You brush your teeth morning and night, but how often do you stop to think about your toothpaste? Our mouths are like sponges. They’re incredibly absorbent, which means that as you’re brushing and swishing, your gums are exposed to the ingredients lurking in your toothpaste. Most commercial toothpastes are chock-full of chemicals, and some of those can make their way into your body – even if you spit most of it out!
Let’s brush up on the facts.
Many of the ingredients that give your toothpaste its colour, flavour and texture are, put simply, artificial chemicals. For a healthy mouth, steer clear of tubes listing these nasties:
Often found in anti-bacterial products (like soap and detergent), triclosan is a chemical which studies have shown may be an endocrine disruptor. It has been linked to hormonal imbalance and antibiotic resistance. It’s quickly absorbed by the body, and pops up on toothpastes claiming to treat gingivitis.
A detergent and cleansing agent, sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) is what makes your toothpaste foam up in the mouth. It comes at a cost. SLS interferes with tastebuds (you know how everything tastes weird after brushing your teeth?), and has been linked to skin and eye irritation as well as mouth sores. No thanks.
Usually spotted on hairspray labels, PVM/MA is a water fixative that makes triclosan stick to your teeth and gums for longer. Manufacturers spin this in a positive way, saying that it helps your toothpaste to kill even more bacteria, but from a health perspective, it means those toxins spend even more time in your mouth.
This is a mineral oil whose industrial-grade version is used in paint and enamel. In toothpaste, it’s a surfactant that helps with the foaming action. It’s a known skin, eye and lung irritant, and over time, it can affect the kidney and liver. People that work with propylene glycol have to wear gloves for safety, so it’s not something you want to be brushing those pearly whites with.
Another foaming ingredient, DEA is readily absorbed by the body. It works to disrupt hormones, and if it comes in contact with certain other chemicals, it can become a carcinogen.
The majority of chemicals in commercial toothpastes are inactive – in other words, they’re just in there to make the toothpaste smell, taste and look pretty. Aspartame is commonly used to give toothpaste that minty flavour, while synthetic food dyes give it the colour to match. These additives may cause headaches and allergic reactions in some cases, as well as irritation to the gums and inside of the mouth.
One of the most hotly debated ingredients in toothpaste, fluoride is a compound that helps to protect teeth from decay. It also reduces discomfort, and repairs weak spots on the surface of the tooth. That’s where its claim to fame ends. Over time, fluoride can have an impact on digestive enzymes, and mess with hormones, which are already so delicate. To avoid swallowing fluoride, look for toothpaste that contains an alternative, such as coconut oil or cinnamon oil.
Now, let’s talk about the benefits of going down the natural route. The reason is simple really: the less chemicals you’re exposed to, the better! Natural toothpastes have come a long way, and there are plenty that are just as good at cleaning and protecting your teeth without the help of hidden nasties. We love Grants of Australia Mild Mint with Aloe Vera.
It contains xylitol and aloe vera for their cleansing and healing properties, and natural herbs to freshen the breath and keep the mouth healthy. It has a mild mint flavour, and is ideal for those with sensitive teeth and gums. The best bit? It looks, feels and tastes just like the ‘normal’ toothpastes you may be used to. Win!
Have you made the switch to natural toothpastes?