Innovative silica chemistry that ends up on your toothbrush

After decades of encouraging us to brush our teeth with abrasive toothpastes that fight plaque, the dental trend these days is leaning towards softer formulations that ‘go easy’ on the teeth. The current challenge in oral care is thus creating toothpastes that prevent cavities while protecting the delicate tooth enamel. And this is where Solvay silica comes into play…

Softness and abrasiveness simultaneously

A couple of decades ago, no one paid much attention to the subject of enamel erosion. More recently though, dentists have started identifying it as a public health issue, and now manufacturers want to offer products that answer that demand, in the form of toothpastes that won’t scratch the enamel too hard.

Tixosil® by Solvay, is a family of products comprising various grades of silica for oral care: Tixosil® 63, Tixosil® 73 and Soft Clean™, from most to least abrasive. “By using different types of silica - a white milled powder -, the abrasion level can be adjusted, whether it’s for toothpaste formulations for teeth whitening or for sensitive teeth,” explains Francesca Peditto, Global Technical Marketing Manager at Solvay Silica’s Consumer & Industrial Goods. “Our customers can choose the most relevant grade according to the formulation they want.” (Other grades of silica are also used to regulate the flow or rheology of toothpaste, to ensure it comes out of the tube easily but doesn’t run off your toothbrush.)

“It’s a matter of finding the right compromise,” explains Anne-Laure Pinault, R&I Manager at Solvay Silica’s Consumer & Industrial Goods. “Cleaning the teeth and fighting cavities are the basic requirements for toothpaste, but in recent years, manufacturers have had to offer products that also take into account tooth and gum sensitivity, so the abrasiveness has to be reduced to a minimum, while staying effective. It’s up to us to constantly work on new materials so we can adapt to new needs and demands.” 

Soft Clean™, the least abrasive and most recent grade in Solvay’s Tixosil® family has been designed to meet the market’s current demand for softness while still offering sufficient abrasiveness to get teeth clean. 


Advanced materials and innovation for oral care

Relying on their extensive product knowledge, innovation teams at Solvay work hand-in-hand with their customers – global personal care manufacturers whose brands we’re all familiar with – to keep up with an ever-evolving market. “It’s about creating a partnership in order to really understand their needs,” says Francesca. “We also keep a close eye on the market and its evolutions, so that ultimately we can co-develop new products with manufacturers that will enter the market at the right time, with the right properties.”

We have to create a partnership with our customers and ultimately co-develop new products with them that will enter the market at the right time, with the right properties.

Francesca Peditto, Global Technical Marketing Manager, Consumer & Industrial Goods, Solvay Silica

Finding the right toothpaste chemistry

When silica started being used as a cleaning agent in toothpaste in the 1970s, it was chosen because it’s the mineral that’s most compatible with fluorine, which made its appearance in toothpaste around that time as well. In order to enjoy all the cavity prevention benefits of fluorine, a replacement had to be found for the abrasives that had been used so far, like calcium carbonate. The same rule stands today: “The products we develop have to guarantee that the silica will not conflict with the therapeutic actives in the oral care formulation,” explains Francesca. “And since manufacturers are constantly looking for new actives, we have to work on the characteristics of our silica so that it’s as flexible as possible.”

At present, the big market trend that will develop over the next five to ten years is enamel reconstruction. “It’s an objective we’re currently working on that requires combining several additional elements with our silica,” says Anne-Laure. “Oral care is a market that requires constant innovation. Over the years, Solvay has developed a solid knowledge of silica physico-chemistry, so we can innovate much faster!”