Tis the season for little monsters to devour obscene amounts of sugar - AKA the best time of the year. Maybe you're joining them with eating sweets or are worried about tooth decay. Either way, we've got the solution.
You see, today's blog is on natural oral hygiene! Wait, don't click away. There's actually a lot of interesting stuff you probably don't know about. Like fluoride being toxic. Still there? Okay, let's get to it.
Have you ever read a toothpaste label? It probably reads like a cleaning label, which isn't totally unfair because it does a fair amount of cleaning. And good oral hygiene is important to overall health for your body so you need good ingredients in your toothpaste to fight off all the things you put in your mouth.
But there are a few ingredients that we should start looking at and questioning. Some of them you might remember from our guide to Going Green With Your Clean
, which might be the first red flag.
- Most studies
done on fluoride in toothpaste and mouthwashes turn out to conclude it has little help on adult tooth health with low to moderate risk of toxicity. Plus, if you live in certain places in the US and UK, you may already be getting it in your water.
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
- This is a detergent that foams up your favorite toothpaste and gives it bubbles. In the cleaning article linked above, I explained that SLS may be linked to cancer. This study
also reveals there's no difference between a toothpaste with or without SLS in terms of fighting gingivitis except personal preference.
- You may be fighting tooth stains with this substance and seeing great results. Probably because this same substance
is used to remove rust stains, scouring wool and dyeing fabrics. It's a food additive so despite not swallowing toothpaste, you could still be ingesting it. But that's a different blog.
Sugar and Artificial Sweetener - One place you may not be expecting to find sugar is in your toothpaste but good hygiene isn't naturally bubblegum flavored. While no American Dental Association (ADA) accepted toothpaste contains real sugar, they will contain artificial sweeteners like xylitol and artificial flavors. "Natural" brands may be sporting real sugar that's counter-intuitive to tooth health. This is popular especially for kids toothpastes.
- While only in a very select
formula of toothpaste, triclosan was banned by the FDA to no longer be used in soaps. It's purpose is an antibacterial and gingivitis-fighter but there's debate about benefits versus risks. That's because
it can disrupt regular hormone functions, cause thyroid imbalances and lead to impaired learning and memory, among other crazy stuff. But it's probably totally safe to put in your mouth. Hopefully.
- Many toothpastes contain exfoliants for better cleaning. Whitening toothpastes contain even more. However, not only do these usually consist of microbeds that are polluting the environment, they don't even work. Studies
suggest whitening toothpastes with extra exfoliates actually wear down tooth enamel and soften teeth.
Whether you decide these ingredients are good or bad is really up to you. You wouldn't be alone if you stick with a fluoride toothpaste. Many people do and many dentists still recommend it.
The above list may seem like a lot of stuff to cut out of a cleaning product and some of you may even like some of those ingredients. That's okay, there's a lot of give and take with it comes to natural toothpastes. Some have fluoride, some don't. Some contain other ingredients toothpastes have while others try for alternative formulas. It's all about reading the label.
Remember, the term "natural" isn't regulated so any label can slap it on. If you're looking for the more natural side of "NATURAL!!" then keep an eye out for these terms:
Green Tea Extract - Antibacterial, this usually takes the place of triclosan and other germ-fighting ingredients. It's great for fighting bad breath too.
Citric Acid - From citrus fruit like oranges, this acid naturally cuts through tartar buildup and plaque.
Zinc Citrate - A natural mineral, it cuts down on plaque like citric acid but also helps keep bacteria from coming back.
Baking Soda - A good base for most natural tooth cleaners, baking soda helps naturally remove stains and cleans away plaque. It's also a great natural exfoliant that dissolves so it won't pollute the waterways. You'll usually find this on all the at-home teeth whitening lists.
Fruit Extracts - Any kind of herbal or fruit extract may be incorporated in a natural toothpaste. Popular ones include papaya, grape seed and ginger. These contain antioxidants and antibacterial properties that keep bacteria from building up. Others like grapefruit are acidic like citric acid to better clean teeth and cut through stains. They may also add a great natural flavor and provide vitamins and minerals for your teeth.
Sea Salt - Great for scrubbing teeth clean and naturally antibacterial, sea salt is probably as natural as you can get.
If you do change toothpastes
, be sure to tell your dentist next time you're in for a cleaning. They can give you the details on how your change is going. And don't skip visits, oral health is often correlated to other health issues so they may be able to catch something before your doctor does.
What are your brushing habits? Tell us about your favorite teeth rituals on our Facebook
pages and check back next week for more enlightening facts on living healthy!