Why Natural Toothpaste is Better
March 8, 2021 • 7 min read
As the beauty and wellness industry doubles back on itself, with natural, green and less chemically-derived formulas seeing a massive resurgence, one of the more popular yet equally confusing conversations is around toothpaste.
Is natural toothpaste actually better? And, what is wrong with a good old tube of Crest in the first place?
After years of being wary of mainstream health products laden with questionable ingredients and additives, toothpaste is the next product to have recently come into review, and that too for good reason. We have to wonder – are these additives necessary for something as basic as cleaning teeth?
Here’s a short list of some of the ingredients in conventional toothpaste that don’t score well, and that are known to cause health implications.
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Triclosan is a widely used chemical present in hygiene products like antibacterial hand sanitizer and toothpaste. This “chlorinated aromatic compound” is used to reduce the growth of bacteria and fungi. It’s added to toothpaste to reduce plaque and fight gingivitis, however the risks associated with it are many. Triclosan is a known endocrine disruptor, and can slow blood circulation, impair muscle and heart function, compromise immune systems, and contribute to a resistance to antibiotics. The FDA has banned triclosan in topical products like body wash and baby products, however it is still present in toothpaste, hand sanitizer, and many other health products.
Long been debated, fluoride’s health and safety standards still aren’t entirely clear, with many people falling into one of two camps. Fluoride is present in water sources, and exists in toothpaste due to its alleged ability to reduce tooth decay and cavities. While we encourage you to do your own research and act on your own intuition when it comes to your heath, fluoride opposers mention their understanding that the substance can cause brittle teeth and bones, “mottled” teeth (decay), birth defects, immune system suppression, and other concerns. All in all, the greater opinion seems to be that the benefits do not outweigh the risks, and it isn’t something that seems to be necessary in toothpaste, especially since there is already enough of it in our water supply.
Artificial sweeteners are added to conventional toothpaste to mask the taste and to encourage the act of teeth cleaning, which for many, can be a tedious task. Saccharin used to be popular for sweetening consumables, but due to proven research demonstrating its ability to cause bladder cancer in lab rats, it is now uncommonly used as a food sweetener. However, it still exists in many mainstream mouthwashes and toothpastes, despite it being unnecessary.
This chemical is a solvent that is commonly used as the active component in antifreeze, as well as in industrial paint. It is also added to toothpaste, and is colorless, odorless and slightly syrupy. It also goes by the names Trimethyl glycol and Methyl ethyl glycol. This substance helps make toothpaste silky smooth. Aside from this one “benefit” propylene glycol is known to cause cancer, reproductive complications, skin irritation, and more.
Many of us are now aware of the harmful risks surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate emit, as it is a common ingredient in many mainstream health and beauty products. SLSs help products like toothpaste, shampoo, body wash etc., form suds and foam, which generates the lather that we have come to believe is necessary in hygiene products. This substance is basically a detergent, and is known to cause skin irritations and canker sores.
Basically, all mainstream toothpaste on the market comes in plastic tubes that cannot be recycled when the product inside is finished. In a world inundated with far too much plastic, reducing our consumption is vital in ensuring the preservation of our planet, as well as our own health (plastic enters our waterways, soil and atmosphere, causing severe effects to wildlife, the environment, and ourselves).
While many of these ingredients and chemicals require heavy doses to be fatal or to cause serious problems, their existence in something as everyday as toothpaste is wholly unnecessary. We should be reducing our exposure and dependence on chemicals on all fronts, seeking out natural remedies wherever we can (if possible in our individual and given circumstances). Reducing our consumption of these products also sends a message to corporations that consumers want better than the questionable options they’re offering, which goes a long way in creating change.
So, now that we know why conventional toothpaste isn’t the best, why is natural toothpaste better?
While “natural” is definitely a bit of a buzzword these days and can be meaningless, especially when it comes to skincare and wellness, in the world of oral health, natural or organic toothpaste from small businesses do carry weight, and aren’t just greenwashing terms.
Organic or natural toothpaste is derived from nature-based ingredients and herbs like mint, coconut oil, sodium bicarbonate, neem, etc. These ingredients were the OG elements in toothpaste, the stuff our ancestors used for their oral health. I actually remember my dad telling me that when he was very young in India, they would chew on neem sticks for oral hygiene, as they are naturally antiseptic, and clove buds for fresh breath!
When it comes to natural toothpaste, there are usually no hidden preservatives, dyes, chemicals, synthetic substances or superfluous ingredients that might cause harm, and the ingredient lists are comprised of easily identifiable substances.
Natural toothpastes gently and effectively clean your teeth, while using nature’s toolkit of plant extracts, natural minerals, and antiseptic essential oils to fight bacteria. In fact, natural toothpastes and gum serums are far better for sensitive mouths than the abrasive options in the mainstream market. Consisting of vegetal oils and plant extracts such as neem, Aloe Vera, or tea tree oil, these formulas are much better for our oral health.
Natural toothpaste also is largely formulated using clay, something that humans have been using for centuries. Bentonite is a mineral-rich clay that is often used in skincare, haircare and oral care products, When it comes to toothpaste, Bentonite clay is excellent at breaking down toxins, neutralizing bacteria, eliminating bad breath, remineralizing tooth enamel, alkalizing to prevent decay, and polishing teeth for shine.
We often choose the best for our children, looking at ingredients that are safe and organic, and that wouldn’t be harmful if swallowed. Why aren’t we taking the same care for ourselves?
One of our favourite brands in the natural toothpaste realm is Living Libations. They entered the natural toothpaste game early, and have been consistent in their clean ingredients and effective formulas. Their ingredient lists are comprised of very few, but effective natural ingredients that are kind to us, and to the earth (when we wash our conventional toothpaste down the drain, we can’t help but wonder where it ends up and if our water supplies and marine life are impacted).
Living Libations also packages their toothpaste in reusable glass jars as opposed to plastic tubes, which is a win in our books! Many natural toothpaste brands have started using aluminum tubes as an alternative to plastic, however, unless you’re slitting open the tube and scraping out all that’s left, it’s highly unlikely the tube will get recycled.
Thus, the best option I’ve found is Living Libations. I’ve been using their toothpaste for over six months now, and I have noticed a significant difference in my oral health!
Lastly, I want to acknowledge the privilege that comes with being able to afford natural toothpaste, as it is priced at a significantly higher cost than conventional toothpaste due to its organic ingredients. With that said, here is a great DIY toothpaste alternative that is easy, healthy, effective, and comes at a more accessible price point.
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