What’s In A Label: Know What Is In Your Toothpaste
We use toothpaste every day with the objective of whiter teeth, fresh breath, protection from cavities, healthy gums, and maybe even reduction of sensitivity. At Alabama Family Dentistry, we know that a healthy oral environment can contribute to reduction of stroke risk, heart disease, respiratory disorders and even problems during pregnancy. Essentially, toothpaste should help neutralize overall pH in the mouth in order to prevent acid from accumulating into plaque, resulting in damage to the tooth structure. Unknown to most, a toothpaste’s ability to generate saliva is a key factor in neutralizing pH.
What’s In Your Toothpaste?
Have you ever really read the label on your toothpaste for the list of ingredients beyond the fluoride content? You may be very surprised to find that the contents of one tube of commercial toothpaste may include chemicals, additives, detergents and even sweeteners. And even if you have switched to “natural” toothpaste under the assumption that “natural” is synonymous with “healthy”, are you aware that the ingredients actually aren’t all natural even though it’s labeled as such?
The Food and Drug Administration mandates a warning if toothpaste contains any active ingredients, such as fluoride. However, toothpaste ingredients are not regulated. In addition, the American Dental Association (ADA) seal on most commercial toothpaste isn’t an approval of the product, it merely indicates the amount and type of fluoride in meets the ADA guideline. As a result, in the marketing quest for shiny white teeth, fresh breath, and clean gums, the following chemicals and additives have been found in the ingredient list of many commercial and natural brands of toothpaste.
♦ Fluoride: Generally a beneficial mineral in reducing tooth decay and sensitivity, can be lethal if ingested in large amounts, particularly to small children. ♦ Propylene glycol: A solvent that is the active component in some anti-freezes, ♦ Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): Found in “natural” toothpaste, an industrial detergent that creates foamy lather, which can be irritating to the soft tissues of the mouth, cause tiny fissures and sores, and dry mouth. ♦ Saccarin: Artificial sweetener that’s been a subject of FDA approval for years ♦ Antimicrobials: Natural or synthetic antimicrobials include tea tree oil, alcohol and triclosan, found in deodorants, dish soap, hand and body soaps, shampoos, etc. ♦ Chlorine dioxide: Industrial bleach ♦ Sodium hydroxide: Lye, an alkaline metallic base used in textiles, drain cleaners and industrial detergents. ♦ Salicylates: A common ingredient in inflammation medication, can cause allergies. ♦ Herbal extracts: Typically added for marketing as “natural”, can cause allergies or interact with other medications. ♦ PEG/PPG: A surfactant used as a wetting agent, dispersant and in leather finishing. ♦ Triclosan: Antimicrobial with potential to combine with chlorine in tap water to form chloroform, classified as a probable human carcinogen by the EPA. ♦ Hydrated silica: A whitening abrasive which may damage the surface of tooth enamel. ♦ Potassium nitrate: Found in gunpowder, this blocks the transmission of nerve cells within teeth and gums in products for tooth sensitivity. ♦ Hydrogen peroxide: Although beneficial in combatting fungal infections and as a whitening agent, continual use can cause peeling of soft tissues
Weighing the Hidden Risks of Effectiveness
Can the fundamental purpose of using a toothpaste in your preventative care regimen to neutralize pH be achieved without exposure to the potentially harmful ingredients in toothpaste? Being aware of the harmful ingredients to avoid can help you choose a toothpaste that won’t cause side effects in the quest for pearly whites. There are several natural choices that are SLS free. As well, baking soda based toothpaste, although not always as minty-fresh tasting and a little gritty, can also help promote a neutral pH. Fluoride content is a choice to be made depending on the consumer. There are even recipes for making your own “green” toothpaste. As an alternative for small children, Alabama Family Dentistry offers fluoride treatments.
The most promising recent breakthrough in oral care health is the product Xylitol. The product is harmless if ingested, can be tolerated by diabetics, and most importantly helps stimulate the flow of saliva. It is now used in several brands of gum touted for actually helping prevent cavities. It may become a popular product option for consumers in search of safe and effective dental care solutions. Ask your dentist at one of our four locations serving Birmingham, Gardendale, Warrior, Sumitron and surrounding central Alabama communities.