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Not So Good Ingredients in Natural Toothpaste

As a savvy, health conscious individual, you probably already use a natural toothpaste, free of fluoride and obvious nasties (parabens, propylene glycol, Triclosan, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, etc.), but you may be making assumptions about how healthy it really is.

Consider this:

  • Like all other personal care products, toothpaste ingredients are not regulated, except for fluoride, since it is a poison that can accumulate in your tissues and bones. This means, you need to do your homework by reading labels.
  • Your oral mucosa (the inside lining of the mouth) can absorb more than 90 percent of what it comes in contact with. So, even if you don’t swallow your toothpaste, it can enter your bloodstream. Make sure your mouth is absorbing beneficial ingredients, like minerals, and nothing potentially harmful.
  • Many natural or naturally derived ingredients are bioengineered and GMO, like xylitol, glycerin, citric acid and sorbitol. If you avoid GMOs in your food it makes sense to avoid them in your toothpaste too.
  • Poor oral health, indicated by periodontal (gum) disease and inflammation, is linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other systemic health issues. Most toothpastes do little to help control the bacteria that causes gum disease. Some commercial brands use Triclosan which wipes out both good and bad bacteria, while natural formulas often overlook ingredients that address this specific issue. Although toothpaste is not meant to heal gum disease, it can certainly help prevent it.
  • Most Dentists view toothpaste as a cosmetic. Brands market superficial benefits consumers have been trained to expect from toothpaste, like the slippery mouth feel (glycerin for slickness, gums for texture and surfactants for foaming), strong zesty fresh flavor for bad breath (menthols or artificial flavors), tooth whitening - the whiter the better (hydrated silica or other rough abrasives that can damage enamel) and a pleasing color when it hits the toothbrush (white or even red, blue or green). And of course everyone expects some level of cavity prevention. From a dentist’s perspective, this is all backwards. If you ask a holistic dentist what is most important to oral health, they won’t mention toothpaste, they will likely answer: 1) brushing correctly, and often, 2) flossing every day , 3) taking trace minerals. 

Ingredients in toothpaste should have real benefits with no downsides —a healthy mouth is critical to overall health and well-being.

Unfortunately, many natural brands include some not so good ingredients, such as:

  • Surfactants (yes, soap) – Some leading “natural” toothpastes still contain SLS/SLES, a foaming agent that is a carpet bomb to your biome and tainted with harmful chemicals in the manufacturing process. While other popular brands use coconut-derived substitutes, including sodium coco-sulfate, sodium cocoyl glutamate, potassium cocoate, and sodium methyl cocoyl taurate which are not safe to swallow. There is little or no data on the safety of these alternatives, so it is probably better to avoid them. Besides, you don’t need soap in your toothpaste.
  • Preservatives  - Sodium benzoate also known as potassium benzoate and benzoate, is billed as the safer alternative to parabens, but it is suspected to cause damage to mitochondrial DNA, and some researchers see a link with cancer, particularly when it combines with vitamin C or E to form benzene, a known carcinogen. Citric acid is a better natural alternative, but it is likely GMO unless otherwise stated. Some toothpastes, like Akamai Mineral Toothpaste use essential oils and clay to keep mold and bad bacteria at bay.
  • Carrageenan – Derived from seaweed, carrageenan is a common thickening agent in toothpaste that helps improve the texture and reduce the water content. Animal studies suggest that consumption leads to intestinal inflammation and colon tumors. While adults are unlikely to swallow their toothpaste, when it comes to kids’ toothpaste best to steer clear. This ingredient, along with similar gums, does not benefit oral health.
  • Glycerin – A natural ingredient derived from vegetable oils and a byproduct of soap production, glycerin is added to toothpaste to create a pleasant texture and add that slippery mouth feel. Unfortunately it leaves a coating on the teeth, which not only inhibits the natural process of remineralization, it is a magnet for plaque. Glycerin is also typically produced from GMO vegetable oils. Of all of the natural ingredients in toothpaste, this is the worst for oral health. Brushing with a toothpaste that has glycerin is completely counterproductive.
  • Hydrated Silica – Used to remove debris and stains, this common abrasive is a component of sand. Over time, it can scratch and damage your tooth enamel and may prevent tooth remineralization by changing your mouth’s acidic balance. There are other, less abrasive alternatives, like clays that gently polish without compromising enamel.

If you’re living a healthy lifestyle, choose a healthy toothpaste. High quality ingredients like clay, essential oils, coq10, trace minerals, sea salt, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), coconut oil, aloe, neem, folate and others may cost a little more, but good oral health is worth it.

Try Akamai Mineral Toothpaste and find out what clean and healthy teeth feel like.

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