A List of Harmful Ingredients
A Savvy Consumers Guide to Natural Toothpaste Alternatives
For me, the switch from commercial toothpaste to tooth soap began the day I happened to spot this cautionary notice printed on the side of my shiny new tube of toothpaste:
WARNING: Keep out of the reach of children under 6 years of age. If more than used for brushing is accidentally swallowed, get medical help or contact a poison-control center right away.
So... call me crazy (and many people do - you'll see why shortly), but after reading this, I simply didn't feel it was reasonable to be sticking a tooth brush covered with toxins into my mouth 2-3 times a day. I mean, if I'm lucky enough to live until the ripe old age of 100 (and having brushed with toothpaste half my life, it's doubtful-haha), I will have brushed my teeth at least 73,000 times!
I began compiling research, and soon discovered that many of the ingredients in the toothpaste my family had been using for years were pretty darn sketchy - chemicals that were considered mildly to moderately toxic AND (here's the kicker) many of them are easily absorbed into the lining of the mouth! Particularly disturbing, were articles like this New York Times Health Guide that outlines the symptoms and treatment for Toothpaste Overdose. The part that really got to me was right at the top of the page - the part that lists the "Poisonous Ingredients". What??? Surely, I thought, we consumers deserve a healthier alternative!
Thus began a personal quest to hunt down healthier dental hygiene options. Over the next few months I poured over any reports and articles that I could find (OK, so I can be a teensie bit hyper-focused) and my concern about the risks of toothpaste was beginning to take on the characteristics of a crusade. I felt obligated to both get the word out about it's questionable ingredients, and to MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN! It seemed that important. So...anyway... that's when I did THE THING that solidified in everyone's mind what they'd already suspected about my mental state... I joined forces with my sister (we had been successful business partners in the past) and launched SuperHuman Naturals, an earth friendly personal products company. The first order of business was to begin developing the formula for an all natural tooth soap and polish.
Here, I'd like to share with you a few of the toothpaste ingredients that made me so concerned that I actually founded a natural tooth soap company, and share with you some of the healthier options I've found.
6 Scary Toothpaste Ingredients
- Sodium Fluoride - One of the most common ingredients in toothpaste…and in RAT POISON and PESTICIDES. If you have ACNE OUTBREAKS around your mouth or chin, fluoride may be the cause. The FDA now requires all fluoride toothpastes in the US to bear the poison warning I mentioned above. While I understand that many chemicals and minerals, when ingested in excess, can act as a poison, fluoride, in relatively low doses, can induce symptoms of acute fluoride toxicity. For instance, a 2 year old child that ingests less than 3% of a tube can suffer symptoms which include gastrointestinal pain, nausea, vomiting, and headaches. In 2009 alone, poison control centers handled 24,547 reports of toothpaste overdose, 378 of which resulted in a visit to the emergency room. Visit the Fluoride Action Network for more information. I decided that since there are safer options, anything that could harm a child had no place in my medicine cabinet.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) - Added as a foaming agent, it is also a corrosive skin irritant and the leading cause of PAINFUL CANKERSORES. The Journal of the American College of Toxicology states that SLS has “a degenerative effect on the cell membranes because of its protein denaturing properties” and that “high levels of skin penetration may occur at even low use concentration." Because of it's corrosive effects, SLS is often used by laboratories to irritate the skin of test animals and humans so that they can then test healing agents! Is it any wonder that scrubbing the delicate skin of your mouth and gums with this chemical causes ulcers? After I stopped brushing with toothpaste, I found that the painful cankersores that had tormented me for years went away completely! This discovery made me even more passionate about helping others to find a natural toothpaste alternative.
- Glycerin - An additive that helps give toothpaste it’s “pasty” texture, but also leaves a sticky coating on teeth that BREEDS BACTERIA and PREVENTS NATURAL REMINERALIZATION of tooth enamel. Even after rinsing, glycerin leaves a sticky film on your teeth. As you can imagine, your tooth enamel takes a real beating. Fortunately, our saliva contains (among other things) tooth repairing calcium and phosphates. When saliva flows around each tooth, the healthy minerals are absorbed into the enamel and help to strengthen it. When your teeth are coated with a sticky glycerin film, your tooth enamel can't remineralize. AND, to make matters worse, this sticky coating also acts as the ideal breeding ground for bacteria that leads to bad breath and tooth decay. After only 1 week of toothpaste-free brushing, I realized that my breath felt fresher...even in the morning! After a month, I noticed that the tartar buildup behind my front teeth was virtually gone.
- Triclosan - An anti-microbial, was first registered with the EPA as a PESTICIDE. While many major manufacturers have removed this chemical due to mounting scientific evidence documenting adverse health effects, sadly, it is still found in many toothpastes. Effects include skin irritation, endocrine system problems and antibiotic resistance. In 2010, the FDA stated that, “Existing data raise valid concerns about the [health] effects of repetitive daily human exposure to [triclosan]” and announced plans to address the use of triclosan in cosmetics or other products. For more information visit the website Beyond Pesticides. When I learned that triclosan posed environmental risks as well as health risks, I felt that, as consumers, we needed to protect ourselves AND Mother Earth.
- FD&C Blue Dyes 1&2 - Are suspected to trigger BEHAVIORAL and LEARNING PROBLEMS as well as allergic reactions. These dyes can actually DISCOLOR TEETH over time. The Center for Science in the Public Interest warns against the use of these petroleum-based dyes due to health risks. Those risks include hyperactivity in children, cancer (in animal studies), and allergic reactions. For a detailed article about the dangers, please read the Center's excellent report Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks. When my son was young, I was sure that I noticed a correlation between certain food dyes and his hyperactive behavior. Now, years later, science is finally validating what we parents have been saying all along. Add to that the possibility of dyes actually staining your teeth and it's a mystery to me why they were ever included!
- Artificial Sweeteners - Depending on the chemicals involved, sweeteners have been associated with numerous HEALTH RISKS AND SIDE EFFECTS. Both saccharin and aspartame, two of the most common sweeteners in toothpaste, made the Center for Science in the Public Interest's list of additives to avoid. An epidemiology study (done by the National Cancer Institute) found that the use of saccharin was associated with a higher incidence of bladder cancer. In 2005, researchers at the Ramazzini Foundation in Bologna, Italy, conducted the first of 3 studies that all indicated that rats exposed to aspartame developed lymphomas, leukemias, kidney tumors, mammary (breast) cancer, liver and lung cancer. I don't know about you, but when I hear the word "cancer" associated with a sweetener, I think twice about using it. Especially when there is Xylitol, a tooth-friendly, USA made, all-natural sweetener that tastes great and is made from birch trees. It's what we use here at SuperHuman because studies have found that it actually helps prevent cavities! See what the California Dental Association has to say about Xylitol.
So, What Are The Options?
I thought that I would share the natural toothpaste alternatives that I have tried to help you begin your toothpaste-free life.
- First, I tried the obvious, I grabbed a natural olive oil bar soap, rubbed my damp toothbrush on it, and started scrubbing away. YIKES! While it worked quite well, it tasted, um...soapy.
- Next I moved on to a baking soda and sea salt scrub. The mild abrasiveness was a nice change from the plain bar soap, but for me, it was just too salty! In my opinion, the soap tasted better.
- Then I got really excited about trying neem chew sticks. I'm a tree hugger from way back, so the idea of brushing my teeth with a stick delighted me. I ordered some, followed the instructions (ie: nibble off the bark on one end, then gnaw on the stick to soften) scrubbed my teeth with the pulpy wood and was...underwhelmed. Sadly, the best that I can say is that if I were shipwrecked on an island and this was my only choice for a dentifrice, I'd probably still be disappointed.*sigh*
- So finally, I began brushing with the 2-3 brands of tooth soap that are available. All had their good points and each company's goal is to help you lead a healthier life.
Here at SuperHuman, our best customer is one that has tried other options. Our Tooth Soap & Polish Dynamic Duo was developed in answer to what we felt was missing in the other products, but everyone is different. Remember...
The important thing is to Stop Using Toothpaste and To Start Exploring Your Options