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Toothpaste: Poison or Panacea

Updated: Mar 17

The controversy around the use or non-use of toothpaste has been long standing. Much of this has to do with the obvious fluoride content and its effects on our physical and mental health. (Seemy other blogs: The Flaws of Fluoride and Iodine vs.Fluoride: One Secret to Better Health ).

But how about the other ingredients? Recently this conversation has come up in the office with many health conscious patients.

As most of you already know, toxins in toothpaste are as “normal” as are those in our everyday food supply. Poison control warnings exist on the back of most toothpaste tubes (it would be great to see this on the food labels too), and for good reason. If you swallow too much of the paste you can become very ill, very quickly. And there are many documented cases of fluoride poisoning yearly, some fatal, that prove this point.

So can somebody explain the logic of putting these poisons in our mouth daily? It may taste minty fresh clean, but the long term side effects can be horrific. And for those of us who don’t notice any effects from the daily use, be assured that these poisons are accumulating and building up creating some disease, or immune system problem years later. And the correlation between that health problem and toothpaste will be nil.

Here is a quick review of the most common poisons added to our conventional and some “natural” toothpastes.

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and ammonium lauryl sulfate. These are surfactants, detergents, and emulsifiers used in thousands of cosmetic products, as well as in industrial cleaners. It is present in nearly all shampoos, scalp treatments, hair color and bleaching agents, body washes and cleansers, make-up foundations, liquid hand soaps, laundry detergents, and bath oils/bath salts and of course most toothpastes. Although SLS originates from coconuts, the actual chemical used is not natural. During the manufacturing process, the SLS is contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, a carcinogenic by-product. SLS is known to dry out the protective mucous membrane inside of your mouth. This cellular lining of the mouth is your first defense against infection. Research has also implicated this ingredient in the formation of canker sores or herpes breakouts. In other words, if you have a problem with chronic canker sores, look for this ingredient in your toothpaste. If it is listed, use a different toothpaste.

  • Pyrophosphate compounds are ingredients in many tartar control toothpastes. It is a water-softening agent that removes calcium and magnesium from the saliva, so they can't deposit tartar (calcified plaque) on teeth. Pyrophosphate does not remove tartar, it merely helps prevent its formation. Many people with sensitive skin have experienced burning, itching, or red cracked skin around the mouth after using toothpaste with this ingredient. I know that I have.

  • Triclosan is utilized for its anti-microbial effects. Recent research, published in Aquatic Toxicology, is the first to show that triclosan can act as an endocrine disruptor at concentrations found in North American streams. Triclosan’s endocrine disruptive effects were seen prominently at the thyroid gland in frogs.

  • Silicon dioxide (silica usually from sand). Hydrated silica is a transparent abrasive used not only in white opaque tooth pastes, but in gel toothpastes as well. Calcium phosphate (chalk), calcium carbonate and alumina were conventionally used as the abrasive in toothpastes but they had the disadvantage of reacting with other chemical ingredients. Some brands may still use these. Often these toothpastes can have a long term harmful effect; the abrasives will wear down the enamel exposing the dentin underneath which is yellow, brown or gray in color. So if your teeth are getting darker over the years, it may be due to the abrasiveness of your paste.

  • Titanium dioxide is the subject of new controversy. It is one of the top fifty chemicals produced worldwide. It is a white opaque and naturally occurring mineral. It has a variety of uses, as it is odorless and absorbent. This mineral can be found in many products, ranging from paint to food to cosmetics. In cosmetics, it serves several purposes. It is a white pigment, an opacifier and a sunscreen. Basically, it makes your toothpaste look more pleasant and uniform. Concern has arisen from studies that have pointed to titanium dioxide as a carcinogen.

  • Artificial flavors, sweeteners, and dyes are added to toothpaste to improve the appearance, taste, or smell of the toothpaste. These ingredients can cause toxic reactions especially in children. Sweeteners such as saccharine is listed as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Sorbitol, another sweetener can cause diarrhea in some individuals. Aspartame, also a sweetener, has been implicated in liver and kidney damage. FD&C Blue No. 1, a coal tar dye often found in toothpaste has also been implicated as a carcinogen.

Toothpastes have been around a long time. Hippocrates had references to toothpaste recipes as far back as 377 BC. Toothpastes can contain a myriad of ingredients. Chemicals are added to toothpaste to improve its mechanical properties, appearance, smell and taste.

There are many natural alternatives. Keep an open mind.

If you like this, you may also like Dr. Brand's Book

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