Cosmetics – Digging Deeper: Natural & Conventional Toothpaste

In this post, we take a look at toothpaste ingredients and explore a few trending ingredients.

What is toothpaste? 

Toothpaste is typically pastes, gels, or occasionally powders used with a toothbrush to maintain our oral health. They can support dental health by delivering active ingredients to help prevent tooth decay and gum disease and by removing plaques and build-ups found on our teeth.

What is the difference between natural and conventional toothpaste?

Typically, the term “natural” implies manufacturers do not use synthetically derived chemical ingredients when creating their products. Instead, scientists design the formula using naturally occurring chemical ingredients.

Regardless of the ingredient source, cosmetics are all formulated using chemical ingredients. It’s important to remember that chemicals make up everything.

Is toothpaste regulated?

Yes, toothpaste is typically regulated as a cosmetic product because it does not impact any bodily function, meaning manufacturers bear legal responsibility to make sure the cosmetic products they sell are safe for use and labeled properly (1,2,3,4).

Is there an organization that evaluates the efficacy and safety of toothpaste?

There are organizations like the American Dental Association (ADA) that provide additional guidance and recommendations for toothpaste, mouthwashes, and more (1,2).

What are common active ingredients found in conventional toothpaste?

The active ingredient in most conventional toothpaste is fluoride or a synthetically derived fluoride compound. Fluoride helps prevent cavities by strengthening tooth enamel and can inhibit bacterial growth that can harm teeth and gums.
 
There are also inactive ingredients like abrasive agents such as silica that help clean the teeth and remove surface stains. And, artificial sweeteners and flavor toothpaste and help freshen breath.
 
You’ll also find detergents such as sodium lauryl sulfate. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is an FDA-approved food additive that’s found in many cosmetic products. SLS safely creates the foaming action we’re accustomed to experiencing when brushing our teeth. Manufacturers can create this ingredient from synthetic or natural sources (1,2,3).

What are common active ingredients found in natural toothpaste?  

Natural toothpaste often contains herbs as well as other ingredients such as naturally occurring baking soda and silica that help to remove surface stains and freshen breath.
 
Many natural kinds of toothpaste also contain fluoride as fluoride is found abundantly in nature and is excellent at helping to strengthen enamel. Naturally derived detergent sodium lauryl sulfate is also commonly found in natural toothpaste.
 
Similar to conventional toothpaste, natural toothpaste will also contain ingredients to help clean and polish teeth, provide foaming action, and freshen breath.

Will the ingredients in conventional and natural toothpaste cause harm?

When used as directed, toothpaste does not cause harm.
 
However, if someone, especially children, swallows an excessive amount of toothpaste containing fluoride it can cause adverse health impacts (1,2). Remember, the dose makes the poison.

What about oral health trends like oil pulling or activated charcoal ingredients, are they safe?

Oil pulling involves swishing specific oils, like coconut oil, in the mouth for 10-20 minutes at least once a day in an effort to improve oral health. It’s been documented that some people have developed pneumonia related to oil pulling due to aspirating small amounts of the oil during the swishing process (1,2).

Activated charcoal is another trending ingredient with some claiming it has antimicrobial properties, prevents bad breath, whitens teeth, strengthens enamel, and more. The latest research does not support those claims.

Additionally, there is very little information available about the size and abrasiveness of the charcoal in the products. Without that data, it’s hard for researchers to develop safety recommendations so it’s best to use caution when using products containing these ingredients, especially if they haven’t been evaluated by an organization like the ADA.

The good news.

Manufacturers and researchers continue to develop and refine products to help improve our oral health. As we learn more about these ingredients, we can make the best decisions for ourselves and our family. 

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