Dentifrices are a general term used to describe preparations that are used together with a toothbrush with the purpose to clean and/or polish the teeth. Active toothpastes were first formulated in the 1950s and included ingredients such as urea, enzymes, ammonium phosphate, sodium lauryl sarcosinate and stannous fluoride. Later, therapeutic agents were included. Today's toothpastes have two objectives: to help the toothbrush in cleaning the tooth surface and to provide a therapeutic effect. The therapeutic effect may have an antiplaque or anti-inflammatory basis when the nature of the agents is antimicrobial. Plaque inhibitory and antiplaque activity of toothpastes used for chemical plaque control is evaluated in distinct consecutive stages, the last being home use randomized clinical trials of at least 6 months' duration. In this chapter, the scientific evidence supporting the use of the most common antiplaque agents, included in toothpaste formulations, is reviewed, with a special emphasis on 6-month clinical trials, and systematic reviews with meta-analyses of the mentioned studies. Among the active agents, the following have been included in toothpastes: enzymes, amine alcohols, herbal or natural products, triclosan, bisbiguanides (chlorhexidine), quaternary ammonium compounds (cetylpyridinium chloride) and different metal salts (zinc salts, stannous fluoride, stannous fluoride with amine fluoride). Dentifrices are the ideal vehicles for any active ingredient used as an oral health preventive measure since they are used in combination with toothbrushing, which is the most frequently employed oral hygiene method. The most important indications of dentifrices with active ingredients are associated with long-term use to prevent bacterial biofilm formation, mostly in gingivitis patients or in patients on supportive periodontal therapy.
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