It’s 11 pm. You’re laying in bed exhausted, but ugh, you forgot to brush your teeth. Sound familiar? You get up to brush your teeth, and now your mouth feels clean and smells minty fresh. But, have you ever wondered about your toothpaste ingredients?
What To Look Out For
As I mentioned in my post about hand sanitizers, triclosan can still be found in toothpaste. Were you curious to know which one? It is the only toothpaste in the U.S. that contains triclosan–Colgate Total.
Although some argue adding triclosan is more effective at reducing plaque and gingivitis, keep in mind that chemicals can get rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream through the gums. It was found that people who used Colgate Total had more than five times the amount of triclosan in their urine compared to people who didn’t use it. It’s also a bit confusing why triclosan would be banned in a topical product like body wash but still allowed in an oral product. That’s because Colgate Total managed to convince the FDA that the benefits of triclosan outweighed the risks. Thus, it was allowed on the market in 1997.
Dr. Chen, a dentist practicing in California for over 10 years, warns against the use of triclosan, “My motto has always been better safe than sorry. I would avoid triclosan because it introduces a risk factor when really the most important practice is simply to brush and floss your teeth in order to mechanically remove food debris, plaque, and bacteria. Aside from that, just buy the toothpaste that you feel the most comfortable with and the one that makes you actually enjoy brushing your teeth.”
What other chemicals do I need to avoid in toothpaste?
You may want to beware of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), PEG compounds, butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), color additives, and carrageenan. What exactly is carrageenan? Derived from red algae, manufacturers commonly add carrageenan to foods and healthcare products like toothpaste. It adds no nutritional value or flavor but rather functions as a thickener and emulsifier to improve the texture of yogurt, soy milk, ice cream, and even baby formula.
Carrageenan is particularly destructive to the digestive system, activating an immune response that increases inflammation. There are two forms of carrageenan—undegraded carrageenan (food grade) and degraded carrageenan, called poligeenan. Both forms can cause inflammation in our bodies and other health problems like increased intestinal permeability and digestive troubles. Animal studies have linked carrageenan with gastrointestinal diseases (i.e. colon cancer, ulcerative colitis, intestinal ulcerations) and possibly diabetes.
In November 2016, the National Organic Standards Board voted to remove carrageenan from the national list of substances allowed in organic food. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture determines the final say in November 2018. So, although carrageenan may sound like a harmless natural ingredient, I would avoid it in foods and healthcare products, especially if you have a history of gastrointestinal problems. The reason why I went into more detail about it is because you might find toothpastes marketed as carrageenan free. Before writing this blog, I had never even heard of carrageenan! This is also a great example showing that naturally derived doesn’t always equate to “good” or “harmless.” Just because it came from a coconut or red algae doesn’t mean you should slather it all over your body.
What about children? What toothpaste should they use? Is fluoride in toothpaste safe?
Regarding young children under 8 years of age, you may want to use a toothpaste that is fluoride free. Why? Excessive fluoride intake during the first 8 years of life potentially leads to dental fluorosis, a defect of tooth enamel.
Severe cases of fluorosis lead to pitted and discolored enamel. Don’t get me wrong. Fluoride effectively prevents tooth decay and should be used in older children and adults. However, it was difficult to find a good natural toothpaste that did contain fluoride. Until then, adults can supplement with a fluoride mouthwash or ask their dentist about fluoride varnishes.
Best Toothpastes I Like
Nature’s Gate Natural Toothpaste
Why I Like It: After looking at all the ingredients, the only toothpaste brand I like is Nature’s Gate. 97% of its ingredients are natural. They use sodium lauroyl sarcosinate, which is NOT the same thing as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). Since they have the same initials, it may be a bit confusing. Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate functions as a cleanser and foam booster as well, but it’s a lot more mild and not expected to be harmful. The toothpaste is also vegan, non GMO, gluten free, paraben free, sulfate free, and carrageenan free. It’s fluoride free which is perfect for young kids who might accidentally ingest the toothpaste.