More and more people are seeking natural alternatives to the products they use in, on, and around their bodies. Most people didn’t realize that the toothpaste offerings provided by most major brands are almost entirely artificial. Natural toothpaste is a completely separate market. Natural toothpaste that doesn’t utilize any unnecessary ingredients is even more difficult to find.
Becoming an informed, discerning toothpaste shopper is its own process. In order to know if a toothpaste is safe, effective, healthy, and natural, you need to understand a whole host of ingredients. There are plenty of ingredients in conventional toothpaste that have no real need to be there. Knowing what to avoid and why you should avoid it will make you a smarter consumer.
The Issue With Triclosan
Triclosan is an antibacterial ingredient used in a whole host of products. It’s an additive in at least one major variety of toothpaste. You’ll also find it in hand soaps, body washes, and medical sanitizing products. Companies often use triclosan to sanitize equipment in factories or finished products before they’re shipped to stores or consumers.
The reason triclosan toothpaste is a bit harder to stumble upon is because of the FDA’s regulations. Per the FDA, any oral care product containing triclosan must first past FDA testing for claims and safety. If it doesn’t pass, it can’t be marketed. This is a lengthy and expensive process. Most brands simply dropped triclosan from their ingredients when the requirement became active. They didn’t want to go through the rigamarole.
Colgate is one of the only brands that stuck it out. They submitted test results and presented to the FDA their findings - that triclosan was able to kill some bacteria responsible for causing gingivitis. The FDA was receptive to their findings to a degree. Colgate was able to continue to sell their triclosan toothpaste.
The FDA’s own studies have found that triclosan doesn’t actually do anything that normal soap and water wouldn’t do. Environmental organizations agree, and have classified triclosan as a contaminant of concern. Most organizations outside of surgical organizations do not recommend the use of triclosan. Results show that triclosan is an effective preventative measure or treatment for MRSA bacteria, but it doesn’t have a place in many other applications.
Triclosan kills many bacteria, including the good bacteria you need to keep your mouth and gut healthy. It also accumulates. If you brush your teeth with a triclosan toothpaste every day for two weeks, the amount of triclosan residue in your toothbrush will exponentially increase. You won’t be exposing your body to the same amount of triclosan every day - you’ll be exposing it to substantially more. These high dosages may be cause for concern, as studies were never conducted to deem triclosan safe in such large amounts.
The Issue With Fluoride
Fluoride is a highly controversial ingredient that deeply divides people. On one hand, fluoride is actually proven to have real benefits to dental health. Fluoride is a naturally occuring mineral found in dirt, rocks, and some plants. It isn’t artificial in nature, which on the surface might appear to be a good thing. Fluoride can remineralize teeth, strengthening them and helping to prevent dental cavities.
On the other hand, the consequences of overexposure to fluoride can be extremely harmful. It’s definitely possible to have too much of a good thing, and fluoride is proof. Although fluoride related illness is more common in countries where people depend heavily on groundwater, they still occur in fully developed countries.
If you’ve ever seen or purchased children’s toothpaste, you may have noticed that it’s always labelled as fluoride free. Toddlers have a tendency to swallow a lot of toothpaste. Swallowing a lot of toothpaste that contains fluoride can lead to overall health complications. Dental fluorosis and skeletal fluorosis can both occur as a direct result of overexposure to fluoride.
Fluorosis leaves teeth or bones hard, discolored, brittle, and stiff. Bones may become so heavily fortified that tendons begin to calcify. Teeth can develop irregularly shaped brown stains that don’t always respond to conventional whitening procedures. Adult teeth with dental fluorosis stains often require dental bonding procedures or crowns to restore their normal appearance.
The risks of frequent fluoride use may not be worth the reward. In developed countries, people have access to the necessary dental hygiene supplies and a higher quality diet. If the teeth are properly cared for, fluoride isn’t always necessary. There are alternative methods of remineralizing or protecting the teeth should they weaken.
Fluoride is an ingredient you should only use if you understand the risks and feel comfortable with your decision. You’re likely getting small amounts of fluoride from the water that you drink, so using a fluoridated toothpaste would be double dipping.
The Issue With SLS
SLS, or sodium lauryl sulfate, is a lathering ingredient. It’s used in soaps and shampoos to create the big fluffy white clouds of foamy bubbles that come from the friction of scrubbing. Other than that, sodium lauryl sulfate doesn’t actually do anything besides strip necessary oils from the skin, teeth, and hair. SLS is not unsafe - it’s simply unnecessary.
While there’s something satisfying about a foamy lather, it’s not necessary for properly cleansing. It makes us feel cleaner, but it actually makes us a little too clean. Not all of the oils and films your body produces are inherently harmful or dirty. They serve important purposes. Your scalp produces oils to protect itself. Your skin creates a layer called a lipid barrier that helps it retain moisture. Your mouth creates a biofilm to seal in good bacteria that create a balance ideal for your oral health.
Sodium lauryl sulfate strips away all of your body’s natural lines of defenses. If you have dry skin, dry hair, or a dry mouth, it could be directly related to the products you use. Switching to sulfate free products will allow your body to work the way it is supposed to. Many people who experience canker sores find that switching to a sulfate free toothpaste reduces the frequency at which they occur.
Using Natural Antibacterial Ingredients in Toothpaste
There are plenty of highly effective natural alternatives to ingredients like triclosan in toothpaste. Coconut oil and nano silver take different approaches to promote oral health while eliminating harmful bacteria from the mouth.
Coconut oil is naturally high in a fatty acid called lauric acid. The body utilizes lauric acid as a natural antibacterial, antipathogenic, and antifungal. Coconut oil can kill bacteria on contact. Better still, the texture of coconut oil will draw and trap bacteria, making it even more effective at eliminating them from your mouth. Simply spit them out along with the residue from your toothpaste.
Nano silver works in a completely different way. Silver (yes, like the kind used for making jewelry) has naturally occurring antibacterial properties. One silver molecule will steal one electron from one bacteria molecule, helping to weaken it. Nano silver, which is tiny invisible particles of silver, has been specially charged.
The core of each nano silver molecule is coated with another special kind of silver that also steals electrons. Nano silver robs electrons from bacteria at a 1 to 1,000 ratio, making it highly effective at destroying the cell wall of bacteria.
Better still, the damage to the cell wall of the bacteria makes it porous. It absorbs as much silver as it can hold and takes it back to its bacteria buddies, destroying them in the process. Both the silver and the dead bacteria are gently flushed away from your system. The silver was never harmful to your body, and the bacteria is too damaged or destroyed to be harmful to your body.
Alternatives to Fluoride
Your teeth can be remineralized by minerals other than fluoride. Calcium is among the best alternatives. Coral calcium is a rich source of calcium that contains more than 70 trace minerals. These trace minerals work together to penetrate and repair your teeth without any potential risk of fluorosis. There are no known health benefits or safety questions surrounding the use of naturally occurring coral calcium in oral care products.
Cavities can be prevented by using natural antibacterial ingredients and by using plaque preventatives. Xylitol is a natural sweetener that is often used to sweeten the kinds of chewing gum that dentists recommend. Xylitol creates a film over the teeth that prevents bacteria from sitting on the surface all day. Plaque can’t form and the enamel is kept safe. The result is teeth that are continuously protected, even while you’re eating breakfast.
Natural toothpaste can preserve the health of your mouth the same way that conventional toothpaste can. In fact, natural toothpaste might actually do a better job. Since these toothpastes don’t contain problematic ingredients, unsafe chemicals, or unnecessary additives, you aren’t exposing yourself to anything you don’t actually need.
Switching to natural toothpaste isn’t a sacrifice or a compromise. It’s an easy, common sense decision that’s simple to make. You have nothing to lose except the chemicals.