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what makes toothpaste abrasive or non-abrasive?

Photo: charcoal toothpaste with black brush

Whether you’re looking for natural whitening or just straight-up cleaner teeth, there’s a lot of well-founded excitement around charcoal toothpaste. But we understand that before trying out new stuff you probably want to do your homework first; one of the most important things to understand about charcoal toothpaste (and really, any toothpaste) is its abrasion level.

Too abrasive of a paste can result in eroded enamel – and unfortunately once enamel is removed, it’s gone for good. So let’s take a closer look at your tooth enamel, your chosen paste, and what you should do to make sure that million-dollar smile doesn’t depreciate in value.

Your enamel’s needs

The surfaces of your teeth are (hopefully) covered in enamel. And while we may all dream of having rock-hard abs, this protective layer of enamel on your teeth is actually the hardest substance found in your body. As such, it’s pretty darn helpful for preserving the health of your teeth and something you want to keep around. If tooth enamel does get worn away, the dentin layer of the tooth becomes exposed. This is less than ideal because exposed dentin can result in pain as well as increased sensitivity to temperature and acidic or sweet foods. So, if you want to be able to enjoy a hot latte with a cold bowl of ice cream, we recommend you protect your enamel. In order to avoid enamel damage, you need to limit your exposure to the types of substances that can remove it – including abrasive stuff.

Is toothpaste abrasiveness good or bad?

When it comes to personalities, we think abrasiveness is a serious swipe left. But in the case of toothpastes, having an abrasive quality can actually be quite helpful. In fact, all toothpastes have some degree of abrasiveness – it’s part of what allows them to remove tartar and surface stains from teeth. But “the rub” is in creating a toothpaste formulation that’s abrasive enough to buff away stains while simultaneously being gentle enough not to mess up tooth enamel.




because your teeth deserve a paste that really gets them.

shop hello sensitive toothpaste

How is abrasiveness measured?

The American Dental Association (ADA) has established an abrasiveness scale, referred to as an RDA (Relative Dental Abrasivity) rating for toothpastes. The safe range goes from 0 to 250, and kind of like that class you took Pass/Fail back in the day: anything under 250 is considered safe according to ADA standards, and anything above 250 is considered to be a potential hazard to your enamel.

When it comes to RDA levels, please trust the pros, and don’t believe everything you read on the World Wide Interwebs. We just read this amazing article in RDH Magazine (acronym alert: RDH stands for Registered Dental Hygienist), and we thought we would share this particular tidbit on dentin wear:

full definition of dentin wear

As stated by the ADA, coupling proper brushing with a toothpaste that has an RDA of 250 or less is safe for your enamel. There are no degrees of safety between 0-250 on the RDA scale. What does this mean? It means that a paste ranked at 249 is equally as safe as a paste with an RDA ranking at 1.

Here at hello, our charcoal toothpaste has been thoughtfully formulated to strike the perfect balance to be effective while safe for everyday use. But that’s not all – brushers typically see noticeably whiter teeth with our charcoal paste.

It’s worth mentioning though that not all charcoal toothpastes and powders are created equal, so be sure that whichever brand you choose to use, please make sure its RDA is below 250. In addition to our charcoal toothpaste, we make a point of making sure that all of our pastes fall below the maximum abrasiveness threshold recommended by the ADA.

Another important acronym (and who doesn’t love an acronym?) is PCR, or Pellicle Cleaning Ratio. PCR measures the stain removing ability of toothpaste and is equally as important as RDA when it comes to your smile. The higher the PCR, the better the cleaning and whitening efficacy. What does this mean as you’re on the quest for your perfect whitening toothpaste? Well, you have to find that special balance of PCR magic and RDA safety to keep your enamel safe and smile brighter.

We also recommend using a soft bristled brush and a gentle brushing motion.  With the right toothpaste and brushing technique, you’ll have healthy enamel for decades to come. Brush happy. Choose Friendly. An educated brusher is a happy brusher, that’s what we always say.

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