I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about fluoride being harmful in drinking water, but you may still cling onto the notion that fluoride is good for your teeth. This is drilled (pun intended) into our heads from early youth and all through adulthood.
Truth is, fluoride is neither good for drinking, nor good for brushing. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only factor to contend with when purchasing toothpaste. Some natural toothpastes do contain fluoride, since it technically is naturally occurring. Sadly, there are other nefarious ingredients in regular toothpaste AND natural toothpaste that you need to watch out for. I will explain the whole fluoride debacle as well as the other materials aforementioned so you can get a clear understanding of what is best for your pearly whites.
Harmful Ingredients in Toothpaste
The main use of triclosan is as an antibacterial agent. It is very commonly used in antibacterial soaps and toothpaste, and even in clothing, furniture, toys, and kitchenware. The EPA also regulates the usage of triclosan as a pesticide. Yep, you are polishing your pearly whites with a pesticide (1).
Many concerns have been raised about the efficacy and safety of triclosan. The FDA hems and haws a bit about this, but ultimately concedes that at least in the case of antibacterial hand soap, triclosan is not efficacious. “According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there isn’t enough science to show that over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial soaps are better at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water. To date, the benefits of using antibacterial hand soap haven’t been proven. In addition, the wide use of these products over a long time has raised the question of potential negative effects on your health” (1).
Now what are the health concerns related to triclosan?
One of the main concerns related to triclosan usage is antibiotic resistance. Since triclosan is an antibacterial agent, there is a lot of worry that overuse of triclosan is creating bacteria resistant to its effect. This is dangerous because antibiotic resistance causes the bacteria to reproduce at a heightened rate and they are stronger than the original strain, which makes them more difficult to kill. Much like the superbugs you see going around in hospitals due to overuse of antibiotics.
Accumulation in Fatty Tissues
Triclosan is lipophilic, meaning that its chemical structure causes it to be attracted to fat molecules. Therefore, triclosan can accumulate in the fatty tissues of your body over time and remain there. In fact, “A Swedish study (1) found high levels triclosan in three out of five human milk samples, indicating that triclosan does in fact get absorbed into the body, often in high quantities” (2).
There have been a few studies done which posit that triclosan causes thyroid dysfunction. One showed that triclosan lowered the body temperature in mice, another done on tadpoles showed it caused them to prematurely age into frogs, and yet another study showed that triclosan lowered sperm production in rats (2). “The hypothesis proposed is that triclosan blocks the metabolism of thyroid hormone, because it chemically mimics thyroid hormone, and binds to the hormone receptor sites, blocking them, so that endogenous hormones cannot be used” (2). Essentially, triclosan is an impostor hormone, messing with their proper expression.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
SLS acts as a detergent in personal care products. It’s often used in shampoos, shower gels, and face washes as well as toothpaste for its ability to foam. While this foaming action may be what we’ve grown accustomed to over years of traditional tooth brushing, this may not be so good for us (3).
There was a human study done about SLS that utilized toothpaste as the medium for testing. The study analyzed the occurrence of mouth ulcers and healing time. “The 90 subjects were divided into three groups: group I used SLS-free (a commercially available SLS-free dentifrice) and SLS-A (SLS-free + 1.5% SLS), group II used SLS-A and SLS-B (a commercially available 1.5% SLS-containing dentifrice), and group III used SLS-free and SLS-B. … The clinical parameters (number of ulcers, number of episodes, duration of ulcers, mean pain score) were compared between the two phases for each group. Results: The number of ulcers and episodes did not differ significantly between SLS-A, SLS-B, and SLS-free. Only duration of ulcers and mean pain score was significantly decreased during the period using SLS-free. Conclusion: Although SLS-free did not reduce the number of ulcers and episodes, it affected the ulcer-healing process and reduces pain in daily lives in patients with RAS” (3).
Although the amount of canker sores were not reduced, the pain and healing time improved when using an SLS free toothpaste. Therefore, SLS does interfere with the body’s immune system in some manner that hinders healing.
Like sodium lauryl sulfate, this is another foaming agent commonly used in toothpaste. The concern with DEA is that it may interact with other materials to create a compound called nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA) which is a carcinogen that can be absorbed topically (4).
In fact, studies have shown that “52 to 68 percent of DEA in hair dyes, body lotions and shampoos remain on the upper layers of the skin after exposure” (4). Your skin is a sponge, and the fact that DEA is so readily absorbable is cause for concern. The more DEA is absorbed, the more chance NDEA will be created and have a carcinogenic effect.
There is such concern over the potential of NDEA creation that “The European Commission prohibits DEA in cosmetics due to concerns about formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines” (4). Why hasn’t the FDA hopped onto this issue and banned DEA in personal care products? I have my own perspectives about the potential reasons, but that’s not a topic of discussion for this article. All I know is, I’m going to stay far away from anything that contains DEA.
This is the big one. Even those not initiated into the world of natural health have at least heard murmurs about the detriment of fluoride. Most often the bashing has to do with water fluoridation, yet as I stated in the intro, many of us still believe fluoride is okay to use on the teeth despite knowing the dangers of it in drinking water.
Signs of fluoride poisoning include “gastrointestinal pain, nausea, vomiting, and headaches” (5). You’re probably thinking that you would have to ingest a rather large amount of fluoride to reach the threshold for poisoning. Well, it’s actually much less than you would be led to think. Symptoms of poisoning can occur in doses as low as 0.1-0.3 milligrams for each kilogram of body weight. “A child weighing 10 kilograms, therefore, can suffer symptoms of acute toxicity by ingesting just 1 to 3 milligrams of fluoride in a single sitting. … 1 to 3 mgs of fluoride is found in just 1 to 3 grams of toothpaste (less than 3% of the tube) — including toothpaste that is marketed specifically to children with bubble-gum and fruit flavors.” (5).
It’s easy to see now how even minuscule amounts of fluoride can cause serious problems, especially in children. You can even see physical evidence of fluoride toxicity. It is a condition called fluorosis.
Fluorosis is a discoloration of the teeth that is caused by overexposure to fluoride at up to eight years of age, when the permanent teeth are being formed. The markings are usually white discolorations, but more severe cases manifest as pitting with dark brown color (6).
Surely, you’ve seen someone with fluorosis many times before. It’s become a commonplace condition when it really should be cause for concern. “According to the latest national survey by the Centers for Disease Control, 41% of American adolescents now have some form of fluorosis — an increase of over 400% from the rates found 60 years ago” (7). A staggering increase indeed.
The vast majority of cases are mild, however in severe cases fluorosis damages the enamel to such an extent that teeth can begin to crumble and erode away. This is a scary result considering how easy it is for a child to swallow toxic amounts of fluoride. What’s worse is that fluoride doesn’t just accumulate in the teeth. This is happening to your entire skeleton and damages a part of your brain called the pineal gland.
Ok, so what is the pineal gland and what does it do? The pineal gland is located between the two hemispheres of your brain and regulates the production of a hormone called melatonin. “Melatonin maintains the body’s circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle), regulates the onset of puberty in females, and helps protect the body from cell damage caused by free radicals” (8).
Fluoride accumulates in the pineal gland more readily than anywhere else in the body. Maybe this explains why girls seem to be reaching puberty at an earlier age, or is partially why you have trouble sleeping at night? It has been proven that calcified fluoride deposits in the pineal glands of studied animals reduced melatonin levels and caused early onset puberty (8).
Pineal gland aside, there may be other deleterious effects of fluoride to the brain. “As of September 2016, a total of 57 studies have investigated the relationship between fluoride and human intelligence, and over 40 studies have investigated the relationship fluoride and learning/memory in animals. Of these investigations, 50 of the 57 human studies have found that elevated fluoride exposure is associated with reduced IQ, while 45 animal studies have found that fluoride exposure impairs the learning and/or memory capacity of animals. The human studies, which are based on IQ examinations of over 12,000 children, provide compelling evidence that fluoride exposure during the early years of life can damage a child’s developing brain” (9).
The odds are certainly stacked against fluoride. I don’t know about you, but I am staying far and away from it.
There’s just one more sneaky additive to dissect on this list, and that’s glycerin. This is an ingredient in pretty much every natural toothpaste you’ll find on the market, which makes it seemingly innocuous. However what many do not realize is that glycerin may disrupt the remineralization of the teeth.
Glycerin is added to toothpaste to give it that characteristic “paste” consistency we’ve all grown accustomed to. This gumminess of glycerin supposedly clogs the pores of your teeth so it cannot absorb minerals from the food you are eating. It can take up to 27 brushes to get all the glycerin off your teeth! (10).
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any studies that confirm this to be true. That said, I still choose to avoid glycerin in case it is one day validated.
Where to Find Truly Natural Toothpaste
Well, dear readers, you are in luck! Yours truly makes an all-natural toothpaste with all of the good stuff, and none of the bad. Let’s take a look at the ingredients!
Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth – A powder “made from the fossilized remains of tiny, aquatic organisms called diatoms” (11). This acts as the gentle abrasive.
Xylitol – A sugar alcohol that may help prevent cavities (12). The xylitol I use is non-GMO.
Unrefined Coconut Oil – Popular for oil pulling, it was a natural addition to my toothpaste.
Aloe Vera – High in minerals and promotes a healthy inflammation response (13).
Trace Minerals – The stuff you need to remineralize teeth!
Magnesium Oil – Also for remineralizing.
Peppermint Essential Oil – For flavor and “clean” feeling
Black Lava Salt – Antimicrobial (14) and contains a small amount of activated charcoal.
You can purchase my toothpaste here.
As you can see, I only use the highest quality ingredients possible so you get the best value possible. You’re probably wondering though… Is it really effective? I’ll let you in on a little secret. I hadn’t gone to see a dentist in over two years until recently. (I know, that’s really bad!) Last month, my dentist was shocked to declare I had a clean bill of health! Not a single cavity, nor a sign of even the slightest amount of decay. I didn’t do anything fancy. I just ate well, flossed, and used my toothpaste!
If all this still doesn’t convince you my toothpaste will be right for you, I am sure there are many sources online where you can purchase a truly natural toothpaste. Just make sure to check the ingredients!
As always, thanks for taking the time to read this post. I hope this genuinely gets you to take a second look at the toothpaste in your bathroom drawer or cabinet. Many people I know have made multiple changes to lead a more natural lifestyle yet steadfastly cling onto their (insert brand name here) toothpaste. Trust me, there’s a world of difference!
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- Nagel, Ramiel, and Timothy M. Gallagher. Cure Tooth Decay: Heal & Prevent Cavities with Nutrition. Golden Child Publishing, 2012.