You would think that a product that goes into your mouth multiple times per day would be entirely safe and free of questionable ingredients. Unfortunately, after generations of use and the ensuing normalization of artificial ingredients, big brand and commercial toothpastes still contain chemicals of concern.
The good news is you don’t need these synthetic additives to enjoy good oral health.
Toothpaste Ingredients to Avoid
Never before have consumers had access to so much information about the chemicals and formulations of everyday products. Let’s take a look at the ingredients you will definitely want to avoid putting in your mouth:
Triclosan is a chlorinated aromatic compound that helps slow or stop the growth of bacteria, fungi, and mildew. Added to items like clothing, toys, cosmetics, cookware, and furniture, it is absorbed through the skin and mouth in small amounts. Since it is found in an array of consumer products, repeated daily exposures really do add up: a sample study of the U.S. population reported that concentrations of triclosan in urine was detected in nearly 75% of participants.
This is concerning because there is evidence that triclosan disrupts hormones and has a toxic effect on the body by impairing muscle contractions and slowing blood circulation. Its antibacterial properties, over time, can lead to compromised immune system function, as reported by a study that found people who have higher concentrations of it in their bodies were more likely to also suffer from allergies and hay fever. Its widespread use has been associated with the very serious problem of antimicrobial resistance to antibiotics.
Despite the FDA banning triclosan from hand soaps and body washes in September 2016, it is still allowed in toothpaste. Strange as it may seem for an ingredient to be banned from topical products but not oral products, the FDA was convinced that the benefits of triclosan in toothpaste (reducing plaque and gingivitis) outweighed the aforementioned health risks.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
A chemically processed soap derived from coconut oil, palm oil, or petroleum, sodium lauryl sulfate is an anionic surfactant found in cleaning products like shampoos, laundry detergents, dish soaps, and toothpaste. Easily recognized by its ability to generate suds, foam, and lather, SLS can irritate the skin when used in high doses.
The SLS content in toothpaste is usually limited to 0.5 to 2%, which can still have an irritating effect on the skin. People who suffer from aphthous stomatitis (canker sores) are well-advised to stay away from toothpastes containing SLS, as this ingredient can inflame the soft tissues in the mouth, causing painful cankers that won’t heal under continued use of SLS-containing toothpaste.
FD&C Blue 1
Also known as Brilliant Blue FCF, Blue 1 is a synthetic food coloring dye that is added to toothpaste to give it its bright blue stripes. Produced from petroleum, Blue 1 was approved by the FDA for use in foods and drugs in 1969. Since then, very few studies have been performed to evaluate its safety as an ingredient found within everyday products.
Even though Blue 1 is entirely cosmetic and holds no value for oral care, it was found to enter into the bloodstream through mucous membranes. In 2003, the FDA published a public health advisory on reports of toxicity associated with the use of Blue 1. Additionally, the Center for Science in the Public Interest evaluated the safety of several food dyes and concluded that there are too many unanswered questions about the possible harms posed by Blue 1, and recommended that further research be conducted before this dye can be considered safe.
Natural Toothpastes Alternatives
Thankfully there are plenty of natural, organic, and non-toxic toothpastes available on the market today that are made with real ingredients – and not something cooked up in the lab.
1. Dr. Bronner’s All-in-One Toothpaste
From the same folks who have brought us the wonderfully versatile and earth-friendly castile soap, Dr. Bronner’s is certainly a brand you can trust. Their all-in-one toothpaste cleans and whitens teeth while also reducing plaque and freshening breath. Made with 70 organic ingredients including coconut flour, aloe leaf juice, baking soda, peppermint oil, potassium cocoate, menthol crystals, and stevia leaf extract. Not only is Dr. Bronner’s toothpaste free of artificial colors, flavors, fluoride, and sweeteners, it is certified organic, vegan, non-GMO, and this product was never tested on animals. It is available to buy from here on Amazon.
2. Redmond Earthpaste
Available in lemon, wintergreen, cinnamon, and peppermint flavors, Earthpaste’s formulation is dead simple: all natural and real ingredients. It’s made using food-grade bentonite clay for polishing and cleansing, purified water, xylitol to sweeten and help prevent tooth decay, as well as a slew of essential oils (depending on the flavor) that will taste delicious while also providing anti-microbial effects for a fresh and clean mouth.
You might have heard that Earthpaste contains lead – it does, in miniscule doses. Lead is a naturally-occurring product of bentonite clay, and if you ate spinach today, you’ve already consumed five times the amount of lead in Earthpaste. If you still have concerns, here is a much more detailed explanation that should help put your mind at ease. You can buy this toothpaste here.
3. Desert Essence
Inspired by the age-old tradition of chewing twigs from the neem tree to clean teeth (which apparently does a better job than a toothbrush), Dessert Essence is made with neem extract and so it has natural antiseptic properties. Other ingredients include sea salt, tea tree oil and leaf extract, sodium coco-sulfate, wintergreen oil, and baking soda. Offering a deep clean that scrubs away plaque build-up, it is free of harsh abrasives and is gentle enough for people with sensitive gums. Ready to try it? Pick up a tube from here.
4. Lucky Teeth
With the triple action of remineralizing, whitening, and strengthening teeth and gums, Lucky Teeth is packed with lots of beneficial organic ingredients: activated charcoal to clean and whiten; antibacterial oils like coconut, tea tree, clove, sunflower seed, sweet almond, cinnamon, peppermint, and spearmint; baking soda for a bit of grit and to help reduce acids in the mouth; and xylitol to sweeten and fight cavities naturally. Unlike most toothpastes, Lucky Teeth comes in a jar instead of a tube – just mix it well before each use and drop a pea-sized amount on your toothbrush. If this is the toothpaste for you, grab a jar from this page on Amazon.
5. The Honest Company
In addition to their kid-friendly strawberry blast toothpaste, The Honest Company also has a minty fresh version for the adults. Vegan and gluten-free, this toothpaste is fortified with calcium for stronger bones and baking soda for polishing teeth. It also contains organic aloe, ginger and bisabolol (a derivative of German chamomile), green tea, and peppermint. Ready to try it? Get it here.
6. Davids Natural Toothpaste
Using the highest quality natural ingredients with a focus on sustainability, Davids Toothpaste is manufactured with 100% renewable wind power energy, and its packaging is completely recyclable. Aside from being vegan and cruelty-free, with no fluoride or artificial ingredients, Davids is formulated with baking soda, xylitol, peppermint and spearmint oil, stevia leaf extract, and anise seed extract. All of the ingredients used have been thoroughly vetted by the Environmental Working Group for safety and health. Pick up a tube of Davids Toothpaste from here.
7. Himalaya Botanique
Another toothpaste that incorporates the dental benefits of neem leaf extract, Himalaya Botanique is fresh and minty with a hint of pomegranate flavor. Made with thyme leaf oil, sea salt, xylitol, and peppermint leaves, its most unique ingredients include triphala – a trio of medicinal fruits – that have an anti-inflammatory effect on the gums and gum arabic which helps reduce bacteria in the mouth that causes gum disease and plaque. Try this toothpaste here.
8. J?SÖN Healthy Mouth
A company committed to natural and wholesome products since 1959, J?SÖN (which means “healer” in Greek) offers yet another option when it comes to cleaning your mouth with the power of plant extracts. The anti-plaque and tartar control formula includes tea tree oil, aloe vera gel, cinnamon oil, grapefruit and perilla seed extracts, clove flower oil, and parsley extract. Give J?SÖN a go by picking up a tube from here on Amazon.