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Toothpaste
Beverly Zuniga
Physical Geology
Fall 2008

 

                   Minerals Found in Toothpaste
 

                         Go to fullsize image

                   http://www.flickr.com/photos/kimberlyfaye/2532060043/

   

     Brushing our teeth is something that many of us do 2-3 times a day.  That is what we have always been told to do.  The toothpaste cleans our teeth and helps to keep them healthy.   What exactly are we using to brush our teeth with?  Minerals play a really important role in our dental hygiene.  There are many materials and minerals found in the toothpaste that we use.  Some of the minerals that you would find in toothpaste are Fluorspar (fluoride), Mica, Sand (silica), and Titanium.  Let’s take a closer look at what these minerals are, and what they contribute to toothpaste.
 

     An important mineral found in toothpaste is calcite (calcium carbonate).  It is an abrasive ingredient.  The abrasives give toothpaste its cleaning power.  What exactly is calcium carbonate and where does it come from?  Calcium carbonate can be found in sedimentary and metamorphic rocks.  In its natural state, calcium carbonate occurs as chalk, limestone and marble.  Calcite is a colorless or white crystalline compound when pure, but it can be almost any color.  Calcite (calcium carbonate) has many other uses such as for making paper, paint, and plastic.  You can also find calcium carbonate in many everyday products such as bathroom cleaner and shoe polish.  Calcium carbonate is also used as a source of calcium in some foods.  With all these uses of calcite (calcium carbonate), it is most likely a mineral that we could not do without.

calcite

photo by R. Weller

 

                                                  

                                                             Sodium Fluoride

                                             Go to fullsize image

                        http://www.surfacenet.de/produkt/sodium_fluoride__natriumfluori.htm

 

 

     Sodium Fluoride is the most popular active ingredient in toothpaste.  Surprisingly, it is also one of the main ingredients in rat poison.  Fluoride comes from the mineral fluorite and it is used to help reduce cavities.  Fluoride coats and strengthens tooth enamel.  Fluorspar, or the mineral fluorite, is a calcium fluoride.   Fluorite is a very soft mineral and it breaks up easily. Fluorite comes in many different colors.  It’s been thought of as the most colorful mineral in the world.   However, pure fluorite is colorless.

      

                                                                 Fluorite

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                                                      http://www.flickr.com

 

                                              

     Fluorspar occurs in granite which is an igneous rock.  It also occurs in limestone which is a sedimentary rock.  This leads me to the question, “Are we brushing our teeth with rocks?”  Well, yes we are.  The rocks and rock products that are used in toothpaste act as abrasives and they help scrub our teeth to rub the plaque away.   Is it possible for the abrasives in the toothpaste to wear away our tooth enamel?  Some enamel erosion may occur, but that’s generally due to over-zealous brushing. 

 

                     Mica                                                                                 Mica in a rock

http://skywalker.cochise.edu/wellerr/mineral/mica/6muscovite-peel.jpg                                      Image Preview                                                                                   

     R. Weller/Cochise College                                                         http://www.flickr.com

 

     Mica is another mineral that plays an important part in the development of toothpaste. Mica is a mineral common in many rocks.  Mica has a one directional cleavage and peels in very thin layers.  It is a very flexible mineral, and it is also very flakey.  Some toothpaste includes powdered white mica.  Mica acts as a mild abrasive to aid in the polishing of the tooth surface.  It also adds a glittery shimmer to the toothpaste.  Mica is what gives toothpaste that sparkle.

 

                                                        Fine Silica Sand

                                   Fine Silica Sand by Umair Mohsin.          

                                                      http://www.flickr.com

 

     Industrial sand and gravel, is often called, “silica,” “silica sand,” or “quartz sand.”  Sand is composed of quartz or silicon dioxide.  It is also one of the abrasive minerals used in toothpaste.  If you were to just put sand or rocks in your mouth, you would scratch your teeth.  Therefore, the mineral is processed into amorphous silica, and it is much softer.  The silica in toothpaste also acts as a thickener.  It’s what keeps the liquids and solids in the toothpaste from separating.

 

                   Titanium                                                            Titanium dioxide

Image Preview               Image Preview

        www.mineralgalleries.com                                     www.ceramicstoday.com

 

 

 

     Titanium is a hard silvery-white metallic element that is found in the minerals ilmenite, leucoxene, and rutile.  Titanium was at one time a metal that had little use.  Titanium is mined in the United States, especially Florida, as well as overseas.  About 95% of titanium production is consumed in the form of titanium dioxide.  Titanium dioxide has an intensely white permanent pigment.  This pigment has great luster, good endurance, and a pure white color.  This is what is used to make most toothpaste white.  Titanium dioxide is also used to make white paint, paper, and plastics. 

 

     It is amazing how far that the development of toothpaste has come.  When toothpaste was first introduced, it was mainly used to just clean teeth.  However, as I have already discussed, toothpaste today does a whole lot more.  Fluorspar (fluoride), Mica (sparkle), Sand (paste thickener), and Titanium (titanium dioxide) are minerals and materials that all contribute to the process of toothpaste.  Toothpaste helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease.  It also desensitizes and whitens teeth.  Toothpaste fulfills many functions, both therapeutic and cosmetic.  All the minerals used in toothpaste are beneficial in some way.  Toothpaste is a commodity that every household should have, especially if they want to have clean, healthy teeth and a great smile.

 

 

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Works Cited

www.rogersgroupinc.com/...Toothanm.gif

www.mapts.alaska.edu/pdf/toothpaste.pdf

www.nevadamining.org/education/workshops/activities/docs/APasteWithATaste

www.rocksandminerals.com/uses.htm

http://www.mii.org/rocks.html

http://mineral.galleries.com/minerals/elements/titanium/titanium.htm

republicans.resourcescommittee.house.gov

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toothpaste

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titanium dioxide