by Emy Breitenwischer, BS Food Science & Nutrition, Concentration in Dietetics
We’ve been taught since we were little to brush our teeth in the morning and in the evening to maintain adequate oral hygiene. Research has even shown that good oral hygiene has a strong connection to your overall health by helping to ward off serious medical problems. While we floss and brush to prevent plaque and cavities, have we ever thought about the ingredients in our toothpaste and how they may also affect our health?
You may not think the small amount of toothpaste you brush with will actually have an impact on your health, but it does add up over time. If a person brushes their teeth 2x/every day, they will generally go through about 20 gallons of toothpaste in their lifetime (wow!). What many don’t realize is that your mouth is one of the most absorbent places in the entire body (ever wonder why certain medications/vitamins are administered under your tongue?), and even if you spit out most of the toothpaste you use, some of the chemicals in traditional toothpastes still make their way into your bloodstream. With a more holistic approach to health nowadays, isn’t there a better alternative to keeping our teeth and gums healthy?
Having a nutrition background, I love researching alternative & holistic approaches to health, but it’s always a personal choice – so what works for some, may not work for others, the decision is up to you! Below I’ve complied a list of ingredients in traditional toothpastes you may want avoid & ingredients you may find in non-toxic toothpastes. Also remember, diet is also very important in regards to tooth decay, as sugar is the primary culprit of cavities (whether it’s excess consumption of candy or carbohydrates). To keep your teeth at optimal strength, aim for foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, fresh whole foods, vegetables, and grass-fed meats, and avoid processed & refined sugars.
Ingredients in Conventional Toothpastes to Avoid:
Fluoride – it can can strengthen teeth and can reduce the risk of cavities, but it’s a toxic chemical that accumulates in tissues over time, suppresses immune system & may produce number of serious adverse health effects like neurological and endocrine dysfunction
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) – responsible for foaming action; linked to skin irritation & canker sores, registered as an insecticide
Triclosan – used for its antibacterial & anti-fungal properties, but may actually kill all the good bacteria in mouth, too leading to infection or stinky breath; may have long term effects on hormones, reproductive problems or possible cancer
Diethanolamine – also used to help foam; possible cancer & organ toxicity
Artifical Sweetners and/or Colors – possible mood problems, dizziness, digestive issues
Glycerin – sweetening & preserving agent; coats teeth with film that can take 2-3 dozen rinses to get off, which blocks them from naturally re-mineralizing & over time can weaken teeth & create the conditions of accelerated tooth decay
Carrageenan – used as a binder, thickening agent & stabilizer; may cause GI problems, inflammation, ulcerations, intestinal lesions, fetal toxicity, birth defects, immune suppression & more
Ingredients Found in Non-Toxic Toothpastes:
Below are some of my favorite alternative options – while they do tend to be a little more expensive, it’s worth it in the long run (especially for those who may not have dental insurance or want to avoid going to the dentist). I’ve personally been using Earthpaste & have really enjoyed it! While the non-foaming aspect is very weird initially, my teeth have never felt so clean! Or, plain coconut oil is a great alternative, too, due to it’s antifunal & antibacterial properties.
Or here’s a DIY Peppermint & Coconut Oil Recipe!
- 1/2 cup bentonite clay
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 2/3 cup water
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1 tsp. stevia (optional)
- 1 to 4 drops peppermint essential oil
Mix the clay and salt in a bowl. Add the water. Mix well. Add the rest of ingredients. Mix well again until it forms a paste. Store it in a jar with a lid. Every time you go to use it, spoon some onto your toothbrush. Dampen the paste by putting your brush under some gently running water. Brush as usual.