First thing in the morning and last thing at night, brushing our teeth is an essential part of our daily hygiene routines. Not only does this practice protect against bad breath, cavities, and stained teeth, but it also keeps our hearts healthy – research has shown a link between gum disease and the risk of developing heart problems.
No question, brushing our teeth frequently is something we should all be doing. But when you look at some of the common ingredients found in conventional toothpaste, it might make you think twice about what you are putting in your mouth.
From artificial sweeteners to toxic chemicals, many of these ingredients are anything but friendly to our health and wellbeing.
As always, knowledge is power. When we know more about the potentially nasty toxins lurking in our toothpaste, we can take steps to eliminate unsafe chemicals from our daily routines.
In this article, we’re looking at five of the major culprits found in many conventional toothpastes and discussing why we want to avoid them. We’ll also look at some of the safe and effective alternatives you can use to keep your teeth healthy and clean.
Toxins in Toothpaste
Sad but true, there are several potentially harmful chemicals lurking in the toothpaste we use every day. While small amounts of these chemicals won’t cause immediate harm, using them regularly means we are constantly exposed to them, increasing the risk of adverse effects.
Fluoride is an ingredient in most conventional toothpaste. But why?
In the early 1900s, dentists noticed that people who lived in areas where the water was naturally higher in fluoride had fewer cavities. Soon, a link between fluoride and dental hygiene was established and it became standard for toothpaste to include fluoride.
Fewer cavities sound like a good thing, right? Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there. Fluoride is a neurotoxin that has been linked to thyroid issues in adults and children alike.
One study in Canada found that adults with higher fluoride levels in their urine were more at risk of having an under active thyroid. Similarly, another study looking at Chinese school children noted that even low to moderate fluoride exposure affected their thyroid function – and had a knock-on effect on their IQ scores too.
If the risks to our health aren’t enough, fluoride can harm our teeth as much as it hurts them. Get too much, and it leads to brown spots and discoloration. This is known as fluorosis.
Younger children are especially at risk because they aren’t great at remembering to spit the toothpaste out instead of swallowing it.
We’ve written about the potential dangers of fluoride in the past, so if you want to dive deeper into the risks, check out our post here.
Propylene glycol is a common ingredient in paint and antifreeze and was dubbed the 2018 Allergen of the Year by the American Contact Dermatitis Society. So, you’d be forgiven for wondering what it is doing in your toothpaste in the first place.
Apparently, this is a texture thing. The propylene glycol helps make toothpaste smoother and stops it from drying out.
Smooth texture aside, large amounts of propylene glycol can be toxic and may lead to serious health complications, including kidney damage and sepsis-like symptoms.
Although it doesn’t appear in toothpaste in such high quantities and is considered safe by the FDA, most of us will think twice about putting this toxic ingredient in our mouths.
Parabens are common preservatives and are found in many personal care products, including toothpaste. However, a longer shelf life isn’t worth the risks associated with this group of toxins, which have been attracting attention for years because of their effect on our hormones.
According to the Environmental Working Group, parabens are endocrine disruptors that can mimic estrogen in our bodies. They’ve been linked with everything from lowered fertility to an increased risk of breast cancer.
The active ingredients in conventional toothpaste aren’t exactly delicious. As a result, most manufacturers add artificial sweeteners to make them more palatable.
Common sweeteners found in toothpaste include saccharin and aspartame.
Saccharin is one of the most used artificial sweeteners and is generally considered safe, especially when compared with actual sugar.
However, a 2019 study into the long-term effects of this sweetener on rats found that it was associated with an increased risk of diabetes, obesity, and impaired kidney and liver function.
Granted, humans aren’t rats. But the study raises some questions about how safe saccharin is when we are using it daily in our mouth.
Human studies on the safety of aspartame are limited too. But a review of the evidence published in 2017 called for greater scrutiny of this artificial sweetener.
When they combined the limited evidence from human research with the results of animal studies, the researchers found that aspartame might increase oxidative stress and damage our cell membranes, leading to inflammation.
Artificial Colorings and Dyes
Those funky-colored stripes in your toothpaste are not natural. Indeed, most conventional toothpaste contains artificial colors that give them those bright hues.
While these dyes and colors are approved for use in food, that’s not necessarily as reassuring as it could be.
Research published by the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics noted a body of evidence that links artificial food colorings to hyperactivity and behavioral issues in children.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has pulled together many of the scientific studies on the safety of food dyes and colorings, like those used in toothpastes. As well as hyperactivity, their report reveals potential links to allergies and cancer.
If the health issues alone weren’t enough to put us off these dyes, most artificial food colorings are derived from petrochemicals. This makes them environmentally damaging, as well as a potential health risk.
Is Non-Fluoride Toothpaste Effective?
So, we’ve looked at some of the harmful chemicals found in many conventional toothpastes and can probably agree these aren’t ingredients we want anywhere near our mouths. But what is the alternative?
Fortunately, it is possible to effectively care for your dental hygiene without resorting to toxic chemicals. Our Whitening Toothpaste and Charcoal Toothpaste uses safe, natural ingredients that work to strengthen teeth, remove staining, and eliminate bacteria.
Some of the powerful active ingredients we use in our mineralizing toothpaste include:
A naturally occurring mineral, hydroxyapatite is a key component of our bones and teeth. Used in toothpaste, it acts to strengthen and repair our tooth enamel
A 2019 study published in Nature compared hydroxyapatite toothpaste with conventional fluoride toothpaste and found it was just as effective at repairing and preventing cavities.
Green Tea Extract
Packed with antioxidants, green tea extract helps to reduce inflammation and fights off bacteria. This is great news for your dental health, as it combats the bacteria that can cause gum disease and bad breath.
Aloe vera is well-known for its healing properties. A natural antibacterial, it also helps to keep teeth and gums healthy, preventing inflammation and eliminating harmful bacteria.
Just to add to aloe vera’s list of superpowers, it even has teeth-whitening properties, making it an essential ingredient in our Whitening Toothpaste.
Extracted from the evergreen Neem tree, Neem oil has many benefits for human health, including our oral hygiene. Naturally antibacterial, it helps to prevent cavities and remove plaque. It also reduces the risk of gum disease by combatting harmful bacteria.
So. Is non-fluoride toothpaste effective? Yes! Natural, non-fluoride toothpastes can keep teeth clean, prevent bad breath, and fight tooth decay and gum disease. All without using harmful chemicals or toxins.
What’s more, these toothpastes can even help to remineralize your teeth, reducing any damage and helping to close cavities.
A Safe Alternative for Your Teeth
At Wellnesse, we promise to bring you safe and effective personal care products that help you protect your health and the health of your family.
Our products are cruelty-free, paraben-free, and sulfate-free. We choose ingredients that are considered clean by the Environmental Working Group. And we’ll always be transparent about exactly what is in our products, so you can make an informed choice.
Our Toothpaste is formulated to be a safe alternative to conventional toothpastes. Find it in our shop and embrace beautifully clean, toxin-free teeth.
Gum disease and the connection to heart disease: https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/gum-disease-and-the-connection-to-heart-disease
Malin, A. J., Riddell, J., McCague, H., & Till, C. (2018). Fluoride exposure and thyroid function among adults living in Canada: Effect modification by iodine status. Environment international, 121(Pt 1), 667–674. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2018.09.026
Wang, M., Liu, L., Li, H., Li, Y., Liu, H., Hou, C., Zeng, Q., Li, P., Zhao, Q., Dong, L., Zhou, G., Yu, X., Liu, L., Guan, Q., Zhang, S., & Wang, A. (2020). Thyroid function, intelligence, and low-moderate fluoride exposure among Chinese school-age children. Environment international, 134, 105229. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2019.105229
Jacob, S. E., Scheman, A., & McGowan, M. A. (2018). Propylene Glycol. Dermatitis : contact, atopic, occupational, drug, 29(1), 3–5. https://doi.org/10.1097/DER.0000000000000315
Zar, T., Graeber, C., & Perazella, M. A. (2007). Recognition, treatment, and prevention of propylene glycol toxicity. Seminars in dialysis, 20(3), 217–219. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1525-139X.2007.00280.x
What Are Parabens, and Why Don’t They Belong in Cosmetics? https://www.ewg.org/what-are-parabens
Azeez, O. H., Alkass, S. Y., & Persike, D. S. (2019). Long-Term Saccharin Consumption and Increased Risk of Obesity, Diabetes, Hepatic Dysfunction, and Renal Impairment in Rats. Medicina (Kaunas, Lithuania), 55(10), 681. https://doi.org/10.3390/medicina55100681
Choudhary, A. K., & Pretorius, E. (2017). Revisiting the safety of aspartame. Nutrition reviews, 75(9), 718–730. https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nux035
Arnold, L. E., Lofthouse, N., & Hurt, E. (2012). Artificial food colors and attention-deficit/hyperactivity symptoms: conclusions to dye for. Neurotherapeutics : the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, 9(3), 599–609. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-012-0133-x
Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks: https://cspinet.org/resource/food-dyes-rainbow-risks
Amaechi, B.T., AbdulAzees, P.A., Alshareif, D.O. et al. Comparative efficacy of a hydroxyapatite and a fluoride toothpaste for prevention and remineralization of dental caries in children. BDJ Open 5, 18 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41405-019-0026-8