If you’re like most people, you’ve probably never really looked at the ingredients list on your toothpaste. The FDA wouldn’t allow any ingredients that aren’t safe, after all, so you don’t have anything to worry about. If you have looked at that packaging, the long, unfamiliar words may have left you baffled. Here’s what you need to know about some of the ingredients that may be lurking in your toothpaste.
- Fluoride – Your dentist recommends it for its cavity fighting ability, but it’s also an active ingredient in rat poison. There is a reason why your packaging says to keep it out of reach of children under 6, and to call poison control if you swallow more than is generally used for brushing. There have been cases of deaths from fluoride poisoning.
- Tin – Most toothpastes use sodium fluoride, but if you see the active ingredient stannous fluoride, that means it contains tin. It can cause skin irritation and at high doses can lead to shock.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate – Look at the ingredients on your shampoo and your laundry soap and you will probably see these ingredients on those products as well. These chemicals help the product create suds. They are linked to skin irritation and ulc
- Triclosan – The chemical used in antibacterial products. It’s added to help fight gingivitis, but flossing also works and is a better choice. Triclosan is linked to allergies and may be contributing to the rise in the antibiotic resistant bacteria.
- Propylene Glycol – Cousin to ethylene glycol, the main ingredient in antifreeze and used in non-toxic antifreeze. But just because it isn’t as fatal as its cousin, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Some studies suggest that propylene glycol may contribute to certain abnormalities, including those in the brain.
- Diethanolamine – Another chemical that foams as you brush and is linked to kidney and liver cancer.
- Carrageenan – A common food additive extracted from red seaweed, but it isn’t as healthy as it sounds. Can cause bowel irritation and may contribute to certain cancers.
- Artificial Sweeteners – Including Saccharin, Aspartame and Sucralose, artificial sweeteners are known to cause many health problems, including brain lesions. Look for toothpastes that use xylitol or stevia instead.
Many would argue that you’re not swallowing it, so except for the skin irritants, you don’t need to worry about these. First, it’s nearly impossible not to swallow at least a little bit. Second, even if you don’t swallow so much as a molecule, your skin is surprisingly permeable, especially the thin skin inside your mouth. Even if you aren’t swallowing these chemicals, they’re still getting into your bloodstream just as effectively. If you find this alarming, you can make your own toothpaste. There are lots of fantastic make-your-own toothpaste recipes, but it can be as simple as stirring a little baking soda into a bit of coconut oil, and adding some xylitol and a few drops of essential oil or flavoring oil of your choice to taste.