All toothpastes fall into one of two categories. They are either therapeutic or cosmetic. Therapeutic toothpastes contain ingredients that have been shown to prevent of significantly reduce tooth decay and gingivities.

The makers of cosmetic dentifrices ( dentifrice refers all kinds of tooth cleansers, from pastes to gels to powders) promote these products for their ability to make your teeth whiter and brighter. These products either bleach the tooth itself or remove stains through abrasion or acid etching. Some manufactures may suggest that their toothpastes are both cosmetic and therapeutic, but unless they directly attack the disease process, manufacturers cannot claim that their products are therapeutic.