You try to do the best you can for your health, and that includes your oral health. Part of that includes brushing twice a day. But have you ever stopped to look at the ingredients in your toothpaste? Even if you have, it can be difficult to understand what all of those long words really mean. The thing with ingredients that you can’t pronounce is that they usually aren’t good. Let’s look at some common toothpaste ingredients a bit more closely.
- Fluoride – You may be asking what the big deal is about fluoride. It strengthens teeth and prevents cavities, right? Well, yes it does, but it is also found in pesticides and rat poison.
- Tin – If you see stannous fluoride on your ingredient list, it refers to a type of fluoride compound that contains tin. If you use fluoride toothpaste choose one with another type of fluoride. The most commonly used type of fluoride in toothpaste is sodium fluoride and is less toxic than stannous.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – Also the related chemical sodium laureth sulfate are added to toothpaste, shampoo and detergents to help them clean more effectively and to create suds. It is also linked to cell degeneration, ulcers and skin irritation.
- Triclosan – This chemical is found in many antibacterial products and has been shown to help prevent gingivitis. However, it is also used in some pesticides and has been linked to hormone disruption. It may also be contributing to antibiotic resistant bacteria, and there is evidence that triclosan may contribute to allergies.
- Propylene Glycol – The active ingredient in so-called nontoxic antifreeze. While it’s not as toxic as ethylene glycol, it has been linked to abnormalities in heart, liver, kidneys, and central nervous system.
- Diethanolamine (DEA) – Another foaming agent, repeated exposure has been linked to increased risk of liver and kidney cancers.
- Carrageenan – This red seaweed extract has been used as a food additive for centuries and is a vegetarian alternative to gelatin. What’s wrong with that, you ask? Carrageenan is linked to inflammation, particularly in the bowels, and some evidence suggest that it could be linked to certain cancers.
- Artificial sweeteners – Brushing your teeth is a bit of a chore, having a toothpaste that at least tastes good helps. The problem is that most commercial toothpastes are sweetened with artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, sucralose or aspartame. All of these sweeteners have been linked to a whole host of health issues, including brain tumors and lymphoma. Look for a toothpaste that is either unsweetened or is sweetened with xylitol, which is also a cavity fighter, or stevia.
I hear you saying you don’t swallow your toothpaste, but even if you don’t (and swallowing small amounts is nearly unavoidable), many of these chemicals are easily absorbed into the skin, especially the thin skin inside the mouth. If you are concerned with your toothpaste, you can try your hand at making your own. A very simple, yet extraordinary toothpaste you can make from home, involves mixing a bit of baking soda with a bit of coconut oil. Add a bit of xylitol (available at your local health food store) and a few drops of essential oil or flavoring oil for taste, but these are not strictly necessary.