Chemicals Commonly Found Toothpaste & How to Pick a Safer Option
Inside This Post: 12 toxic chemicals commonly found in toothpaste. How to choose a safe toothpaste for adults and kids toothpaste options without toxic chemicals. All natural and safe toothpaste choices.
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What’s In Your Toothpaste & How to Pick a Safer Option
You may be wondering why and how toothpaste can be toxic, even if you don’t swallow it or it doesn’t sit in your mouth for long.
Here’s the deal.
We know how important the mouth to body connection is, and that bad oral health can contribute to heart disease, affect your brain (dementia and possibly even Alzheimer’s disease can result from gingivitis when the bacteria in the mouth spreads to the nerve channels or enters the bloodstream), diabetes complications, cancer, respiratory issues, osteoporosis, kidney disease and other scary conditions and complications.
You get the point.
There’s no doubt having a healthy mouth is important to overall health.
Absolutely, taking care to prevent oral health problems can go a long way towards decreasing the risk for more serious health problems in your body.
But that doesn’t mean you should run to the store and grab the first box of toothpaste you see because do you really know what’s inside?
Companies Capitalize on Marketing Ploys
When you walk down the aisles at the store to pick out toothpaste, you’re struck with claims like:
“Bright smile tomorrow”
“Professional strength whitening!”
These are misleading claims, because you want to know the purpose of toothpaste?
Toothpaste is a polishing agent to help remove the build up on your teeth over the course of the day.
That’s it’s one and only job.
But these marketing ploys work, don’t they?
Companies know you want white, minty and bleaching toothpaste, so they mix it all up, put it in a plastic tube and don’t think twice about what’s actually inside that can do real harm to your body.
Certain ingredients can adversely affect the natural balance of flora in your mouth (that’s the good and bad bacteria) that help you maintain good oral health.
When things are out of balance in your mouth, it easily affects gut microbiome.
Gut microbiome of course, play a very important role in your the health of your body’s organs and ensuring they’re functioning properly, immune system health and digestion, among other responsibilities. (source)
Mainstream store-bought toothpaste contain a heavy dose of toxins that go straight into your mouth, but also into your bloodstream.
Here’s a closer look at some of the most concerning toothpaste additives.
The Toxins Your Toothpaste is Made Of
1. Titanium Dioxide (TiO2)
What it is: Titanium dioxide is an inorganic chemical compound added as a colorant to make toothpaste white. There’s no oral benefit to titanium dioxide, it’s simply a marketing tactic to appeal to consumers as a bright white toothpaste.
Danger(s): While most studies have concluded that titanium dioxide is safe for topical use on skin since it isn’t absorbed, there haven’t been studies to determine if it is absorbed by the mucous membranes in the mouth. According to the Environmental Working Group, there is concern about inhalation of titanium dioxide, because it may be carcinogenic and could cause nonreproductive-organ-system toxicity.
What it is: Triclosan is by definition, a pesticide added to many consumer products as an antibacterial agent. It’s been called a “super chemical” because it’s strong bacteria capabilities.
Danger(s): During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military used an herbicide – Agent Orange – in chemical warfare. Well, turns out that the chemical structure of triclosan is eerily similar to a major component in agent orange.
There have been numerous animal studies linking triclosan as an endocrine disruption – a hormone disruptor and showing a decrease to thyroid hormones.
The FDA banned the use of triclosan in soap and body wash (but approves it for use in toothpaste because a 1997 FDA study of Colgate Total Toothpaste showed it was effective in preventing gingivitis). Multiple studies still are being conducted, but for the use in preventing bacteria is soap and body wash, it was ineffective. Do you want to put something in your mouth that you wouldn’t put on your hands?
According to Radius, here’s another disturbing fact about triclosan:
Why would the FDA allow such a toxic chemical in toothpaste? Well as it turns out, there’s only one brand on the market that still uses Triclosan and coincidentally it’s the same company that convinced the FDA that the benefits of triclosan far outweigh the risks. In fact, this company actually paid for the toxicology studies that the FDA used to decide if triclosan was safe and effective enough for toothpaste.
What it is: Fluoride is a chemical added to prevent cavities by aiding remineralizing of tooth structure.
Danger(s): There’s a reason fluoride-containing products come with an FDA warning: According to the Fluoride Action Network, even small amounts of fluoride can cause acute toxicity, characterized by nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, drowsiness, headaches and even unconsciousness.
Fluoride toothpaste sold in the United States typically contains between 1000 and 1500 parts per million of sodium fluoride. The most shocking news about fluoride isn’t just it’s toxicity, but the fact that no over-the-counter toothpaste formula contains enough of the substance to actually remineralize teeth, and manufacturers can’t add more because of FDA regulation.
Also, in order for topical applications of fluoride to be effective, it needs to be put on the teeth after brushing so that the biofilm is removed and fluoride can be absorbed. There are plenty of ways to naturally remineralize your teeth, and this article tells you about using targeted nutrition and remineralizing agents to do so.
Here’s another article that recommends the use of fluoride in certain circumstances but not in over-the-counter toothpastes, as the risk-reward ratio just doesn’t make sense.
4. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
What it is: SLS is a chemical compound used as a surfactant, detergent, and denaturant in various cosmetics and industrial cleaners. It’s also used as a foaming agent in toothpaste.
Danger(s): Almost 16,000 studies have mentioned the toxic nature of SLS, yet it is still used in many cosmetic and conventional toothpastes.
According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database, SLS is a “moderate hazard” that has been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, skin irritation and endocrine disruption.
EWG maintains that this chemical, which is also used as an insecticide, can cause irritation and organ toxicity. SLS irritates the mouth and strips away the lining, which can lead to canker sores, mouth ulcers, stomach issues, and cancer.
Manufacturers often list SLS by other names, including:
- Sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS)
- Monododecyl ester
- Sodium salt
- Sulfuric acid
- Sodium salt sulfuric acid
- Monododecyl ester sodium salt sulfuric acid
- Sulfuric acid monododecyl ester sodium salt
- Aquarex methyl
- Akyposal SDS
5. Abrasive Agents
What they are: Abrasive ingredients are added to toothpaste to help “scrub” biofilm from the teeth.
Danger(s): Toothpaste only needs to be mildly abrasive to be effective. Some of the abrasives used, such as hydrated silica, are actually too rough. These ingredients can strip away the enamel and dentin, creating sensitivity and leading to gum recession.
Another problem are the use of “micro-beads” in some toothpaste, likeCrest 3D White toothpaste, which contains micro-beads. These are tiny balls of polyethylene plastic that aren’t biodegradable so they won’t decompose, can be found embedded deep in gums and when washed down your sink. Micro-beads are so tiny, they don’t get caught in city water systems so they return to lakes, streams, oceans and eventually back into your drinking (tap) water you drink, where you consume little pieces of polyethylene.
It’s marketed that these micro-beads help clean your teeth but even Crest admits this isn’t necessary because there’s no need to exfoliate your teeth or gums. According to a page about the use of polyethylene in Crest products, Crest says that polyethylene is added for “decorative purposes only.”
6. Artificial coloring
What it is: Artificial dye is used to add color to toothpaste to make it aesthetically pleasing.
Danger(s): Studies have linked artificial coloring chemicals to hyperactivity and ADHD in children; in fact, a study published in 2012 by Neurotherapeutics found that artificial food colors can have a negative effect on children even if they haven’t been diagnosed with ADHD. I don’t know about you, but I’m much more worried about how effective my toothpaste is, not how sparkly and blue it is. Toothpaste does not need to be blue!
7. Propylene Glycol
What it is: Propylene glycol is a synthetic chemical compound used as a surfactant.
Danger(s): Although the FDA classifies propylene glycol as GRAS (generally recognized as safe), this compound is known to irritate the skin, eyes, lungs, and mucous membranes. The industrial-grade form of propylene glycol is used in antifreeze, detergent solvents, and paint.
Based on research showing that propylene glycol was toxic in rats after long-term use, authors of a 2013 study advised that intake of propylene glycol (and artificial colors, incidentally) be limited, especially in children.
What they are: Parabens are chemicals used as preservatives to extend the shelf life of the toothpaste.
Danger(s): The FDA is still reviewing and evaluating published studies on the safety of parabens, but they’re a known endocrine distruptor.
Parabens are used in most cosmetic products and even in most grocery items. Although one their own, the levels in individual products are deemed “safe,” its the accumulation of them, as well as paired with other toxins you accumulate, that put you at risk of breast cancer and other severities.
Parabens can take the name of Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben, Isopropylparaben, and Benzylparaben on product labels.
9. Saccharin (Sodium Saccharin)
What it is: Saccharin is an artificial sweetener used as a flavoring agent made from crude oil. You see it a lot in foods, as well as obviously, toothpaste.
Danger(s): Saccharin is a known carcinogen in rats, and although it hasn’t been shown to cause the same type of cancer in humans, are you really comfortable with it being added to your toothpaste for the purpose of making it more palatable? A side effect of saccharin is induced coughing, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
It’s also about 350 times sweeter than your standard sugar and falls into the same sweetener category as Acesulfame-K, sucralose, aspartylphenylalanine methyl ester, alitame and tagatose.
What it is: Carrageenan is a food additive extracted from red seaweed (also called Irish moss) and used as a thickener to your toothpaste.
Danger(s): Carrageenan has created intestinal issues, including inflammation and intestinal and colon tumors, in some animal studies. Many people have reported intestinal distress that is resolved with the avoidance of carrageenan products. This can be found in a lot of thick products like chocolate milk and yogurt. Always read labels.
Additionally, the degraded form of carrageenan is a known carcinogen. During processing, the undegraded (food grade) form may be easily contaminated by the degraded form.
What it is: Aspartame is an artificial sweetener used as a flavoring agent.
Danger(s): When aspartame is ingested, one of the chemicals in the compound is broken down into methanol –> alcohol. This 2014 study also determined that aspartame is a possible carcinogen.
Our bodies cannot properly digest it in this form and it can also travel through the blood and may be converted into formaldehyde. When aspartame and formaldehyde builds up in the body, the damage can trigger headaches, dizziness, weakness, memory loss, and gastrointestinal distress.
Here’s the entire list of possible side effects from aspartame: migraines, dizziness,hearing loss, seizures, nausea, numbness, weight gain, rashes, depression, fatigue, irritability, insomnia, hearing loss, heart palpitations, anxiety, vertigo, memory loss, muscle spasms, brain tumors, birth defects,vision problems, and joint pain.
Aspartame consumption could potentially lead to illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Epilepsy, Lymphoma, Parkinson’s Disease, and Fibromyalgia.
12 Diethanolamine (DEA)
What it is: DEA is a chemical used as a foaming agent in toothpastes.
Danger(s): This compound is yet another known endocrine (hormone) disruptor, and the EWG ranks it at 10 (out of 1- 10 scale, 10 being the word) on its hazard scale. It’s also used in some products to adjust the pH levels and can react with certain substances to create carcinogens. DEA is also known to cause organ-system toxicity.
When all these ingredients are combined and you see the big picture… then you can understand that what you put on your gums, in your mouth and allow into your bloodstream, can infiltrate toxic damage to your cells and body.
Natural, Safe and Non Toxic Toothpaste Options
You can always DIY your own toothpaste (either of these recipes for adults and kids work well!)
- Coconut oil, which can help boost the microbiome in your gut (remember, the gut begins in the mouth!) and naturally prevent candida in the mouth. There is limited evidence that coconut oil might help reduce cavity-causing bacteria.
- Baking Soda is completely safe to use as a DIY toothpaste. It’s non-toxic and increases alkalinity in the mouth by neutralizing acids, and has a very low abrasion score.
Don’t want to DIY and would rather buy something ready to go? I completely understand, as a Mom of three kids, making my own health and beauty recipes takes time I sometimes don’t have. Thankfully there are safe and non-toxic toothpaste choices out there!
Argant Clay Toothpaste is completely safe and toxin free, and comes in a lidded container so it’s a different application but is 100% All Natural, chemical free, coloring agents free, fluoride free and has the highest safety score (0 toxicity) given by Cosmetics Database / EWG
Redmond Clay Toothpaste is an earth based clay toothpaste without glycerin, Fluoride, SLS, noColoring, and is non- GMO. Only real Ingredients, such as Bentonite Clay, Xylitol, Sea Salt, Activated Charcoal, Essential Oils (anise, fennel). All Natural, Vegan, Gluten Free.
*My kids and I all use this toothpaste and really like it, and have found it has a very mild taste which makes it just right for kids.
Dr. Brite Mint Whitening Fluoride Free Toothpaste has a safe 0 recommendation from the EWG
With My Lemonade Toothpaste is also a safe 0 recommendation from the EWG that’s fluoride free, completely vegan and only contains natural and organic ingredients.
Hello Oral Care – Charcoal Activated Fluoride Free Whitening Toothpaste has a 3 rating from the EWG.
To gain a full understanding of what harsh toxins are lurking in your home and what happens when you breathe, eat, touch or smell them, Download Your Free Starter Guide to Environmental Toxins Hiding in Your Home