If you’re like me, you care about what you and your family put in their mouths. That includes toothpaste. Trouble is most commercial toothpaste is loaded with artificial chemicals you wouldn’t feed to your worst enemy. These disputed substances often found in commercial toothpaste can range from unnecessary fillers to potential carcinogens. Artificial dyes, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, propylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfate, fluoride, triclosan, and glycerin are some of the most commonly used ingredients in commercial toothpaste. Let’s take a peek at what these chemicals are and what they do to our health.
Artificial Dyes & Colorants. Some artificial dyes have shown to be dangerous. For instance, caramel color, a common artificial colorant in many processed foods and soft drinks can contain a carcinogenic chemical called 4-methylimidazole (4-MeI) which increases the risk of lung cancer. It’s added by the manufacturing process, and because it isn’t directly added to the product it doesn’t have to be listed on the ingredients list. Other synthetic oxides and dyes have been associated with severe skin rashes, and even behavioral problems like ADHD (i.e., synthetic red dyes, like FD&C Red No. 40 – Allura Red AC, E129). Titanium dioxide, another artificial colorant, is an inorganic compound frequently used to color toothpaste that has been linked to poor gut and digestive health. Think about it, if it’s just there to make toothpaste pretty colors, but causes poor gut health or worse, then remove it. Because who cares what color your toothpaste is, anyway? If you must have a shade use natural clays or plant-based colors like activated charcoal for black (like we do), beet powder for a reddish-purple, green clay for a nice minty look, spices, or Kaolin clay for a more white looking paste, to name a few.
2. Artificial flavors. Another questionable ingredient company’s like to sneak into food and cosmetics is artificial flavorings. In many cases, they are just as bad as artificial dyes. Artificial flavors are additives designed to mimic the taste of natural ingredients. They are a cheap way for manufacturers to make something taste like chocolate, for example, without actually using any real Cacao or chocolate. In other words, these ingredients are comprised of chemicals that were never originally sourced from nature. Artificial flavors are proprietary chemical formulas owned by the companies that create them such as Givaudan. Artificial flavors are a multi-billion industry shrouded in secrecy – and with good reason. Flavor companies employ a range of experts from chemists to chefs to ‘cook up’ novel flavors from an assortment of chemicals. They don’t disclose their recipes, and consumers don’t like knowing that the delicious dinner comes from a mix of chemicals. Unfortunately, the FDA does not require flavor companies to disclose ingredients as long as all the ingredients have been deemed ‘GRAS’ (i.e., ‘generally recognized as safe’). This protects the proprietary formulas but allows for many chemicals to be hidden under the word ‘flavor’ on the ingredients list and not have to be listed explicitly.
3. Artificial sweeteners. Saccharin, Aspartame, Sucralose, Acesulfame potassium, Neotame, Advantameand other artificial sweeteners have a long history of links to cancer. In more recent years, artificial sugars have been shown potential links to dementia. Save yourself the trouble and stay away from artificial sweeteners whenever possible. There are great natural substitutes that can be used to replace table sugar – like Stevia, Xylitol, Erythritol, or Yacon Syrup. There are also “less bad” natural sweeteners like Coconut sugar, Honey, Real Maple Syrup, and Molasses.
4. Triclosan. Recently, the FDA, as well as several other regulatory health organizations, have moved to ban it from soaps and sanitizers. But not toothpaste. So why is a pesticide that isn’t safe for our hands still in a product that goes into our mouths? This antimicrobial chemical is commonly used in pesticides and is a known hormone disruptor that is linked to numerous health and environmental problems. Hormone disruption was greatest in men, causing weakened heart muscle function, an altered shape of sperm, and bone deformation. This bacteria nuke kills “good” and “bad” bacteria that live in a delicate oral mucosa in the mouth. Disrupting this delicate balance of the flora in your mouth can cause bad breath and dry mouth, as well as impact your body’s natural ability to build resistance to disease and infection. My advice, don’t even think about using a toothpaste (or anything else) with triclosan in it. Also, check your old hand sanitizers, triclosan is a common ingredient in those, too. Just say no!
5. Fluoride. It is in most toothpastes (and tap water) due to some claims that fluoride prevents tooth decay. The types of fluoride added to toothpaste include sodium fluoride, sodium monofluorophosphate (MFP), and stannous fluoride. However, there is a long debate about whether fluoride is safe for human consumption, and if it is, at what level; and most importantly, does that level of fluoride really prevent cavities? Recent studies suggest that the fluoride found in water and toothpaste is much less effective at preventing cavities than we originally thought. In fact, research shows that fluoride absorbed or consumed can be neurotoxic. Fluoride can interfere with endocrine hormone levels. Our family uses fluoride-free toothpaste and we filter it out of our water. Indeed research on fluoride shows it may not help prevent tooth decay at all. Plus it has a lot of nasty side effects like hardening soft tissues and is suspected to have a link in causing dementia.
6. Propylene glycol. In recent years, there has been much confusion about the chemical compound known as propylene glycol. It’s literally found in thousands of products in various amounts, and some people claim it to be reasonably harmless while others talk that’s it’s responsible for life-threatening diseases like cancer. The truth about propylene glycol is a bit obscure. Research surrounding the substance is inadequate and while it’s still a legal ingredient in many foods and other products, the risk is of consuming this substance is unclear. Thus, The Apothecary Company never uses propylene glycol or any other substance like it.
7. Sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate (SLS). SLS is a contraction of sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES), an anionic detergent and surfactant found in many products. A foaming agent chiefly in laundry detergents, cleaning products, and toiletries such as shower gel, shampoo, (and you guessed it) and toothpaste. SLS and SLES are said to aggravate gums. SLS and SLES are inexpensive foaming agents, however, they have been linked to an increased risk of developing canker sores and skin irritation. The scariest, though, is in many studies on SLS show that it is contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, a byproduct of the manufacturing process, which can be carcinogenic.
8. Glycerin. This non-toxic natural food byproduct is reasonably safe to consume. But glycerin has no place in toothpaste – it’s a soap that strips your body’s natural oral mucosa and leaves a film. This film can coat the teeth, messing with the microbiome in the mouth and impact the natural tooth remineralization process. Tooth remineralization is a naturally occurring process in the oral cavity where the teeth re-absorb minerals and nutrients from foods. This remineralization strengthens teeth and can wards off cavities — simply, it’s your body’s natural cavity-fighting mechanism.
Life teaches us in lessons. My advice, now that you know what to look for go check out what ingredients your toothpaste has in it. If some of these ingredients are listed you might seriously consider chucking that junk in the trash. I understand it’s hard earned money to buy toiletries. But you got worked. The marketing made you believe these products are safe, healthy, and wholesome when in fact most cases the opposite it the truth. Throw it away and buy something healthy from now on. Check out what a healthy toopaste looks like…
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