What’s in your toothpaste?

Sugars in our diet promote acid producing bacteria in our mouths which in turn erode tooth enamel and cause dum dum dum….TOOTH DECAY! Dental authorities have championed for decades the health benefits of brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste against nasty tooth decay and cavity formation. Twice a day, is the touted recipe! Brush in the morning and at night before bed, and embrace tooth health heaven! And sure enough, following this protocol along with the onset of the fluoridation of our water supply and  our toothpastes , the number of cavities decreased! Easy math right?


Well a growing body of scientific literature explores the practices surrounding much vindicated dental practices calling into question the use of harsh chemicals in our toothpaste, particularly that of sodium fluoride (differs from naturally formed fluoride in groundwater) which is an industrial waste effluent. At the heart of this inquiry, is the assertion that many of these dental care applications are very toxic and harmful to the human body and rather diminish the state of our overall health versus uphold it.  Here’s a quick snapshot of the leading culprits:

Fluoride: We are not talking about the kind you find in the basin of Lake Louise! Naturally occurring fluoride is a result of the breakdown of rock minerals and can be found in groundwater systems across the world.  The fluoride we are commonly exposed to is NOT that one, but rather a chemical known as sodium fluoride or hydrofluorosilicic acid, which is an industrial by-product gleaned from fertilizer plants. Hailed as one of the top oral health breakthroughs of the 20th century, chemical fluoride is incorporated into our popular toothpastes and water supply. It is acutely toxic (used as a pesticide for rodents and insects) and linked to a myriad of health issues such as dental fluorosis, bone disease, brain damage, and muscle disorders. Interestingly, China does not allow water fluoridation. This makes the fact that we, over yonder in the Americas, who hold purchasing agreements with China for their discarded fluoride, seem unethically shady or undeniably dim- witted… In 2012, the FDA passed new labeling regulations for toothpastes imposing that all future packaging maintain the following warning:

Keep out of the reach of children under 6 years of age. If you accidentally swallow more than used for bushing, seek professional assistance or contact a Poison Control Center immediately. As with other toothpaste, if irritation occurs discontinue use.

Well that sounds totally and inarguably safe!

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS):  A synthetic detergent that makes our toothpaste all foamy and leaves us with that freshly scrubbed clean feeling. Of noteworthy importance is that during the production of SLS, a derivative chemical known as dioxane 1,4  is created which the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has labelled as “probably carcinogenic to humans”.  Further problems linked to SLS are brain, central nervous system, kidney, and liver toxicity. Studies conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) have associated SLS with organ damage, reproductive toxicity, neuro-degenerative problems and cell mutations.  These findings are listed on their cosmetics database Skin Deep. Look for this wholesome chemical in your local pharmacy isle, where it can be found in any given bottle of soap, shampoo, facewash, and in your favorite cosmetics!

Titanium dioxide: Toothpaste is so white, that even just by looking at it you can somehow feel your enamel getting clean and shiny. Ever wonder why?  Popular toothpastes owe their stark pigment to an opaque purified mineral known as Titanium Dioxide (TiO2). Its hue and refractive properties make it an essential addition to paints, plastics, food (skim milk for example) and most of all sunscreens.  TiO2 is sourced from naturally occurring rock minerals, however curiously it currently sits on the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)’s list as a ‘possible carcinogen’. Preliminary animal tests on rats have revealed adverse side effects with high levels of exposure. Some of these effects include pulmonary inflammation, breast lesions and tumor growth. When used in sunscreen, TiO2 particles have to be coated in other compounds like silica or aluminium oxide in order not to form free radicals or damage skin. It is said that further scientific assessment is deemed necessary to determine with greater certainty the toxic status of this pigment…but that rather sounds like an exercise in futility…

Triclosan: The chlorinated compound Triclosan is commonly used as a bactericide in toothpastes, soaps and deodorants. Its antibacterial and antifungal properties render it both a combatant against microorganisms and, a preserving agent. The major concern with Triclosan, as researchers are discovering now, is that is not biodegradable! Since the 1970’s, it has been regularly added to our common household products, and has been readily accumulating in our natural environment. Today the chemical is found in our soil, water bodies, and fish tissues.  A recent study on the integrity of human milk revealed that out of five random samples, three returned with elevated levels of Triclosan. The pervasive nature of man-made chemicals in our environment cannot be overstated, particularly when it poses a risk to our undeserving young. Triclosan toxicity has been linked to endocrine disruption, hormone imbalances and muscle function. In this regard, it has been more directly associated with heart failure. Check Environment Canada’s chemical management database for more information on Triclosan’s current ‘health hazard’ status!

*Note: Sugar (sucrose, xylitol or sodium saccharin) is also widely used in toothpaste as a flavor enhancer and to increase palatability. Sugar is directly linked to cavity formation.

So what are the alternatives? Always remember, just because something has always been done one specific way does not mean it is the right way. There are ALWAYS options, and when it comes to less toxic toothpaste choices, there are plenty. Today, most health food stores, or even popular pharmacies or grocery stores carry organic, and/or chemical free toothpastes. Some of these brands include Green Beaver, Tom’s, Jason and OraMD. Further to this if you feel creative, you can make your own toothpaste from a medley of natural ingredients some of which include baking soda, clays, coconut oil, Aloe Vera, essential oils, nuts and diametaceous earth. Of course, eating well, which means cutting out refined sugars, will go a long way in preserving dental health!

Tiff’s homemade toothpaste recipe (1 pers.) *ratios can be increased

½ tsp organic virgin coconut oil

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp diametaceous earth

           1/8  tsp organic stevia

    5 drops of the essential oil of your choice. I like pine or peppermint.



One Comment

  1. Hi Brit, thanks for the article. I have been trying my best to follow your book for a while now, still have the I.C. unfortunately. Anyway the acids in the fruit really drive my teeth crazy. I drink with a straw, swish right after and smoothy all my fruit so I do not chew therefore causing more sensitivity. My dentist put me on a really high floride toothpaste wanting to have it sit on my teeth as much as possible. Yes it takes the sensitivity away very quickly but now am developing canker sores inside my mouth. What can I add to the above recipe to strengthen the enamel or help with sensitivity? Thanks again.

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