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You do it every day — at least twice if you’re one of the 69 percent who brushes your pearly whites morning and evening. (If you’re not in that group, we’ll join your dentist in saying get to it!) But do you have any clue what toxins could be brimming on your bristles while you brush?
Many toothpastes on the market include a host of harmful ingredients. You may not believe that a daily dollop of toothpaste could cause harm, but it adds up over time. According to Delta Dental, we’re using 20 gallons of toothpaste throughout our lifetime!
The 7 Sinful Toothpaste Ingredients to Avoid
The fluoride used in toothpaste is sodium fluoride and is considered an over-the-counter drug by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In fact, warning labels are required by the FDA on all fluoride toothpastes and dental care products shipped since 1997. The warning reads as follows:
“Keep out of reach of children under 6 years of age. If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek professional help or contact a poison control center immediately.”
Today, 95 percent of all toothpaste sold in the U.S. contains fluoride, according to the Fluoride Action Network. However, too much fluoride can cause a condition known as fluorosis that discolors or spots tooth enamel and affects 41 percent of American adolescents, according to the CDC. When you consider that fluoride is added to more than 70 percent of the country’s water supply, suddenly we are dealing with a potential overdose. Opt for fluoride-free brands.
2. Artificial sweeteners
Sorbitol, a liquid that keeps toothpaste from drying out, is a laxative that can cause diarrhea in children. Saccharin, another artificial sweetener, has been linked to bladder cancer, brain tumors and lymphoma in rodents. Instead, try stevia or xylitol as natural sweetener alternatives; the latter has been shown to also prevent tooth decay by increasing saliva, thus decreasing bacteria, in the mouth.
3. Artificial colors
Synthetic colors are derived from coal tar. Only seven colors remain on the FDA’s approved list; all others have been banned. Yellow #5 is under review due to links to hyperactivity, anxiety, migraines and cancer. If your toothpaste contains these, keep shopping.
4. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
Originally used to clean floors, sodium lauryl sulfate is a detergent known to cause microscopic tears in the mouth (which can lead to canker sores). It’s an ingredient that makes toothpaste foam; look for glycyrrhizin as a healthier alternative.
Derived from red seaweed, carrageenan is added to thicken toothpaste, but it’s been linked to gastrointestinal inflammation, ulcers and even colon cancer in laboratory animals. While food-grade carrageenan sounds safe, it’s also been linked to insulin resistance and glucose intolerance in mice.
6. Propylene glycol
This is the main active ingredient in antifreeze and is used to soften cosmetic products. It has been linked to damage to the central nervous system, liver and heart.
Triclosan is added to personal care products to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination. An FDA ban on using it in body wash and soaps goes into effect Sept. 6. However, triclosan is still used in the Colgate Total line of toothpastes, according to Consumer Reports. Studies link triclosan to a decrease in thyroid hormones and an increase in antibiotic resistance, as well as tumors in mice.
Healthy Toothpaste Alternatives
Before you squeeze your dollars into tubes of toxins, why not save money with the peace of mind of knowing you’re using ingredients that won’t harm your health? Make your own homemade toothpaste with this simple, safe and affordable recipe.
If you’d rather buy than DIY, look for clay paste like Earthpaste. Alternatively, try Neem Active Toothpaste, derived from the Neem tree in India; it’s been shown to prevent gum disease and cavities and is antifungal and antibacterial. You can also add Neem oil and/or essential oils like peppermint or cinnamon to your own homemade toothpaste.