The Manufacturing Process
Weighing and mixing
- After transporting the raw materials into the factory, the ingredients are both manually and mechanically weighed. This ensures accuracy in the ingredients’ proportions. Then the ingredients are mixed together. Usually, the glycerin-water mixture is done first.
- All the ingredients are mixed together in the mixing vat. The temperature and humidity of vat are watched closely. This is important to ensuring that the mix comes together correctly. A commonly used vat in the toothpaste industry mixes a batch that is the equivalent of 10,000 four-ounce (118 ml) tubes.
Filling the tubes
- Before tubes are filled with toothpaste, the tube itself passes under a blower and a vacuum to ensure cleanliness. Dust and particles are blown out in this step. The tube is capped, and the opposite end is opened so the filling machine can load the paste.
- After the ingredients are mixed together, the tubes are filled by the filling machine. To make sure the tube is aligned correctly, an optical device rotates the tube. Then the tube is filled by a descending pump. After it is filled, the end is sealed (or crimped) closed. The tube also gets a code stamped on it indicating where and when it was manufactured.
Packaging and shipment
- After tubes are filled, they are inserted into open paperboard boxes. Some companies do this by hand.
- The boxes are cased and shipped to warehouses and stores.
Every toothpaste contains the following ingredients: binders, abrasives, sudsers, humectants, flavors (unique additives), sweeteners, fluorides, tooth whiteners, a preservative, and water. Binders thicken toothpastes. They prevent separation of the solid and liquid components, especially during storage. They also affect the speed and volume of foam production, the rate of flavor release and product dispersal, the appearance of the toothpaste ribbon on the toothbrush, and the rinsibility from the toothbrush. Some binders are karaya gum, bentonite, sodium alginate, methylcellulose, carrageenan, and magnesiumaluminum silicate.
Abrasives scrub the outside of the teeth to get rid of plaque and loosen particles on teeth. Abrasives also contribute to the degree of opacity of the paste or gel. Abrasives may affect the paste’s consistency, cost, and taste. Some abrasives are harsher than others, sometimes resulting in unnecessary damage to the tooth enamel.
The most commonly used abrasives are hydrated silica (softened silica), calcium carbonate (also known as chalk), and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). Other abrasives include dibasic calcium phosphate, calcium sulfate, tricalcium phosphate, and sodium metaphosphate hydrated alumina. Each abrasive also has slightly different cleaning properties, and a combination of them might be used in the final product.
Sudsers, also known as foaming agents, are surfactants. They lower the surface tension of water so that bubbles are formed. Multiple bubbles together make foam. Sudsers help in removing particles from teeth. Sudsers are usually a combination of an organic alcohol or a fatty acid with an alkali metal. Common sudsers are sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfoacetate, dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate, sulfolaurate, sodium lauryl sarcosinate, sodium stearylfumarate, and sodium stearyl lactate.
Humectants retain water to maintain the paste in toothpaste. Humectants keep the solid and liquid phases of toothpaste together. They also can add a coolness and/or sweetness to the toothpaste; this makes toothpaste feel pleasant in the mouth when used. Most toothpastes use sorbitol or glycerinas humectants. Propylene glycolcan also be used as a humecants.
Toothpastes have flavors to make them more palatable. Mint is the most common flavor used because it imparts a feeling of freshness. This feeling of freshness is the result of long term conditioning by the toothpaste industry. The American public associates mint with freshness. There may be a basis for this in fact; mint flavors contain oils that volatize in the mouth’s warm environment. This volatizing action imparts a cooling sensation in the mouth. The most common toothpaste flavors are spearmint, peppermint, wintergreen, and cinnamon. Some of the more exotic toothpaste flavors include bourbon, rye, anise, clove, caraway, coriander, eucalyptus, nutmeg, and thyme.
In addition to flavors, toothpastes contain sweeteners to make it pleasant to the palate because of humecants. The most commonly used humectants (sorbitol and glycerin) have a sweetness level about 60% of table sugar. They require an artificial flavor to make the toothpaste palatable. Saccharin is the most common sweetener used, though some toothpastes contain ammoniated diglyzzherizins and/or aspartame.
Fluorides reduce decay by increasing the strength of teeth. Sodium fluoride is the most commonly used fluoride. Sodium perborateis used as a tooth whiteningingredient. Most toothpastes contain the preservative p-hydrozybenzoate. Water is also used for dilution purposes.