Walking down the dental care product aisle, you’re faced with all sorts of options. From tartar control to whitening toothpaste, there’s no shortage of items that promise to keep your teeth clean, white, and healthy.
Aside from the commercial toothpaste options, there are also various options which use fewer chemicals and processed compounds. Here’s what you need to know about the best natural toothpaste, and how they compare to commercial options.
One of the biggest benefits of using natural toothpaste is the ingredients. Natural toothpaste generally uses clays, aluminum-free baking soda, and essential oils to remove bacteria, minimizing the risk of tooth decay and bad breath.
Here are ingredients you’ll find in store-bought toothpaste that you won’t ever find in a natural product.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Brushing your teeth just doesn’t feel right unless you’ve got some foam and bubble action going on, right? The problem is that the ingredient that causes this type of reaction is quite harmful. Sodium lauryl sulfate, also known as SLS, is a commonly used surfactant, meaning that it makes a product foam and bubble.
Like many other detergents, SLS is a mild irritant and has been shown to cause eye or skin irritation in experiments conducted on animals and humans. While SLS is commonly used in soap, body wash, and shampoo products, it’s also used in toothpaste.
Interestingly, SLS was once put forth to be approved as a pesticide. However, it was denied because of the environmental damage it causes.
Triclosan used to be a commonly used ingredient in toothpaste as it showed promise of improving oral health. However, studies have cast some doubt on the overall effect of triclosan on oral health. Although it does seem to reduce plaque and gingivitis, triclosan was also linked to negatively altering the balance of bacteria in the mouth while also impacting hormone regulation.
The ingredient may also impact the immune system through the creation of antibiotic-resistant germs, and its use in antibacterial soaps is also under review.
Most dental care companies, such as Crest and Arm & Hammer have all removed triclosan in their products. However, Colgate continues to use triclosan, citing that the ingredient makes their products the best at removing tartar.
Aside from SLS and triclosan, there are a few other ingredients which raise some health and environmental concerns. For instance, parabens have been linked to a possible carcinogenicity in a 2004 paper, although further studies have generally found no reason for concern. However, since many types of parabens in many types of products are used commonly, further assessment of the additive and cumulative risk of multiple paraben exposure from daily use of multiple cosmetic and/or personal care products is needed. Another ingredient, which raises a different concern, is microplastics — several toothpastes contain microplastics, which have been shown to have massive environmental damage.
What’s In Natural Toothpaste?
The ingredients above are not typically present in natural toothpastes. But what is?
One of the most commonly used ingredients is natural clay. White kaolin clay and bentonite clay are two of the most commonly used. While it may seem weird to essentially brush your teeth with dirt, natural clays are nontoxic and full of minerals. Clay is a mild abrasive that scrubs the teeth, polishing them while also removing tartar.
Aluminum-Free Baking Soda
Baking soda is found in both natural and store-bought toothpaste. However, the biggest difference is that natural products use an aluminum-free version, which can’t be said for all commercial options. Baking soda is great for neutralizing acids in the mouth, removing odors and keeping the breath fresh. The ingredient also gently cleans and polishes the teeth, leaving them clean and whiter.
Similar to clays, activated charcoal is used in natural toothpaste to remove bacteria from your teeth and gums while also neutralizing odors. One of the biggest benefits of activated charcoal is that it not only cleans and polishes the teeth, it also whitens them! After a few brushes with a natural toothpaste that uses this ingredient, you’re sure to see noticeable differences in the color and brightness of your smile.
Essential oils are what give natural toothpaste a little flavor. These oils also keep your breath smelling nice all day long. Common oils include peppermint, clove, and cinnamon. Aside from essential oils, you may also find that some natural toothpastes use coconut oil and olive oil as an ingredient.
At the end of the day, there is a great variety of products to choose from, both in terms of commercial options and alternative options. It’s important to keep in mind that “traditional” toothpastes have remained largely unchanged for a long time for a good reason — they work — but there’s also a case to be made for more natural versions. In the end, the choice is yours.
This is a guest article and does not represent the views of ZME Science.