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The Truth About Toothpaste

Updated on April 28, 2015

Before I begin, I would just like to say a few things. First of all, I do not mind going to the dentist. I never have. The thought of going to the dentist does not cause me stress or anxiety. I am not bothered by the smell of a dental clinic and since I'm being completely honest, I find the chairs to be extremely comfortable. Has anyone else ever fallen asleep during a dental appointment? Furthermore, I believe that good oral hygiene is important to our overall health. The purpose of this hub is not to bash dentists or discourage dental appointments, it is simply to examine the truth about toothpaste.

Have you ever read a tube of toothpaste or the box it comes in? While some simply state 'do not swallow', others have a warning saying that if you do swallow the toothpaste, you should call Poison Control or seek medical attention. Am I the only one who feels a little uneasy about this warning being on something I put in my mouth at least twice a day? Do these warnings trigger a vivid memory of swallowing toothpaste intentionally as a child?

I had never really thought about what toothpaste was made of. It turns out conventional toothpaste contains several potentially dangerous chemicals.

In addition to fluoride, which is probably the most well known chemical ingredient, toothpaste can contain ingredients such as polyethylene glycols, triclosan, strontium benzene and tin 1, as well as FD & C Blue Dye 1 & 2, sodium lauryl sulfate and hydrated silica 2. Toothpaste also contains high levels of glycerin. These ingredients are all potentially dangerous to human health.

Toothpaste manufacturers are not required to provide a complete list of ingredients, they are only required to list active ingredients.

Fluoride

I remember being in elementary school and we would have 'fluoride rinse days'. Like the self-explanatory name suggests, we would be given a small disposable cup filled with fluoride rinse and told to swish for two minutes. I hated these days. Not only did the fluoride rinse quickly taste awful but I always felt sick afterwards. In fact, I felt sick after every fluoride treatment until I was twenty two years old and I finally started refusing them.

Although fluoride has been shown to help re-strengthen enamel, it can also discolor teeth, suppress the immune system, contribute to certain cancers, cause gastrointestinal issues like vomiting and diarrhea, and lead to birth defects. 3.

Because many dental products contain dangerously high levels of fluoride, we may actually be exceeding the daily recommended amount 4. There is such thing as 'too much' fluoride.

Here's the real gem - fluoride is not a nutrient 4. Fluoride is a poison that has been used in rodenticides and pesticides 4. It is also a key component in anesthetic, hypnotic and psychiatric drugs 2. I'm sorry, but why are we brushing our teeth with this stuff?

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

Sodium lauryl sulfate has a foaming property and is added to toothpaste in order to generate foam and give the impression that the product is working 2. I'll admit, for years I associated the idea of 'clean' with foaming/bubbling. When I first started using natural and homemade products, it took me some time to accept that even without foam or bubbles, the products were still working.

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that SLS causes cancer 5. However, studies have proven that SLS causes damage to the oral tissues. This can lead to canker sores and mouth ulcers 6. SLS can also cause or irritate existing bad breath 6.

In addition to being used in toothpaste, SLS is used in products such as garage floor cleaners, engine de-greasers and car wash soaps 2. It is also a known skin, eye and respiratory tract irritant and toxic to aquatic organisms 7.

Fortunately, there are SLS free toothpastes available. Just be careful, there are many products that are labelled as 'natural' or 'organic' that still contain sulfates 5, so be sure to double check the list of ingredients or make sure the product specifically says 'SLS Free'.

Is your toothpaste SLS free?

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Glycerin

Glycerin creates a coat or film on our teeth that won't rinse away 8. Some natural dentists argue that this glycerin film can prevent teeth from remineralizing, thereby weakening the teeth 8.

Triclosan

Would you brush your teeth with a pesticide? Check the list of ingredients on your tube of toothpaste because if it contains triclosan, then you are!

Triclosan, a pesticide found in toothpaste, is used for it's antibacterial properties 2, and has been shown to inhibit thyroid function 9.

FD & C Blue Dye # 1 & 2

These dyes are derived from petroleum or coal tar 10 and may cause potentially severe allergic reactions, asthma attacks, headaches, nausea, fatigue, nervousness, lack of concentration and cancer 2.

Polyethylene

Polyethylene is the most common ingredient in plastic 9. It is also a common ingredient in toothpaste.

As someone who has swallowed toothpaste (more times than I care to admit) and lived to tell the tale, I think the real concern with toothpaste is the exposure to these potentially dangerous chemicals over an extended period of time. Do we really want to be putting this stuff in our bodies multiple times a day, everyday?

What are your thoughts about the chemicals in toothpaste?

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    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      3 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I used to have problems with mouth ulcers, then I read an article similar to this, changed to tooth soap or a natural toothpaste, and the problem is gone. I blame it on the SLS, but it could be some of the other ingredients you mentioned that contributed to the problem. Thanks for helping spread the truth about the dangers of toothpaste!

    • profile image

      greeneyedblondie 

      3 years ago

      Yes! Finally someone that knows what they're talking about and I don't have to read through hundreds of comments saying, "You're an idiot," over and over again. You're right! Fluoride is really bad. Luckily my insurance doesn't cover my getting it after I turned 15. I always felt really sick after it. Also, if it says "do not eat" on the back, then why are we putting it in our mouths in the first place! Awesome read.

    • profile image

      garnetbird 

      3 years ago

      I agree! I am allergic to toothpaste and brush with baking soda.the chemicals literally make me sick. Good hub.

    • radhapriestess profile image

      radhapriestess 

      3 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Fluoride is by far the worse ingredient of all. I use Ayurvedic toothpaste and natural ones to avoid fluoride. SLS there is a difference of opinion on it. Some say that it depends upon the source of the SLS if it's natural coconut or synthetic.

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