Antibacterial toothpaste is a dental treatment designed to eliminate harmful bacteria in the mouth, particularly between teeth and in gum beds. Most ordinary toothpastes contain low levels of antibacterial ingredients in order to promote general oral hygiene. In some sense, then, nearly every toothpaste could be considered "antibacterial." The term is usually reserved for specially formulated products designed to treat certain unusual bacterial conditions. Chronic dry mouth and bad breath, known medically as "halitosis," are two of the most common conditions for which specially-designed antibacterial toothpastes are recommended.
The human mouth is a haven for bacteria, in part because of its warm, wet nature, but also because of how often food and outside substances are introduced. Not all bacteria is harmful, and some actually helps keep the mouth's chemical composition balanced. Malicious bacteria can grow on trapped food particles and plaque build-ups, however, which is why dentists usually recommend brushing teeth after meals and before bed. Some medical conditions cause this sort of "bad" bacteria to grow exponentially, such that regular brushing cannot curb it. Heavy-duty antibacterial toothpaste is usually needed in this sort of situation.
Antibacterial toothpaste typically contains high concentrations of bacteria-killing agents. Triclosan, a chemical compound made up primarily of chlorine, oxygen, and hydrogen, is one of the most popular compounds. This compound is not usually considered a medication. As such, most antibacterial toothpastes are available over the counter and without a prescription. They are typically much more expensive than standard dental products, and there is usually far less of a selection when it comes to brands and flavors.
Different brands of antibacterial toothpaste provide different benefits and are often formulated for specific conditions. Products targeted to individuals suffering from dry mouth are usually low-foaming, which means that the paste will not react with water to create bubbles the way most toothpastes will. A toothpaste designed for a patient with bad breath will usually contain chemical compounds specifically aimed at halitosis bacteria, and may also have a stronger, more long-lasting scent for an improved feeling of mouth freshness.
Doctors often recommend that patients with either chronic dry mouth or halitosis use antibacterial toothpaste in place of ordinary toothpaste, typically every day at first but often every other day or a few times a week once conditions come under control. Antibacterial toothpaste is usually just as effective at cleaning teeth as ordinary versions, but can be harsher on tooth enamel. Killing malicious bacteria is an important part of keeping the mouth healthy, but strong teeth are crucial, too.
Most antibacterial toothpastes are manufactured commercially, but some dentists and oral health specialists also market their own labels. These are often packaged in treatment kits for the medical conditions of dry mouth or halitosis. Not all independent toothpaste distributors are licensed dentists or medical practitioners, which often means that a bit of research into their products and methods is required before beginning any sort of treatment program. The sale of antibacterial toothpaste is not always regulated as tightly as the sale of other medical and health products, which often means that the onus for safety is on the consumer.