes detergent sensitization occurs, and nondetergent toothpastes are available. Strong toothpaste flavorings mask the bad taste of the detergents.

Flavoring Agents

Toothpastes require strong flavorings to cover tastes of the other ingredients. Common flavors include mint and cinnamon, but new flavors include vanilla and fruit. Also, added sweeteners mask bitter flavors in toothpaste. Some examples of sweeteners are sucralose, xylitol and sodium saccharin. Both flavors and sweeteners enhance palatability of toothpaste.

Thickening Agents

Gums and sticky molecules create thick and tacky toothpaste. Chemical ingredients, such as seaweed gum and Xanthan gum, hold the other ingredients together, forming a paste. Humectants, such as glycerol, propylene, glycol and sorbitol, all prevent water loss from toothpaste. White pastes include titanium dioxide for white opaque appearance.


Adding mild abrasives to toothpastes assists in removing debris and residual surface stains. Calcium carbonate, found in marble and egg shells, is added to Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief Toothpaste for its abrasive qualities. Also, manufacturers commonly add silica, a natural component of sand, to toothpastes. Clear hydrated silica is used as an abrasive in gel toothpastes. Additionally sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda, and calcium act as toothpaste abrasive ingredients. Sodium bicarbonate releases carbon dioxide gas, producing additional foam during brushing.

Additional Chemicals

Many types of toothpaste include whiteners and tartar control products. Tetrasodium pyrophosphate removes calcium and magnesium from saliva, which reduces tartar deposits on teeth. Whiteners, such as sodium carbonate, break down into bleaching peroxides. The peroxides bleach tooth enamel. Other chemicals may include sodium hydroxide, pentasodium triphosphate, arginine and acrylic polymers. The American Dental Association must approve all fluoride toothpastes, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tests toothpastes for safety and effectiveness.

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