Toothpaste is one of the most essential products for maintaining good oral hygiene and preventing dental diseases. However, not all toothpaste is created equal. Some toothpaste contains ingredients that may be harmful to your health or the environment.
In this article, we will discuss some of the toothpaste ingredients to avoid and why they are bad for you. We will also provide some alternatives and tips for choosing a safe and effective toothpaste.
Why Toothpaste Ingredients Matter
The ingredients in toothpaste matter because they can affect your oral health and your overall health. The inside of your mouth provides a fast way to absorb ingredients from toothpaste and mouthwash into the body. Drugs such as nitroglycerine for heart conditions, vitamin supplements, and pain medications are often given under the tongue for fast absorption. Therefore, the ingredients in toothpaste may also enter your bloodstream and have systemic effects.
Moreover, some ingredients in toothpaste may cause allergic reactions, irritation, or damage to your teeth and gums. For example, some people may experience mouth sores, rashes, or swelling from certain flavors or preservatives in toothpaste. Some ingredients may also erode your enamel, increase your sensitivity, or stain your teeth.
Furthermore, some ingredients in toothpaste may have negative impacts on the environment. For example, some toothpaste contains microbeads, which are tiny plastic particles that can pollute the waterways and harm marine life. Some toothpaste also contains palm oil, which is linked to deforestation and biodiversity loss.
Therefore, it is important to be aware of the toothpaste ingredients to avoid and choose a toothpaste that is safe for you and the planet.
Toothpaste Ingredients to Avoid
Here are some of the most common and harmful ingredients in toothpaste that you should avoid:
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a common surfactant found in many toothpaste brands. It is responsible for creating the foamy lather we associate with a thorough cleaning.
However, its inclusion has sparked concerns among dental professionals. SLS can cause irritation and dryness in the mouth, potentially leading to canker sores. Moreover, some studies have linked SLS to a reduced sense of taste, raising questions about its long-term impact on oral health.
Triclosan is an antibacterial agent found in numerous personal care products, including toothpaste. While its antibacterial properties are beneficial in theory, the overuse of triclosan may lead to antibiotic resistance, a growing concern in healthcare.
The FDA has even banned triclosan in over-the-counter antibacterial soaps, raising doubts about its safety in toothpaste.
Fluoride: The Controversy
Fluoride is an ingredient often at the center of discussions regarding toothpaste safety. It is widely recognized for its role in preventing tooth decay and cavities by strengthening enamel and aiding remineralization. Countless dental associations and professionals endorse fluoride in toothpaste for its proven efficacy.
While fluoride is generally safe when used in appropriate quantities, excessive fluoride exposure can lead to dental fluorosis—a cosmetic issue that causes tooth discoloration. In rare cases, chronic overexposure to fluoride can result in skeletal fluorosis, a more severe condition that affects the bones and joints. It’s essential to strike a balance between the benefits and potential risks of fluoride in toothpaste.
Propylene Glycol serves several purposes in toothpaste formulations. Its primary function is to prevent the product from drying out by retaining moisture. This ensures that the toothpaste maintains its desirable texture and consistency throughout its shelf life.
Despite its widespread use, concerns have arisen regarding the safety of Propylene Glycol, even in the limited quantities found in toothpaste.
One of the more significant concerns is that Propylene Glycol can be absorbed by the body through the oral mucosa. While this is generally considered safe in the quantities found in personal care products, individuals who are exposed to Propylene Glycol through multiple sources may be at a higher risk of absorption.
Many toothpaste brands incorporate artificial sweeteners like saccharin and aspartame to improve flavor. However, there are concerns regarding the potential adverse health effects of these additives. Research has suggested that some artificial sweeteners may disrupt the balance of oral microorganisms, which can contribute to dental problems.
Diethanolamine (DEA) is another ingredient commonly found in toothpaste and numerous personal care products. Its role in toothpaste is to act as a foaming agent and emulsifier. While DEA is considered safe in small amounts, concerns have emerged about its potential risks to dental health and overall well-being.
Diethanolamine can react with other compounds in toothpaste and during storage to form nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are potential carcinogens and have raised concerns about their long-term exposure.
Regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have established guidelines for the use of DEA in personal care products to ensure consumer safety. However, due to the potential formation of nitrosamines, some experts argue that reducing exposure to DEA is advisable.
Parabens serve to inhibit the growth of bacteria and extend the shelf life of these products. However, the use of parabens in personal care items has sparked concerns about their safety.
Parabens have been found to mimic estrogen, a natural hormone in the body. This property has raised concerns about potential hormonal disruptions and their possible connection to hormone-related health issues.
Also, Parabens are known to be environmental contaminants, as they can enter waterways and affect aquatic life. The accumulation of parabens in the environment is a growing concern.
- Sodium lauryl sulfate and recurrent aphthous ulcers: A systematic review and meta-analysis – Herlofson BB, Barkvoll P – 2019
- Triclosan: A critical review of the experimental data and development of margins of safety for consumer products – Rodricks JV, Swenberg JA, Borzelleca JF, Maronpot RR, Shipp AM – 2010
- Fluoride toothpaste: Usage and ingestion of fluoride by 4- to 6-yr-old children in England – Zohoori FV, Duckworth RM, Omid N, O’Hare WT, Maguire A – 2012
- Propylene glycol in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp: A double-blind study – Korting HC, Schöllmann C, White SH – 1992