Toothpaste are any of various substances used to clean food particles, stain, and bacteria from the teeth and mouth. Most toothpastes contain a detergent, an abrasive, such as chalk, a neutralizer, and a flavoring material. The detergent helps destroy bacteria and cleanses the mouth, and the abrasive helps remove particles of food, bacteria, stain, and, to some degree, mineral deposits from the teeth. The neutralizer counteracts acids, which are produced by bacteria in the mouth. If not neutralized, these acids are destructive to tooth enamel and increase the chances of decay. Mint or other flavorings are added to toothpaste to cover up the taste of the other ingredients and to make the breath smell sweet. Generally, the ingredients of toothpaste are held together by glycerin and a gummy substance, which also make the mixture moist.
In recent years, fluorides have been added to some toothpastes rather than neutralizers to help prevent tooth decay in children and possibly in adults as well. Toothpastes, as well as tooth powders, are usually pleasant tasting and easy to use. However, they are no more effective in cleaning the teeth than table salt and bicarbonate of soda mixed with water. The most important factor involved in brushing the teeth is the brush, not the paste. To be effective, the toothbrush must be used properly and must be supplemented with dental floss to remove plaque.