Have You Read the Poison Warning on your Toothpaste?
Popular toothpaste ingredients are so scary we are warned not to swallow more than what is used for brushing. But the lining of the mouth has a 90% absorbption efficiency.
Tooth pastes have been around a long time- Hippocrates had references to tooth paste recipes as far back as 377 BC. Toothpastes contain a myriad of ingredients. This article may seem like a chemistry class because chemicals are added to tooth paste to improve the mechanical properties, the appearance, or the smell of tooth paste in order to appeal to consumer interests
- Fluoride is the most popular active ingredient in toothpaste due to its proved ability to prevent cavities. Most toothpaste brands use Sodium fluoride (NaF); some brands use Sodium Monofluorophosphate – SMFP (Na2PO3F).
The concentration of fluoride in a toothpaste for adults is 1000 to 1450 ppm max.
- Antimicrobial agents that fight the bacteria of dental plaque. There are two kinds of antibacterial agents used as ingredients of toothpastes :
- bactericidal agents as Triclosan that kill bacteria. Triclosan induces damage and lesions to the cell wall of bacteria resulting in bacteriolysis (death of the cell).
- bacteriostatic agents as Zinc (Zinc chloride or Zinc citrate) that stop the growth of dental plaque bacteria by inhibiting their metabolism.
The combination of a bacteriostatic with a bactericidal agent as toothpaste ingredients commonly utilized as an effective method to kill bacteria.
- Surfactants (detergents) and Foaming agents that help to carry away debris from the mouth and between the teeth. Common foaming ingredients in toothpastes are Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and ammonium lauryl sulfate.
- Anti-tartar agents as Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate (TSPP). Pyrophosphates are water-softening agents that remove calcium and magnesium from the saliva, so they can’t deposit on teeth creating tartar (calcified plaque). Pyrophosphate does not remove tartar, it merely helps prevent its formation.
- De-sensitising agents to relieve tooth sensitivity. Strontium chloride works by blocking the tiny crevices (microtubules) that enable cold and heat sensations to reach the tooth’s nerve. Potassium citrate and Potassium nitrate work in a different way by blocking the mechanism of pain transmission between nerve cells.
- Abrasives : Calcium phosphate (chalk) and alumina were used as the abrasive base of tooth pastes but they had the disadvantage of reacting with other chemical ingredients. Today the common abrasives are Silicon Dioxide (silica) and Titanium Dioxide. Hydrated silica is a transparent abrasive used not only in white opaque tooth pastes, but in gel toothpastes as well.
- Baking Soda (Sodium bicarbonate) is a mild abrasive. It has a mild whitening action and helps to keep an alkaline enviroment (not friendly for dental plaque bacteria) in the mouth.
- Teeth Whitening agents : the whitening toothpastes, except of the mechanical whitening action of toothpaste abrasives, use extra whitening ingredients as the Hydrogen Peroxide or Sodium carbonate peroxide that breaks down into sodium carbonate (washing soda) and hydrogen peroxide.
- Flavor. Toothpastes come in a variety of flavors, most often being some variation on mint.
Additional ingredients such as enzymes, vitamins, herbs, calcium, mouthwash are often included in the formulas. Other non active ingredients in toothpaste are humectants (which are moisturizers), coloring thickeners, water softeners and sweeteners as sodium saccharin.
Typical toothpaste warning:
Keep out of reach of children under 6 years of age. If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek professional help or contact a poison control center immediately
Flouride is one ingredient that has continued to spark scientific as well as professional debate. On one side there is the American Dental Association and the Center for Disease Control, they believe that fluoride is one of the twentieth centuries most impressive oral health finds. On the other side are numerous dental professionals as well as scientists who believe that fluoride is a source for the increase in thyroid problems as well as skeletal flourosis. There are many dental professionals who believe that there is an epidemic of dental flourosis (enamel staining) resulting from too much fluoride. This article is not long enough to properly address both sides of this issue. You can visit the American Dental Associations’ web site: ada.org or the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicologys’ web site at iaomt.org for a more complete discussion of this topic.
Abrasives include silica, calcium carbonate, dicalcium phosphate, and alumina. These abrasives are like comet cleanser- they clean the outside of the teeth. These abrasives are hard on tooth enamel. There is a silica obtained from the Horsetail plant which is less abrasive and will not harm the teeth. Even some of the so called natural tooth pastes sold in health food stores contain these abrasives. Many whitening tooth pastes contain large amounts of abrasives. Often these tooth pastes can have the opposite effect; the abrasives will wear down the enamel exposing the dentin underneath which is yellow in color. According to Dr. Jerome Mittleman, Americans brush their teeth with stones, animal bones, and sand particles without being aware of it. Calcium carbonate comes from stones, dicalcium phosphate is bone, and the silica in most tooth pastes comes from sand.
Sodium lauryl sulfate is a common detergent found in many tooth pastes. Peer reviewed research has shown that this ingredient will dry out the protective mucous membrane, which is a cellular lining of the mouth. This is your first defense against infection. Research has also implicated this ingredient in the formation of canker sores. In other words if you have a problem with chronic canker sores look for this ingredient in your tooth paste- if it is there obtain a different tooth paste.
Pyrophosphate compounds are ingredients in many tartar control tooth pastes. Many people with sensitive skin have experienced burning, itching, or red cracked skin around the mouth.
Artificial flavors, sweeteners, and dyes are added to tooth paste to improve the appearance, the taste, or the smell of the tooth paste. These ingredients can cause toxic reactions especially in children. Sweeteners such as saccharine have been caught in the debate of whether it causes cancer or not for a long time. Saccharine is listed as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Sorbitol, another sweetener can cause diarrhea in some individuals. Aspartame, also a sweetener, has been implicated in liver and kidney damage. FD&C Blue No. 1, a coal tar dye often found in tooth paste has also been implicated as a carcinogen.
Triclosan is utilized for it’s anti-microbial effects. Recent research, published in Aquatic Toxicology, is the first to show that triclosan can act as an endocrine disrupter at concentrations found in North American streams. Triclosan’s endocrine disruptive effects were seen prominently at the thyroid gland in frogs.
In searching for a more natural tooth paste look for the following ingredients:
- Peelu, an ingredient obtained from the Peelu tree in Asia and Africa, is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. The branches of the tree are ground down into a powder. This powder is made into a non-abrasive tooth paste.
- CoQ10 is an ingredient often added to tooth pastes. This nutrient helps the blood carry more oxygen and thus it is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial ingredient. Dr. Andrew Weil has become a staunch supporter of CoQ10 for healthy gums.
- Tee Tree oil is another ingredient that provides anti-septic, anti-fungal, and anti-microbial properties. Tea Tree Oil comes from the myrtle family and only found in Australia. Manufacturers add zinc, aloe and grapefruit seed extract to protect against viral and bacterial infections.
- Glycerine from coconut oil is utilized both as a sweetener and a humectant (it keeps the tooth paste moist).
- Hamposyl L-95 (Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate) is not Sodium Lauryl Sulfatenad come from coconut oil. It acts as a mild cleansing agent, an enzymatic anti-bacterial, and a mild foaming agent.
- Carrageenan is a naturl thickening agent derived from Irish Moss.
- Grapefruit Seed Extract is a broad spectrum antimicrobial compound. Many leading medical authorities utilize this compound when treating yeast infections. It has a wide array of topical applications
- Clove oil is highly antiseptic and is a time honored remedy for tooth aches.
- Myrrh has been utilized since Biblical times for irritated and infected gums. Recent research has shown that myrrh also stimulates the body’s immune system, thus increasing the body’s resistance to infection.
These lists are not comprehensive; but will provide you with a guide when selecting a tooth paste that meets your needs and desires.
Dr. Kevin Flood