I am feeling pretty good about the progress, albeit slow, I’ve made replacing household products with safe and clean alternatives. However, one product I haven’t tackled and need to is toothpaste. It goes into our mouth 2 times per day, 365 days per year. I know you spit it out, but it’s probably safe to say we end up swallowing a smidgen, and over time, I can imagine the amount of swallowed toothpaste adds up. My 2½ year old will also be brushing with “normal” toothpaste soon and he certainly will swallow some. It raises an interesting question about what we’re actually ingesting.
What’s in Toothpaste?
According to the American Dental Association, toothpaste contains the following parts with examples of each, and why they’re included.
Abrasives to remove debris and residual surface stains. Examples include calcium carbonate, dehydrated silica gels, hydrated aluminum oxides, magnesium carbonate, phosphate salts and silicates.
Fluoride to strengthen tooth enamel and remineralize tooth decay.
Humectants to prevent water loss in the toothpaste. Examples include glycerol, propylene, glycol and sorbitol.
Flavoring agents, sweeteners, and coloring agents. Examples include saccharin and other sweeteners to provide taste.
Thickening agents or binders to stabilize the toothpaste formula. They include mineral colloids, natural gums, seaweed colloids or synthetic cellulose.
Detergents to create foaming action. They include sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium lauroyl sarcosinate.
Here’s the caveat. Several of these ingredients used in conventional toothpaste are being questioned about their safety. Here are four ingredients to consider avoiding the next time you purchase toothpaste.
Most are probably aware many toothpastes and mouth rinses contain fluoride. Dentists have recommended fluoride for years to prevent cavities. However, fluoride has become a very controversial topic over the past few years, and whether to avoid it or include it in your toothpaste depends on who you ask.
Fluoride strengthens teeth. However, too little or too much fluoride can be detrimental to the teeth. While government reports warn fluoridated drinking water can dramatically reduce cavities and tooth decay by up to 90%, too much of it might cause spots on kids’ teeth. According to a CDC study, 2 out of 5 adolescents have tooth streaking or spottiness due to excessive fluoride. In extreme cases, teeth can even be pitted by the mineral.
Children`s toothpaste often come in flavors that taste like candy or bubblegum, which may tempt children to swallow it. This can be a problem since the warning states even small amounts of fluoride swallowed can cause serious health risks.
For parents with children, reducing dental caries can also be achieved by reducing your child’s teeth expose to sugary foods and drinks. Limit the use of sippy cups to only water.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
Before the 1940s, toothpaste contained soap. Now Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is used as the detergent in toothpaste, which makes the toothpaste lather in your mouth. It’s commonly found in shampoos for the same purpose. SLS has a reputation for being a skin irritant, and in one study, a significantly higher frequency of canker sores (aphthous ulcers) occurred when the patients brushed with an SLS-containing toothpaste.
Researchers speculate SLS dries out the protective mucous lining in the mouth...making it vulnerable to irritants that lead to canker sores.
Triclosan is an active ingredient in toothpaste and an endocrine-disrupting chemical that can cause brain damage and cancer. It causes bacterial resistance to antibiotics, not to mention a major environmental pollutant that is bioaccumulating in fish and other aquatic organisms.
Artificial Colors such as FD&C Yellow 5 and Blue 1 are fake dyes produced from petroleum and can have toxic effects at moderate doses. They can trigger a wide number of behavioral, learning, and health problems. Over several decades of use, some of these synthetic dyes have come under greater scientific and government scrutiny due to their carcinogenic and mutagenic activity. Because of this, they are still referred to in the industry as coal tar dyes, according to the US FDA.
In marketing toothpaste, companies have added whitening ingredients, fizzy flavors, and lots of other crummy ingredients we have to put in our mouth daily. I don’t like this and don’t want this exposure for myself, my husband, and certainly not my children. I will keep you posted as I begin my search for a natural toothpaste that keeps my teeth clean, prevents cavities, and does contain a bunch of potentially toxic ingredients.
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods