Most of us use toothpaste because it tastes good, it’s convenient and, frankly, we’re terrified we will be left toothless if we ditch the stuff.
But given that we brush our teeth up to 1,000 times a year, shouldn’t we take a closer look at the products we use? It turns out that most store bought toothpaste contains a number of worrying ingredients, and can cause more than its fair share of unpleasant side effects.
This article lists ten convincing reasons to stop using conventional toothpaste, and explores some natural alternatives to it.
Provent Tooth Damage
Considering that we use toothpaste to protect our health and promote good oral hygiene, it’s shocking to discover that long-term toothpaste use has been linked to tooth damage.
A 33 year long study, published in the International Dental Journal, proves that toothpaste abuse causes tooth damage and has for decades.
If you use more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste at every brushing (as many people do) then you are at risk of damaging your teeth in the long-term, causing the enamel to wear away and give a darker coloring to your teeth.
What’s more, most toothpastes contain hydrated silica, an abrasive agent which wears away the surface of the tooth and prevents re-mineralization – both of which can lead to cavities. Severe wear eventually occurs, causing the need for dental treatment to replace the lost enamel.
On the other hand, the study indicates that brushing alone, without toothpaste, does not cause the same degree of wear or tear.
Hormone Disruptors, Pesticides, Carcinogens & Irritants
Toothpaste contains a number of toxic ingredients, many of which pose serious health concerns. While we don’t actually eat our toothpaste, Dr. Mercola says that putting chemicals on the skin may actually be worse than eating them, because they enter the bloodstream without any filtering.
Some harsh chemicals found in toothpaste include:
- Triclosan – a registered pesticide which has been shown to disrupt hormones and contribute to antibiotic resistant bacteria. It has also been linked to allergies, weight gain, inflammatory responses, thyroid dysfunction, and possible fetal development issues in pregnant women. 2008 research found triclosan in the urine of nearly 75% of people tested.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) – interferes with the functioning of taste buds, causes skin irritation and, in animal studies, has caused eye damage, depression, labored breathing, diarrhea and even death.
- Propylene Glycol – a type of mineral oil and a known skin, eye, and lung irritant which may cause organ system toxicity.
- Diethanolamine (DEA) – linked with lesions and liver and kidney tumors in mice, with other animal studies finding that oral exposure to DEA leads to testicular degeneration and reduced sperm motility and sperm count.
- FD&C Blue Dye No. 2 – coloring that the Center for Science in the Public Interest says may be related to learning and behavioral issues, severe allergic reactions and other health problems.
Flavored With Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame are often added to commercial toothpastes. Unfortunately, many of these sweeteners have well-documented side effects. In fact, aspartame is one of the most controversial FDA approvals in history, and there have since been over 10,000 aspartame related complaints filed with the agency.
Researchers studying chronic illnesses say that conditions like Multiple Sclerosis (MS), epilepsy, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia and more can all be triggered or worsened by aspartame.
Although fluoride in our drinking water is a major health concern and the subject of much controversy, this chemical is also added to over 95% of conventional toothpastes in a bid to prevent tooth decay. It is so potent that the FDA requires a poison warning on every tube of fluoride toothpaste sold in the US.
If you ingest toothpaste containing this toxin, you risk permanent tooth discoloration (known as dental fluorosis), stomach ailments, acute toxicity, skin rashes, and problems metabolizing glucose.
Children who use fluoridated toothpaste are in even more danger of suffering negative side-effects. Research shows that it’s common for young children to swallow more fluoride from toothpaste alone than is recommended as an entire day’s ingestion from all sources!
This dangerous ingredient isn’t even as effective as is claimed by toothpaste manufacturers. A study has found that toothpaste containing a naturally occurring cacao extract was more effective than fluoride toothpaste at repairing and re-mineralizing teeth!
Mouth ulcers, or canker sores, are small shallow sores that occur in the mouth leading to pain and discomfort, especially when eating or talking. Stress, tissue injury, certain foods, or nutritional deficiencies are considered to be the main causes.
However, a growing body of research points to toothpaste containing sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) as a hidden cause of the sores.
Research discovered that this occurs because SLS strips away the protective lining of the mouth which, of course, leaves it more susceptible to injury, ulceration and pain.
While SLS-free toothpastes are becoming more common, manufacturers are using alternative names for this corrosive ingredient such as: monododecyl ester, sodium salt sulfuric acid, sodium dodecyl sulfate, sulfuric acid, sodium salt, aquarex methyl and more!
Anyone who suffers from sensitive teeth knows that this condition can take the joy out of eating ice-cream on a summer’s day!
People who use a whitening toothpaste may suffer from sensitive teeth more than most. That’s because additional chemicals are needed to remove stains. Tooth sensitivity can also be caused by whitening carried out by your dentist or by at home whitening kits. Effects can last for a short period of time, or be on-going.
For this reason, it’s best to stick to natural teeth whitening methods instead.
Tiny plastic pellets in toothpastes (and facial scrubs and body washes) are wreaking havoc on the environment.
These microbeads go down the drain and through the filters at the water treatment plant, where they are too small to be removed. They are then discharged into lakes, streams and oceans, acting as a sponge for toxins, pesticides and heavy metals. Because they resemble fish eggs, the beads are mistaken for food and ingested by small fish and other marine animals – leading to these toxins making their way up the food chain.
A report by New York’s attorney general states that up to 19 tons of microbeads could be discharged into the state’s waterways each year!
Microbeads Can Lodge in Your Teeth!
These microbeads don’t just damage our environment, they can damage teeth and gums too.
Dentists have reported finding the microbeads from Crest toothpaste in patients’ teeth, prompting Procter & Gamble to remove the beads – although many other toothpaste manufacturers still use them.
As the plastics can get trapped under the gum line, they leave space for food and bacteria to work their way in, causing gum disease.
Although a great many cosmetic manufacturers have vowed to phase out microbeads by 2017, with several US states also banning their use, the Personal Care Products Council is lobbying to have microbeads made from biodegradable plastics remain in personal care products.
Toothpaste is Unnecessary
Many dentists will admit that, while toothpaste is nice and convenient, it isn’t absolutely necessary for good oral hygiene.
Making Alternatives is Simple and Inexpensive
Even though you can pick up a tube of toothpaste for a dollar or two, why bother when making your own all-natural version is easy, healthier and can be done for just a few cents?
Natural Ways to Enjoy Healthy Teeth & Gums
While there are plenty of reasons to stop using conventional toothpaste, you can’t ditch your oral hygiene habits completely!
For stronger and healthier teeth, try to eat a tooth friendly diet, consider oil pulling and choose a natural toothpaste replacement. Keep reading to find out more about each of these steps.
Check Your Diet
Sugars and refined grains are the most important dietary factor in dental disease today, with the amount and frequency of sugar consumed determining the severity of the decay.
Avoid simple sugar in all its forms including sodas, candy, cookies, pastries, fruit juices and white breads and other refined grains, along with these 25 surprising sources of hidden sugar.
In addition, the American Dental Association recommends you:
- Drink plenty of water.
- Eat a variety of foods from each of the five major food groups, including:
- whole grains
- lean sources of protein such as lean beef, skinless poultry and fish; dry beans, peas and other legumes
- low-fat and fat-free dairy foods
- Limit snacks throughout the day as they can cause more damage than if the same foods were eaten as part of a meal. This occurs because more saliva is released during a meal, safeguarding teeth. If you must snack, choose fruits, vegetables or nuts.
This ancient Ayurvedic practice sees you rinse your mouth with a spoonful of oil for up to 20 minutes, several times a week.
Studies have shown that oil pulling is just as effective as conventional mouthwash at reducing both bad breath and gingivitis (mild gum disease). Researchers also acknowledge that it is one of the most effective natural solutions for preventing tooth decay and tooth loss.
Proponents of the practice say it reduces tooth sensitivity, whitens teeth and even boosts energy and immunity. Best of all, it comes without all the toxic ingredients found in conventional oral hygiene products.
To learn more about oil pulling – including the specific technique involved – read this article.
Natural Homemade Toothpaste Recipes
Making your own toothpaste couldn’t be easier. Here are some of the best recipes out there for making all-natural pastes using nourishing ingredients like coconut oil, essential oils, baking soda, calcium powder and even cinnamon.
Re-mineralizing Toothpaste – this homemade paste gets your teeth really clean, reduces sensitivity and puts important minerals like calcium back into your teeth. Ingredients include calcium powder, diatomaceous earth (optional), baking soda, coconut oil and essential oils for flavor – mint, cinnamon and orange are all good options.
Three Ingredient Toothpaste – for an easier blend, why not follow this recipe? Sea salt, peppermint essential oil and baking soda make for a salty but effective cleaner when mixed with filtered water.
Coconut Oil Paste – mix up a batch of this with baking soda, essential oil, stevia, glycerin and the main ingredient: coconut oil – known for its antibacterial and antiviral properties, and its ability to kill Candida, the yeast which causes oral thrush.
Cinnamon & Clove Tooth Powder – you can use this powder as you would a paste – just tip a little onto your toothbrush. Made with bentonite clay, calcium powder, baking soda, sea salt, cinnamon, cloves and activated charcoal. Both cloves and cinnamon are powerful antimicrobial agents with cinnamon shown to kill the bacteria that causes bad breath.
DIY Tooth Soap – yes, you can use actual soap in your mouth! It’s the perfect recipe for those who don’t like using baking soda on their teeth. Made with Dr. Bronner’s unscented or peppermint liquid castile soap, melted coconut oil, Xylitol or Stevia and essential oils of your choice.
Natural Whitening Toothpaste – with just two ingredients – activated charcoal and coconut oil – this is far less abrasive than conventional whitening toothpastes and won’t lead to teeth sensitivity (in fact, the coconut oil may even reduce sensitivity). The charcoal works by binding to many of the organic compounds that stain teeth, including coffee and red wine.
Using Baking Soda on Teeth
Many people have concerns that baking soda may be too abrasive for teeth and gums and worry it will wear away the enamel over time.
Tests have shown that baking soda, when used correctly, is actually less abrasive than the other toothpastes tested when used correctly.
The trick with baking soda (as with any toothpaste) is to only use a small amount – a pinch is plenty. Brush your teeth by starting with your molars and then moving to the facings and backs of the other teeth. Rinse out your mouth afterward with water as you would normally.