What's in your toothpaste?

02 March 2020

What type of toothpaste are you using? A new paper from award-winning University of Canterbury (UC) researcher Dr Matt Hobbs may have those of us preferring a ‘fluoride-free’ or ‘natural’ approach to oral health, questioning that choice.

  • Dr Matt Hobbs

Published in the British Dental Journal, Dr Hobbs’ paper shows how, despite recent gains, adults and children across New Zealand are still experiencing high levels of preventable tooth decay.

A nationally representative sample of adults and children was used to determine the type of toothpaste more commonly used in New Zealand households. It was one of the first times non-fluoride toothpaste had been included in this kind of research.

Dr Hobbs, who recently received an Emerging Researcher Award from the Health Research Society of Canterbury (HRSC), explains part of the problem may be as simple as the toothpaste we’re reaching for from supermarket shelves.

“Overall, 6.8% of adults and 6.4% of children use non-fluoride toothpaste. These findings will be important as a recent review showed that brushing in the absence of fluoride failed to show a benefit in terms of reducing the dental caries,” he says.

“Interestingly, while poor oral health often affects those who are living in the most deprived areas, this study shows that the highest percentage of the population [both children and adults] using non-fluoride toothpaste are actually living in some of the least deprived parts of the country.” 

Dr Hobbs’ research was carried out in UC’s GeoHealth Laboratory, which focuses on how the local and national contexts shape health outcomes and health inequalities and inequities across New Zealand. 

Read Dr Hobbs’ paper for the British Dental Journal here>

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