Have you ever taken a close look at the ingredients listed in your toothpaste? There are a number of ingredients used as surfactants (increases foaminess) that are a cause for concern among leading scientists including David Suzuki.
In the following article, we’ll take a closer look at the potential health risks these additives may pose along with some recommendations on natural toothpaste alternatives. So if you have concerns about the toothpaste you are currently using and require recommendaitons on safer brands the information below will be of interest.
Is your toothpaste harming you?
It can be difficult to seprate fact from fiction when it comes to additives.
Due to the growing distrust of consumers toward chemical additives many potential outcomes are cited as fact without a definite conclusion being made.
While Triclosan, which potentially affects gut bacteria and may increases bacterial resistance is mostly gone from our toothpaste ingredients lists after many years of debate other additives remain including Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, two common ingredients found in toothpaste.
SLS and SLES are surfactants. What’s this you ask? Toothpastes contain both oil and water, however these two substances do not play well together e.g. mix. Surfactants join the two products by allowing the oil and water molecules to bind.
They are used to reduce surface moisture tension which in turn helps to increase the ‘foaminess’ we associate with products such as toothpaste and soap, giving us more of an impression that the product is effective. SLS is also an ingredient in many industrial cleaning products such as detergents and degreasers.
Links to cancer?
There are some who claim that SLS causes Cancer. While many share this concern and are eager to share this information in our current social media driven environment, it’s important to note that there is no scientific basis to verify this assertion. In fact, even the American Cancer Council dispute that SLS is a cause of Cancer.
The problem with unsubstantiated claims made against SLS is that substantiated health implications are largely ignored. In the case of SLS, it is a known skin irritant used as a control substance when testing for irritation caused by products tested before going to market and can irritate the eyes and lungs and promote sores within the mouth. Those who suffer canker sores, for instance, greatly benefit by switching to SLS-free toothpaste.
What’s the difference between natural and traditional toothpastes?
In most cases, the real difference is the amount of foam produced by the cleaner. As natural cleaning products do not use a surfactant, there isn’t as much foam produced. Despite the lack of foam in most cases, the alternative product is just as effective.
There is also the question of taste. Many people consider organic toothpastes far less appealing, however times have changed and natural products have greatly improved with regard to taste. In fact as someone who has used natural toothpastes for many years, I can attest to the fact that I no longer notice any real difference.
It’s also true that no two SLS free toothpaste products taste exactly the same. If you are considering a change, don’t ignore all natural options if you have only sampled one. Finding a suitable alternative may take some trial and error.
SLS and children?
Children have sensitive skin. Younger children also have a penchant for putting anything in their mouths. Unfortunately, this includes shampoos, soaps and of course toothpaste. As a result, it is a good idea to try an SLS free product for children if you are experiencing issues such as skin and gum irritation.
If ingested, it can also irritate the throat which can lead to respiratory issues.
Companies that make natural toothpaste
As you may have guessed, production costs are generally behind why manufacturers use products such as SLS. Manufacturers are often forced to produce cost effective products as we demand them. So using low-cost ingredients to make their products is not exactly newsworthy.
But, some toothpaste manufacturers refuse to use SLS in their products. They may cost a little more, but reduce the risk of canker sores and other gum diseases associated with SLS. The following are a few of the more popular brands you can buy at your local health store:
Many of these manufacturers use alternative natural ingredients. Alternative ingredients include Tea Tree Oil (antibacterial) and Xylitol (reduces cavities).
It’s convenience that drives people to buy the manufactured toothpaste alternatives. But for those of us who want to save a few dollars and make a simple natural alternative, it’s not all that difficult.
How to Make Natural Toothpaste
- 2/3 cup of baking soda
- 2-tsp. (or 15 drops) of peppermint or spearmint extract
- Filtered water (distilled is better)
- Salt (optional)
It’s quite simple and only takes around ten minutes to complete.
First, you will mix the ingredients together, with the only variable being water. The amount of water mixed in with the other ingredients is up to you. For a thicker mixture add less water, for a more fluid mixture add more water. In most cases start with only a small amount of water and add more as you go.
The Baking Soda Myth.
Some people think baking soda is abrasive. As a result, they believe it can cause damage to the enamel on your teeth. The truth is, using a hard bristled brush and grinding the bristles against your teeth do damage. Baking soda is an alkaline, so it helps reduce the risk of plaque and bacteria.
The cost of making natural toothpaste is around .75 cents. You can compare this price to a 5.2-ounce tube of toothpaste. The toothpaste mentioned above costbetween five and six dollars.
Finally, a word of caution, while the majority of natural products taste much better today, some natural alternatives will taste pretty damn awful. In fact, if you plan on encouraging your children to use an organic toothpaste, try it yourself first as it can be difficult.