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Get to Know Toothpaste Composition and What The Function Is

Today I bought a toothpaste from GlaxoSmithKline and got interested in its composition. I actually gained interest in reading composition of various things, but never answered what their functions. In this post I want to share you what I googled about the function of every component in toothpaste. Each toothpaste may have different toothpaste composition. I used this toothpaste brand for example. Please note, this post is not meant to encourage you to buy the product :D.

The product claims:

  • Help protect sensitive teeth for 24/7 (with twice daily brushing)
  • Help restore natural white color of teeth
  • Help reduce plaque
  • Help prevent cavities (due to fluoride)
  • Keep mouth clean and fresh

This product contains: (some of them are hard to pronounce)

  • Water
  • Hydrated silica
  • Sorbitol
  • Glycerin
  • Potassium nitrate
  • Pentasodium triphosphate
  • PEG-6
  • Flavour
  • CI 77891
  • Cocamidopropyl betaine
  • Sodium methyl cocoyl taurate
  • Xanthan gum
  • Sodium hydroxide
  • Sodium saccharine
  • Sodium fluoride

Let’s begin!

Hydrated Silica

Silica is widely used in personal care and cosmetics products. Form of silica use in such products is amorphous silica. Silica in crystalline form is not used in personal care and cosmetics products.

Hydrated silica has additional water atoms bound to silica. It is oral care agent which helps polish the teeth, reduce oral odor, cleanse and deodorize the teeth and mouth (more about hydrated silica).


Sorbitol is sugar alcohol naturally found in fruits. The sorbitol we used is sourced from corn. It has been used in oral care, such as toothpaste and mouthwash for a long time.

Function of sorbitol in toothpaste are:

  • Prevent the toothpaste from hardening when the tube is opened or exposed to air
  • Makes the toothpaste more stable and compact but still soft and moist
  • Makes the toothpaste gel-like and have more transparent color
Gel-like and more transparent toothpaste utilize properties of sorbitol
Gel-like and more transparent toothpaste utilize properties of sorbitol (source:


Glycerin is used as a sweetening and preserving agent in toothpaste. Like sorbitol, it also maintains consistency of toothpaste and prevent from drying out.

Some sources said that glycerin is actually dangerous for teeth. It is because glycerin wrap our teeth thus prevents the teeth from re-mineralization. In addition, toothpaste that contains glycerin required 20 rinses to get it off (source).

Potassium nitrate

In toothpaste, function of potassium nitrate is to prevent tooth decay, to reduce painful sensitivity of teeth to touch, sweets, or hot, cold, or acidic substance (source). I think potassium nitrate is reason why the product claims sensitivity protection.

Pentasodium triphosphate

Pentasodium triphosphate is used to remove deep surface stains, to brighten, lighten, and whiten teeth. It also prevents food particles settling on teeth, keeping teeth white for longer (source).


The function of PEG (Polyethylene glycol) is like sorbitol, to retain moisture and act as stabilizer.

CI 77891

This one is surprising. CI 77891 is pigment white from titanium dioxide. This makes the color of toothpaste white.

Cocamidopropyl betaine (CAPB)

CAPB is used as surfactant in personal care product. In toothpaste, it is one reason why toothpaste has foam.

Sodium methyl cocoyl taurate (Tauranol)

Tauranol also works like CAPB. It is also surfactant that produce foam when the toothpaste is used.

Xanthan gum

Xanthan gum is used as thickening and stabilizing agent in toothpaste.

Sodium hydroxide

Sodium hydroxide is used to neutralize the acidic pH imbalance cause by other chemicals. Ensure you don’t swallow toothpaste, because sodium hydroxide can be toxic if ingested.

Sodium saccharin

Sodium saccharin is used as toothpaste sweetener. It is the cheapest class of sweetener among other type of saccharin.

Sodium fluoride

Sodium fluoride is used to prevent teeth form decay and bacteria that cause cavities.

In summary, I can conclude that a toothpaste must have these agents.

Components in toothpaste
Components in toothpaste

Do you feel something different after reading this? For me, yes. Next time when I buy toothpaste again, I will ensure every composition I need to make my teeth health and safe is available in the toothpaste.

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