For most of my life, I never thought about my toothpaste. I brushed my teeth, spit it out, and assumed it would work.
Even when I started switching to natural products, toothpaste wasn’t on my shortlist. A strict dental hygienist had instilled a deep fear of cavities in me as a child, and I was afraid that natural toothpaste might not work as well. But as other natural products proved highly effective (and often better than their counterparts), I finally decided to give it a shot.
What’s In Your Toothpaste?
First, I started researching common toothpaste ingredients. I mostly wanted to know if they were necessary, but I discovered that some can actually be harmful. Here’s some ingredients you may want to reconsider.
Sodium Fluoride: Fluoride is a hotly debated ingredient—and the most common one in toothpaste. Although fluoride has cavity-fighting properties, some scientists say that its benefits are overrated. Fluoride also has a downside. The use of too much fluoride can cause dental fluorosis, a condition in which the teeth become stained and damaged by hypomineralization. Ingestion of fluoride has also been linked to increased risk of fractures, hypothyroidism, diabetes, low IQ, nervous system damage, and cancer. There is good evidence that excess fluoride contributes to bone fractures , but the other links need more research to prove causation. If you want to read more on this complex topic, I found this article helpful.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: SLS is a foaming and cleansing agent. Although not necessary in toothpaste, it is responsible for that classic foaming sensation you get when you brush your teeth. Besides being unnecessary, sodium lauryl sulfate is also known to cause skin irritation. It is not recommended for people who get frequent mouth or tongue sores. SLS is also an organ toxicant and environmental toxin, but only in high amounts.
Polyethylene Glycol (PEG): PEG is a common humectant and solvant. Some evidence suggests it is a mild organ toxicant. But more seriously, it carries the risk of contamination with two very toxic chemicals: ethylene oxide and dioxane. PEG is probably safe most of the time, but you’re not always sure what you’re getting when you use it.
Sweeteners: Many toothpastes use artificial sweeteners like saccharine and aspartame. Studies have linked these sweeteners to lymphomas, leukemias, and brain tumors. Other scientists have pointed out the flaws in these initial studies, but many consumers are still reasonable leery. Although sweetener is unnecessary in toothpaste, Stevia or Xylitol are better options.
Once I knew what ingredients to look out for, I tried a few natural toothpastes. Here’s what I thought of them.
I decided to try Dr. Bronner’s toothpaste first, because I really like the company’s ethics. They use fair-trade and organic ingredients, and have a long history of social impact. Their toothpaste is also the “cleanest” I could find, with no debated ingredients.
I have to admit, it took me a while to adjust to this toothpaste. It doesn’t really foam up, and although it contains some stevia, it doesn’t taste very sweet. However, when I accidentally brushed with my old toothpaste one day, I was shocked at how cloyingly sweet it was.
Once I got used to the flavor and texture, I was pretty happy with this toothpaste. It did the job, and my teeth felt clean.
I decided to try JĀSÖN toothpaste next. A blogger friend told me it made her mouth feel fresher than any other natural toothpaste. That was exactly what I was missing with Dr. Bronner’s toothpaste, so I was curious to see if it lived up to the hype.
Once I tried it, I immediately liked it better. It foamed up in my mouth and had a great taste. My mouth felt truly fresh and clean after brushing. It was honestly a lot like mainstream toothpaste, but without the questionable ingredients. This toothpaste does contain carrageenan, which some people avoid due to digestive tract irritation, but I personally don’t have any problem with it.
Overall, JĀSÖN is my top pick for natural toothpaste. It has all the qualities you want in toothpaste, without the ingredients you don’t.
Before my husband and I switched to natural toothpaste, our three-year-old was already using it. We started him on Tom’s of Maine toothpaste as a baby, and we’ve been happy with it ever since.
It comes in both fluoride-free and fluorinated formulas, and it does contain sodium lauryl sulfate. I personally have chosen to use the fluoride version for my son, because children are more susceptible to cavities. I just make sure he doesn’t swallow it.
Along with my toothpaste switch, I decided to try out a more ethical, eco-friendly toothbrush. Preserve makes toothbrushes from recycled yogurt cups (a notoriously difficult-to-recycle plastic). They also come in a mail-back package, so you can send it to be recycled again. With a price point that’s comparable with other name-brand toothbrushes, it seemed like a no-brainer to me. Plus, I like the soft bristles and curved design. I also got a child-sized one for my son.
If you’re looking for something more natural, you may want to try out a bamboo toothbrush.
Oiling pulling is another great natural tool for keeping your teeth healthy. Coconut oil helps break down plaque and dispel bad bacteria from your mouth. When I have a sensitive tooth or just want an extra cleaning, I melt a tablespoon of coconut oil in my mouth and swish it around for 10-15 minutes. Lots of people do this every day for 20 minutes, but I really dislike the feeling of oil in my mouth, so I save it for special occasions. However, it does really work. I’ve noticed huge improvements in sensitive spots, and none of them has ever turned into a cavity.
Once again, I’ve been really impressed with the natural options in this field. I do want to disclose that I recently had to switch to a non-natural sensitive toothpaste because of a tooth that was bothering me more than usual. My dentist told me that I was simply over-brushing and had exposed a bit of sensitive root. I may look for a natural sensitive toothpaste or at least one without a few key ingredients. But for now, I’m just happy that my teeth are healthy.
I hope that all of my blogs empower you to make informed choices for yourself. Natural options are great, but they are just that: options. And if it’s not right for you, then that’s okay. No judgement from this corner of the internet!
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Photo: © Elizabeth Steere