Friday, March 20, 2009

Choosing the Right Toothpaste for your Family

Have you really looked at the back of a tube of toothpaste lately. I decided to for today's post and felt a little confused. Let's see...dicalcium phosphate dihydrate, sodium lauryl sulfate, cellulose gum, flavor (??), tetrasodium pyrophosphate, fluoride, sodium saccharin...and the list goes on. I'm no chemist so I had to head over to Wikipedia to check out what all this means. I found that one of these chemicals is an inorganic form of calcium and phosphate - the same form found in alot of kidney stones; one of the chemicals could cause mouth or "canker" sores; one is an ester of sulphuric acid and has been deemed "highly irritating" to skin and mucus membranes; another removes calcium and magnesium from your saliva to prevent tartar build-up (does that seem strange to anyone else - I might need that calcium and magnesium); and of course one is a known carcinogen (points if you guess the right one). I was bothered by what was listed on the toothpaste tube, but what bothered me more was the generic term "flavor" on the tube. Where does the "flavor" come from? Then there is the fluoride debate and studies are showing that fluoride may actually be harmful over time by causing flourosis. That coupled with a 2005 World Health Organization report that countries that fluoridate their water and toothpaste have the same rates of dental decay as countries that don't.

After looking at commercial toothpastes, I turned to a few natural toothpastes that my family has been using and really like. My kid's love Tom's Silly Strawberry. I mean seriously, they will go in the bathroom and brush their teeth without me asking and sometimes several times throughout the day. For myself and my husband we have used Tom's Whole Care and Nature's Gate Cool Mint Gel. For the most part, these brands rate much better. Their flavors are clearly listed and they are from natural sources. We really like the taste and I can get my kids to brush with them. Unfortunately, they still contained a few suspect ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate, calcium glycerophosphate, methylparaben, and zinc citrate trihydrate. Alot of natural toothpastes also contain fluoride.

I feel the need to say something here especially as I've spent some time this week reading about the 1,4 Dioxane controversy as it relates to natural lotions and soaps. Much of the cosmetic ingredient industry goes unregulated, but all companies, natural or not, must bring a product to market that will have a shelf life of 3 years. It must go three years without molding or growing bacteria. This is nearly impossible to do with a natural ingredient that was created to start decomposing as soon as it is picked or harvested. These companies add things (usually chemicals) to prevent this decomposition from happening. Natural companies mostly try to add safe things to do this. We don't always know if a product is safe or not. I'm not excusing deception or purposely adding known harmful chemicals to products. I guess I'm wondering if the trade-off for purchasing convenient commercially prepared products will always be some exposure to chemicals? Today it is 1,4 Dioxane, but the next preservative, emulsifying agent, or thickener is already out there and we think it's safe and it probably isn't. It follows my good, better, best theory. It's good to brush your teeth with something, even if it's commercial toothpaste :). It's better to brush with something more natural like Tom's or Nature's Gate. It's probably best if you have the time and resources (and you can get your kids to brush with it) to make your own toothpaste that doesn't have to last 3 years and doesn't have extra preserving ingredients.

And on that note...I found this recipe for making your own toothpaste. I think I might try it!

Baking soda (It's a natural cleansing agent and it polishes and whitens your teeth as well)
Table salt
Hydrogen Peroxide (This will naturally disinfect your teeth)
Stevia (This is optional, but will naturally sweeten the mix)
Peppermint oil (This is also optional as a flavoring agent.)
  1. Pour 1/2 cup baking soda into a mixing bowl.

  2. Add a dash of salt.

  3. Add 1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide.

  4. Add 1 drop of peppermint oil.

  5. Add a dash of stevia (more if you want it sweeter).

  6. Mix it all up until it becomes past like. You may be to add more hydrogen peroxide to get the right consistency.

  7. Store in a glass jar to keep it from drying out.

Note: If you aren't a big fan of peppermint, try ground cinnamon or vanilla extract.

If you are looking to whiten your teeth - check out Shannan's post on Eco-friendly Beauty Tips which includes a recipe for natural teeth whitening.

I have to tell you that this post did not go where I was hoping. My intention was to guide you to a few natural toothpastes and somehow I ended up on a "soap" box. :) I considered scrapping the whole idea, but thought you might be trying to make some of the same decisions that I am and I hope the information was helpful. By the way, here is an interesting website I found while researching this post that describes certain beauty and cosmetic ingredients and rates their safety. Very helpful!



Hanlie said...

I haven't even started looking at what natural toothpastes are locally available. I just know that it will be pricey!

Fluoride is one of my pet grievances and I can only shake my head at the warning on US toothpaste tubes saying that fluoride is highly toxic and please get medical attention if you happen to swallow it! Meanwhile they dump it in the water and give it to children in tablet form! Crazy! I grew up with the fluoride tablets...

Maybe I should just start making our own toothpaste...

Tami of BrooksGroth said...

Thank you for this toothpaste recipe ... I will experiment until I find the essential oil/flavor that my girls will use!!! This (again!) is timely as I was just reading about tooth soap (you see it mentioned on a lot of raw food diet sites) and then read how most toothpastes don't clean well anyway and since I was having problems with some of my teeth/gums I decided to try a simple olive oil soap (just rub brush across it) and then after I brush with that and floss, I either follow up with the ecodent tooth powder or just rinse with water that has some sea salt in it and I have to admit things are better ... but maybe I'm just paying more attention to my mouth LOL. I think the recipe you gave (with sea salt) would be a good one to use as well. Thank you!

Cherrie D. Bautista, CEC said...

Thanks for the recipe. Will defintely try it one of these days. We are using Jason toothpaste. I believe this is similar to Tom's although Jason does not have sls and parabens. Nice to connect with another green and organic mom like me :-)

I have given you an award. Head on over to to see.

Living A Whole Life said...

Hi Hanlie! I know - I feel the same way about fluoride.

Hi Tami! Thanks for stopping by and the comment! I am going to try making my own this week too!

Hi Cherrie! Thanks for the award!


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