The Truthpaste of Toothpaste: Hidden Ingredients

Commercial toothpastes are made of many hidden chemicals which are disruptive to your oral health.

Technically, you don’t need toothpaste to clean your teeth, the mechanics of brushing, flossing, or picking can remove the plaque sufficiently. When patients ask me what the polish does after a teeth cleaning, I  let them know it removes any plaque left behind and light stain, and it smooths out the teeth. Smooth teeth discourage plaque, but more importantly, polishing and using toothpaste feels good, and most humans are motivated by what feels good. The key is to use a healthy toothpaste which truly is good for you and non-invasive.

Commercial toothpastes are packed with chemicals, chemicals which are hidden ingredients, as there are no label requirements for them. The most commonly used chemical in toothpaste is sodium fluoride, a poison, and is the only chemical mandated to be listed in its amount accompanied by a warning label. The thought of handing a tube of fluoride toothpaste to a kid is frightening, see my blog Children and Too Much Toothpaste. Chemicals are cheap, keeping the cost down on the paste where money can be spent on packaging and marketing. The dental product industry is a multi-billion dollar profit making machine. Corporations biggest care is for consumers purchasing their products, not for the good of their oral health.

When you use a toothpaste and experience a burning sensation, it’s because the paste is burning. Toothpaste can “burn” your soft tissue to the point of killing it along with wiping out not only the bad bacteria, but the good. Whether burning can be sensed or not, I have seen dead tissue in patients mouths many times over, a white stringy sloughed mucosa where even the gums are too pale. It’s crucial to not disrupt the delicate balance of oral bacteria for the significant roles they play; their interaction with enzymes in digestion, the conversion of nitrates to nitrites, and autoimmune defenses are only a few. Research is ongoing to discover the hundreds of bacteria which live in the mouth and their roles in our body.

Many times patients are experiencing general sensitivity of their teeth where the average dentist would suggest Sensodyne, maybe give them a sample and walk away. When I encounter this patient, I always ask what toothpaste they’re using and if it’s a paste with any of the ingredients below, I suggest they discontinue the paste. Not only do chemicals disrupt your bacteria balance, they’re also acidic, abrasive, or both, which can erode your enamel. Your saliva is full of healthy minerals, which on their own, after the disuse of a chemical paste, can rebuild your enamel which should ameliorate generalized sensitivity.

One of the largest marketing scams is tooth whitening pastes, which usually are full of abrasives with not enough peroxide to whiten, and only remove surface stains. If you want to actually change the color or shade of your teeth, you must bleach, then go back to your healthy paste.

The Truthpaste of Toothpaste Hidden Ingredients to Avoid

I wish I could hold a red flag in every store’s toothpaste aisle to warn consumers of these selected ingredients:

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or any of the many names disguising it, Sodium ____ Sulfates are what make products foam and is known as a detergent. Many “natural” toothpastes use this ingredient, however, even when they state it’s derived from a natural source such as coconut oil, it undergoes a chemical process which renders it far from natural. SLS can be the culprit to canker sores.

Triclosan is an antibacterial chemical found in many antibacterial products like hand soap. This ingredient has been outlawed in Europe because they recognize how triclosan contributes to antibiotic resistance which is a huge health crisis. This chemical effects our autoimmune system as an endocrine disruptor. Triclosan is the main ingredient in Colgate Total. When I worked for a corporation they demanded I give everyone a small tube of Colgate Total but I refused and that was the end of me!

Silica, even though it’s natural from pumice rock or sand, it’s way too abrasive for enamel. It’s what you find in professional prophy paste, but a hygienist only polishes your teeth about twice a year, which is enough! Silica can be found in natural toothpaste, but you don’t need it, even with the finest grit.

Trisodium Phosphate or Sodium Phosphate or any Phosphate, we all know phosphates in household and body products are carcinogens, yet can you imagine brushing with these detergents? They are also destructive to the environment. Yikes, phosphates can be found in your toothpaste.

Sodium Benzoate or Potassium Benzoate are preservatives and known carcinogens.

Parabens are preservatives found in cosmetics and body products which I have been avoiding for years. Parabens are xenoestrogens, estrogen-mimicking agents which are carcinogenic. I was shocked to discover parabens can be found in toothpaste.

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener which humans can’t digest, the only way our body breaks it down is to convert aspartame to formaldehyde.

Glycol is derived from industrial grade petroleum (mineral oil) and is extremely drying not only in the mouth but anywhere on our body.

The reason why many of these ingredients, in the guise of “natural,” are in “natural” toothpastes are because they’re not owned by truly natural product companies. For example, Tom’s of Maine was purchased a long time ago by Colgate-Palmolive, and I would know, my aunt was executive director of corporate communications for Colgate-Palmolive and I saw for myself. A few good brands of toothpaste are from Jason, Weleda, and Desert Essence. Recently, I was surprised to find Jason Sea Fresh at my local grocery store, and I’m loving it because it’s really refreshing.

Click image to order Jason toothpaste

Toothpaste Healthy Ingredients

It’s important to familiarize yourself with personal care companies so you can trust their products across the board. Below are some pure ingredients I love which you can find in toothpaste brands or you can use to make your own, see my blog Home Remedies:

Bentonite Clay or any pure clay gently polishes stain by absorption, not abrasion and is full of healthy minerals. I love Redmond Earthpaste.

Click on image to purchase paste

Baking Soda is alkaline and a perfect base for toothpaste. Many store bought brands do not put enough baking soda in for it to be therapeutic. I often recommend to sprinkle some over your favorite paste.

Coconut Oil promotes healthy bacteria and blends well with clay and baking soda or both.

Aloe Vera is alkaline and a mild antibacterial but won’t disrupt the healthy bacteria. If your mouth has been too acidic, for example from candida, an aloe vera paste can be a great recovery such as Aloe Vera Tooth Gel by LR.

Click on image to purchase paste

Xylitol is a natural sweetener and leaves behind a slippery film which discourages the biofilm for plaque. It helps prevent decay and periodontal disease and can be considered a dental asset in chewing gum as well, but it must be a main ingredient, and not for example Trident with xylitol. I’ve been recommending Spry dental products and gum for years.

Spitting toothpaste out in the sink is not a safeguard, as your oral tissue is highly efficient in absorption, the chemicals can easily enter your bloodstream. Remember, you control what gets put in your mouth, the gateway to your whole health.

*This blog contains affiliate links for products Ask My Hygienist carefully recommends based on professional experience or personal use. These suggestions are to assist you in your quest for better oral health, and in turn, you're assisting our blog with the small commission we receive from your purchase.

Author: Cari

Cari has been a practicing dental hygienist for over 30 years. She received her degree with honors and was selected for a rare internship at Eastman Dental School, Rochester, NY. She then went on to receive a BS in Social Work from Nazareth College, cum laude. She has practiced in a variety of offices in Santa Fe for almost 25 years, with dental hygiene experience that has spanned from public health to holistic private practice, to specializing in dental phobic patients. Her commitment to research with a life-long desire to learn is combined with her genuine drive to provide patients with a whole health knowledge base. Cari also brings her experience as a published writer to her role as an oral health blogger. She has written blogs and web pages for Beyond Borders Dental in her role as Director of Dental Relations and Education.

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