Consumer Reports looks at what's in your toothpaste

Brushing our teeth regularly is key to good health. But have you ever thought of what's in your toothpaste?

If you have an older tube of Colgate Total in your bathroom, check the ingredients and if it has triclosan - toss it out.

Triclosan is an antibacterial that may help prevent gingivitis but also may have some side effects including:

"Endocrine disruption, as well as impact on immunity, and contribute to antibiotic resistance," says Tunde Akinleye of Consumer Reports.

Triclosan was banned from hand soaps and body washes in 2017. It is still technically allowed in toothpastes, but it's essentially gone from the market.

Colgate's new Total SF toothpaste doesn't contain triclosan.

So what should be in your toothpaste?

"The first thing people should look for in a toothpaste is fluoride. Fluoride will help decrease tooth decay," says Dr. Michael Schwarz, DMD.

Other ingredients include baking soda or sodium bicarbonate, which may help reduce plaque, and hydrogen peroxide, which can act as a whitener, although some experts say it's not concentrated enough or on your teeth long enough to make a noticeable difference.

Then there are abrasives like calcium carbonate and modified silica. They are used to help remove food debris and surface stains.

And if your teeth are sensitive to hot and cold you can use a toothpaste with desensitizers.

Used regularly, ingredients such as sodium citrate, casein phos-pho-peptide, and potassium nitrate may help relieve sensitivity.

There's also sodium lauryl sulfate or SLS.

It creates foam to help circulate the toothpaste into the spaces between teeth.

So how do you know which toothpaste is right for you?

"I usually say the one you won't mind using," says Dr. Schwarz.'

Some toothpastes contain the ingredient xylitol.

A few small studies suggest that when paired with fluoride, it could prevent cavities better than fluoride alone.

But, a warning to pet owners, Xylitol is very dangerous for dogs.

Dr. Schwarz offers these tips for better brushing:

"Three tips for toothbrushing would be number one, get it done. Do it religiously, do it longer. Don't do it for 15 seconds. Do it for three and a half minutes. Put a song on the radio. Do it for the length of the song. Number two, use dental floss. Don't just click through the teeth, use it effectively. Have someone show you how to do it so it will remove bacteria and plaque. Number three, brush correctly. Best thing you can do is a soft bristle brush, small circular motions, nice and gentle. Don't beat up the teeth. It's like typing in capitals."

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