Table of Contents
- Somewhere To Start
- Unidentified Foreign Ingredients
- Suggested Products
- Natural Toothpaste Wrap Up
Natural. Organic. Herbal. What do these even mean anymore?
It’s a bit frustrating to be honest. We’ve been looking around for ‘natural’ solutions that we can write about and to be frank, the market for natural oral health products is a mess. Nobody has defined what natural toothpaste is. Everyone says everyone else’s chemicals are deadly, will cause cancer and make you sprout additional arms. Its brutal, it’s confusing, it’s ambiguous and it’s terribly frustrating to sort through.
Well, this is it. We’ve decided to cut through all the crap and figure set some ground rules for natural toothpaste. In this article we’re looking through all of the standard chemicals people warn against and seeing if they’re really that bad. Then we list our alternatives that we think work well for the category of “best all natural toothpaste”.
Somewhere To Start
So let’s start breaking this down. What is an all natural toothpaste? What are people actually looking for?
The biggest difference between an all natural toothpaste and a ‘conventional’ toothpaste is what is in it.
Within the last decade or so, people have started to look into the conventional toothpaste ingredients. They’ve found some chemicals and ingredients that they’re not huge fans of. This has caused a myriad of spin offs and natural toothpaste solutions to pop up.
The main idea behind these new natural toothpaste options is twofold:
- They use ingredients harvested from plants and herbs as opposed to being synthesized in a lab.
- They don’t include a number of flagged ‘issue ingredients’ such as fluoride, SLS or carrageenan
The biggest issue here is understanding which ingredients you’re not a fan of and which ingredients you’re okay with. There are tons of health blogs out there who say “these ingredients are bad because they’re foreign chemicals” but refuse to include any data to back that up.
Below we’ve gathered together a list of the biggest ‘issue ingredients’ and gathered what data we can around them.
Unidentified Foreign Ingredients
There’s a long list of suspect ingredients that have been labeled as “evil” or “toxic”. There a much shorter list of data surrounding a lot of these suspicions. Below we’ve got the big list of ingredients you’ll hear people have issue with.
You’ll often hear accusations that some ingredients are used in toxic products. For example, many products use Propylene Glycol in antifreeze, paints and enamels. That doesn’t by default mean that it’s a chemical you don’t want in toothpaste simply because it’s involved in other toxic applications. Antifreeze is created from a variety of chemicals that all combine in a specific way. It’s the specific combination of chemicals used to create that product that causes it to be toxic.
For the purposes of this article, we’re concerned about the application of chemicals for oral health. We’re interested in understanding if these chemicals (in combination with other chemicals) are hazardous.
Finally, none of these chemicals should ever be ingested. Proper brushing technique should include spitting out your toothpaste and rinsing your mouth afterwards.
The biggest issue you’ll see people have concerning ingredients is fluoride. The Wikipedia page on fluoride toxicity lists six major potential issues with fluoride toxicity, but only lists teeth as “The only generally accepted adverse effect” of fluoride. Everything else is a general association or correlation. It’s important to keep in mind that correlation does not mean causation. On the flip side, fluoride is the only ingredient officially recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA) to help prevent against tooth decay and cavities.
Concerning water fluoridation, there’s not a whole lot of harm there either. We go into it in our fluoride free toothpaste article, but the jist is that even with three times the regulated amount of fluoride in water there are no adverse effects found whatsoever. This is even in young children and the elderly. The CDC has an official page about the tests done concerning water fluoridation.
There are a few instances when you should avoid fluoride. Children under two should use non-fluoride toothpaste as they have a high risk of swallowing the toothpaste. Furthermore, anyone under your care who has a high risk of swallowing toothpaste should use a fluoride free toothpaste.
Finally, in certain situations you can obtain a healthy amount of fluoride from your diet alone. Talk with your doctor to see if you fall into this category. If so, a fluoride free option is a good fit for you.
If you’ve used or read about Colgate Total then you might be familiar with the ingredient triclosan. This ingredient in particular is a bit of a double edged sword. The reason it’s been included in Colgate Total’s toothpaste is because it is officially linked to helping prevent gingivitis/gum disease. The study shows that including triclosan in toothpaste lead to a 22% reduction in gingivitis and a 48% reduction in bleeding gums.
Currently triclosan is undergoing a FDA review. At the time of this article the FDC have not published their results regarding triclosan. Health Canada did complete their review on triclosan. Below are their findings:
“Triclosan does not pose a health risk to most Canadians, including children, pregnant women, and seniors. The levels of triclosan to which we are exposed are considered too low to be harmful.”
As of now there are no official human-tested studies that show adverse effects of triclosan. However, the FDA review may provide some additional insight when it finishes its review.
The biggest concern regarding SLS is its potential link to aphthous ulcers (i.e. canker sores). There’s not a whole lot of evidence that supports this one way or the other. General professional practice and opinion hasn’t changed as a result any studies regarding SLS and canker sores.
There aren’t any citable official studies on this so it’s a bit up in the air. If you’ve had major issues with canker sores in the past and you’ve been using a toothpaste that includes SLS as an ingredient, you might want to look at SLS free toothpaste options.
SLS has another big concern – it’s potential link to cancer. The truth is it’s not. It’s officially been labeled as non-carcinogenic, meaning it is not directly linked to cancer. There is some concern that it is indirectly linked to cancer, but again, there is no official link to these studies. At the date of publishing this article, there is no proof that SLS is in any way linked to cancer.
So what is SLS used for? It’s mainly used as a foaming agent and has also used to combat bad breath (otherwise known as malodorous breath… the super technical term I guess).
In the spirit of transparency, the studies showing SLS’s effectiveness against bad breath are suspect to a degree, so there’s no firm evidence linking SLS to helping halitosis. Either way, the only concern you should have regarding SLS is a potential for canker sores.
Carrageenan causes the most concern with its use in infant formulas. Manufacturers also use it in conventional toothpastes. The biggest concern with carrageenan is its link to harmful gastrointestinal effects in animals, specifically rats.
In 2015 there was an official report released by a joint investigation between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and World Health Organization on Food Additives (JECFA). The report specifically focused on the involvement of carrageenan in infant formula. As long as the concentration was less than 1000 milligrams per liter there are no health issues.
It is important to note that the EU has specifically banned carrageenan in all infant formulas despite the studies showing there are no harmful effects. Other products (aside from infant formulas) are not regulated when it comes to carrageenan.
“In the absence of any further information on possible absorption of carrageenan by the immature gut in the very young infant, the Committee reaffirms its earlier view (SCF, 1998) that it remains inadvisable to use carrageenan in infant formulae that are fed from birth, including those in the category of foods for special medical purposes. The Committee has no objection to the use of carrageenan in foods for older infants, such as follow-on milks (SCF, 1983) and weaning foods.”
While there is absolutely no proof that carrageenan is linked to any adverse effects in infants, it might give you piece of mind to choose an infant toothpaste that doesn’t include it. Also, keep in mind that when using toothpaste properly, you will never be ingesting carrageenan.
Companies add artificial sweeteners to toothpaste to add flavor as well as mask some of the not-so-pleasant tastes you’ll get from the other ingredients. All natural toothpaste manufactures tent towards using organic sweeteners (such as xylitol and stevia).
The big concern regarding artificial sweeteners is their potential link to cancer. Companies such as Crest and Colgate regularly used artificial sweeteners in their products, including saccharin. There were several studies in the late 1970’s that showed a potential connect between saccharine and cancer in rats.
Ultimately, the World Health Organization (WHO) has downgraded the risk of saccharine as a carcinogen to Group 3 (i.e. “not classifiable as to carcinogenicity to humans”). Their reasoning for this was that that a DNA specific reaction in animals was cause for cancer. These DNA specific causes are not present in humans.
If you’re still unsure about artificial sweeteners in toothpaste, there are still a variety of healthy, dentist recommended naturally sweetened options out on the market. Artificial sweeteners are added purely to enhance the user experience in toothpaste and have no medical need.
Toothpaste manufacturers use Glycerin as a smoothing agent. Beyond the health concerns of glycerin, there’s also an animal rights concern as certain forms of glycerin can be obtained from animals. Glycerin can also be acquired from plants as well as be created synthetically.
If you’re concerned about animal products being involved in toothpaste, you’ll need to specifically check each product individually to identify how it acquires its ingredients. To make things easy, we’ve included several completely vegan toothpaste options in our recommendations.
There is some concern based around the Glycerin’s potential for it to damage the enamel on your teeth. This particular report shows that if applied for a long enough period of time, glycerin can cause the microhardness of your teeth can decrease. It’s important to note that this experiment tested very unrealistic circumstances – they had the glycerin applied to teeth for 42 days straight.
Even still, there’s the potential for glycerin to damage teeth after extreme repeated use. If you’re concerned about this there are a variety of glycerin-free natural toothpastes available.
It’s pretty unlikely in this day and age that you’ll find any microbeads in oral health products. The Washington Post wrote an article about two years ago calling out Crest’s use of microbeads in toothpaste. The small pieces of plastic were getting caught in patients gums.
Crest made a commitment to remove all of the microbeads from their products by March 2016. If you’re looking to purchase toothpaste that was produced before March 2016 by Crest, check to ensure that the product doesn’t contain microbeads.
As always, we encourage you to do your own research on these topics. Despite our research indicating certain options over others, we’ve decided to include a wide array of products in our recommendation so you, as the consumer, can make up your mind yourself.
Additionally, when looking for an all natural toothpaste, it helps to define exactly what you’re looking to include (or not include). Browse through our list above and decide which ingredients you’re uncomfortable with – then look through the options available.
With all the info stuff out of the way, below is the list of products that we’ve identified as being excellent all natural toothpaste options. We’ve got a description by each one to show why we’ve chosen it. Happy browsing!
If you’re looking for an all natural, completely organic option, it’s hard to beat Earthpaste. You can take a look at their full ingredients list here, but below is the quick rundown:
- Redmond clay
- Purified water
- Natural xylitol
- Essential oils
In addition to the ingredients included, you’ll find that Earthpaste does not following ingredients:
- Foaming agents (SLS)
If you’re looking for a completely natural, chemical-free toothpaste, Earthpaste is an excellent choice.
Tom’s of Maine Children’s Fluoride Free Toothpaste
For those of you looking to avoid fluoride for your children’s toothpaste, take a look at Tom’s of Maine Fluoride Free Children’s Toothpaste. In addition to not including fluoride, Tom’s of Maine toothpaste adheres to the following standards regarding their natural sourcing:
- Sourced in nature
- Simple and understandable ingredients
- Free of artificial preservatives, colors, sweeteners, flavors, fragrances, and other additives
- Free of animal ingredients
- Made of high-quality ingredients
- Subject to limited processing
- Purposeful in the system of ingredients
- Promote organically grown ingredients wherever possible and practical
You’ll find your children will probably be big fans of the way this tastes. It doesn’t have any artificial flavors but that doesn’t mean it can’t be tasty – the real fruit flavors can pack a pretty fantastic punch.
JASON Healthy Mouth Toothpaste Gel With Fluoride
If you’re looking for a fluoride-included natural toothpaste, you options are pretty sparse. Most every toothpaste out there that claims that it’s natural doesn’t include fluoride. JASON’s Gel With Fluoride does include fluoride, but does not include the following ingredients:
- Sodium lauryl/laureth sulfates
- Gluten, preservatives
- Artificial colors
- Artificial sweeteners
- Propylene glycol
This is a fantastic natural product that still uses the power of fluoride to keep your teeth protected against tooth decay and cavities.
Himalaya Neem and Pomegranate Toothpaste
Our last non-vegan suggestion is the Himalaya Neem and Pomegranate Toothpaste. It’s a pretty different take on toothpaste and it’s pretty refereshing to try. You can take a look at the basic ingredients used below:
- Pomegranate Extract
- Neem Leaf Extract
- Acacia Arabic Extract
Furthermore, this product doesn’t include fluoride or saccharin. In addition, it also strictly follows environmental regulations to ensure that it’s helping to promote a sustainable environment even with the harvesting of natural ingredients.
For those of you looking at natural toothpaste options because of your diet, there are three vegan toothpaste options that we recommend. The first is Tom’s of Maine Simply White Natural Toothpaste. You can view the standards that Tom’s of Maine uses with all of their products above – it’s absolutely cruelty free, however this option does contain fluoride. You can also choose to go with their fluoride free option if you’re interested in supporting them.
The second suggestion is Desert Essence Natural Tea Tree Oil and Neem Toothpaste. This is an entirely natural, fluoride free, SLS free toothpaste option. The company is completely vegan. They do not use animal sourced products nor animal testing in any way.
The last suggestion is Uncle Harry’s Fluoride Free Toothpaste. It is made with powerful clay, sea salt and pure plant essence to get the job done. It comes it a bit of a weird container, but that’s okay. It works just the same as anything.
Natural Toothpaste Wrap Up
Well there we are – that’s the long and the short of it. We hope that this article was able to clear a few things up with official, cited sources. The world of natural toothpaste can be a confusing one and we here at Oradyne believe the best consumer is the most informed one. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, drop us a comment below or feel free to contact us.