I’m on a mission to become healthier. I thought I was doing quite well until a friend recently pointed out that there were some potentially very harmful ingredients in toothpaste. I began researching, and immediately got rid of the Colgate, and began searching for alternatives. There is quite a choice of ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ toothpastes but you still need to carefully read the labels. I’ve tried a few now, and some of them do take a bit of getting used to, but it’s really worth persisting!
Along with the minty freshness, regular toothpaste contains a mixture of abrasives, detergents, humectants (for retaining moisture), binder, flavours, astringents (drying agents), preservatives, antibacterial agents, colourings and fragrances (1). Many toothpastes do not have a full list of ingredients on the packet in spite of the known toxicity of some of the common chemicals used. The regulations regarding the ingredients for toothpaste in Australia are vague and only the active ingredients need to be listed, however the inactive ingredients can be just as, or even more, toxic (1).
The main active ingredient found in commercial toothpaste is fluoride. Although used extensively, fluoride has not yet proven effective in reducing tooth decay. Instead, the health of teeth has been shown to be related to the educational and economic level of the family. Studies have shown that tooth decay is virtually the same in both fluoridated areas and non-fluoridated areas (1).
The use of fluorides in toothpaste and its known toxicity is the subject of an ongoing debate between manufacturers, consumers and regulatory bodies. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now requires the following warning on all fluoridated toothpastes ‘if you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek professional help orcontact a poison control centre immediately’ (1).
There have been a number of recorded instances where ingesting only a small amount of fluoridated toothpaste can result in vomiting (2). Fluoride is particularly dangerous to young children (and under the age of two, it’s quite difficult to teach your child not to swallow toothpaste), yet it is still found (albeit at reduced levels) in many children’s toothpastes.
Other common ingredients in toothpaste are saccharin, sodium lauryl suphate (SLS), glycerin, triclosan, propylene glycol, glyceryl nitrate, fragrance and colour. SLS is a detergent used as a foaming agent and is listed as a poison and an irritant. It binds to tissue, so is not removed by simply rinsing the mouth with water. SLS also damages the friendly bacteria in the mouth, while leaving others, such as streptococci and E coli, unharmed and may also cause mouth ulcers and periodontitis (gum disease) (3). Information on potentially harmful ingredients in toothpaste and other personal care products , can be found at http://www.greenlifeorganics.com.au/HomeEnvironment.html#ChemicalstoAvoid.
Most consumers are unaware that toothpaste, ingested in even small amounts can be highly toxic. Yet these ingredients, with the exception of fluoride, have no apparent function in dental hygiene (1).
The Environmental Working Group has a website called Skin Deep. This site is an excellent resource for consumers as it lists thousands of personal care products and rates them on how safe their ingredients are.
At Skin Deep, you can find ratings for hundreds of different toothpastes (and other personal care items) rated from 0-10, zero being the safest. Each item’s score is explained in detail and safer options are given. It’s a really useful site, and interestingly, the only toothpaste to be given a ‘zero’ rating was Miessence. Toothpastes with a score of 4 (moderate hazard) and above include: Crest Tartar Protection Tartar Control; Crest Kids Spider-Man Super Action Liquid Gel; Orajel Toddler Training Toothpaste; Colgate Kids 2 in 1; Colgate Total Plus Whitening; Mentadent and Crest Sensitivity.
Visit Skin Deep and find out how your own toothpaste rates if it’s not listed above. Then decide if you need to make some changes to one with a lower score.
GLO currently stock the following toothpastes: Miessence (in mint, lemon and anaise flavours, AU$9.25); Natures Goodness Olive Leaf (AU$6.80); and Natures Goodness Snappy Jaws (in orange, pineapple and strawberry, AU$ 5.50).
This information is not intended as medical advice. Everyone should make their own health care decisions, with advice from qualified professionals.
- Peter Dingle & Toni Brown, Dangerous Beauty Cosmetics and Personal Care