Friday, September 19, 2014

Safe Toothpaste. Who knew it was so complex??

I've been on a mission to find a safe toothpaste. This is not an easy task. For one thing, everyones definition of what constitutes "safe" is different. 

Right up front, let's get the flouride debate out of the way. Some people consider flouride toxic. And it certainly can be, if you ingest it in sufficient quantities. On the other hand, I grew up in a small town without flouride, and, I can assure you, my teeth are now more filling than enamel. I have paid a large price for the lack of flouride in my drinking water when my teeth were being formed. My own children, who did have flouride in their water, have about 3 miniscule fillings between the 3 of them. They are now full grown adults. Many dentists side with the cause of flouride in toothpaste; many do not. I think I will leave this particular, controversial ingredient for you to sort out on your own, according to your own conscience. For me, I think having a flouride free toothpaste for small children who swallow toothpaste is a good idea. But that's just my opinion.

Let's move on to other ingredients. An easy one is triclosan. It's an antibacterial, and, one of the toxic ten. There is definitely no need to put triclosan in toothpaste. The mouth is a a natural home for many, many bacteria, and the odd brush with triclosan is not going to alter the state of affairs there significantly. Nor should it. But, using triclosan poses a threat to the environment, and may be responsible for the upswing of superbugs. Let's leave triclosan out of toothpaste!!

Artificial dyes. Do you really need striped toothpaste? Or blue? or green? This is an easy one. Check your ingredient list for any mention of dyes...and do not buy any that use them.

The next one - this one just amazes me - is our fondness for foamy toothpaste. Foamy toothpaste sells. I guess we just equate a nice foam with cleanliness, and efficiency. Too bad, because there isn't a connection at all. And, the nice foam in toothpaste comes from SLS - sodium lauryl sulphate. Another toxic ten ingredient. Sadly, it does not clean your teeth or add to the health of your mouth in any way. It just feels nice...we've gotten used to manufacturers include it because we want it. Silly us. Let's change our mind on the value of foam and get SLS out of toothpaste.

I was horrified to learn that a few toothpastes contain parabens! Parabens act as preservatives...but, are also in the toxic ten. Parabens are endocrine disruptors...and the results of that are too lengthy for this article. Avoid toothpastes with parabens! (Or any other personal care product, for that matter.)

Next up is the abrasion factor. Some abrasion is not a bad idea. It removes surface stains. Unfortunately, the toothpaste industry can go overboard with a good thing. Most, if not all, toothpastes contain something that removes surface dirt, stains and hopefully tartar. But how much is too much? Fortunately I include here a fabulous, 4 minute clip of research done at the University of Colorado on toothpaste abrasion. I found the clip fascinating. But if you don't want to spare the 4 minutes, there is a clever little chart beneath the clip that features about 65 toothpastes, and rates them as to abrasiveness. Pick the one that suits your level of personal comfort. Too much abrasion can cause tooth sensitivity.  Here's the link:

Like all other personal care products, let's read labels! Decide what is important to you, and vote with your wallet. If people do not purchase toxic products, manufacturers will stop making them.

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