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3 Ugly Truths About Toothpaste

Toothpaste—we use it every day, but how much do we really know about it? We put it on our toothbrush each morning because it’s supposed to clean our teeth, freshen out breath, and protect our teeth from things like gingivitis. But perhaps we’ve been putting it on our toothbrush too long without thinking about what we’re putting in our mouth. How can something we’ve used almost our entire lives have escaped our attention? Luckily, dentists have started to speak out about the potentially harmful ingredients in toothpaste. Before you pick up that tube again, learn some of the ugly truths about toothpaste.


1. Plastic Beads: Many popular toothpaste brands, including several accepted by the American Dental Association, contain polyethylene plastic beads. Although they have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the beads do not disintegrate and are not biodegradable, so dentists are concerned that the beads are getting stuck in the crevices between our teeth and gums, trapping bacteria and possibly causing infection that could lead to periodontal disease.

2. Whitening Properties: Although many of us would like to have whiter teeth, our quest for a set of pearly whites may be permanently damaging our teeth. Some whitening toothpastes aim to remove stains caused by coffee, tea and smoking, from the outside of our teeth. By removing the stains, the whitening toothpaste is not changing the color of your tooth. Instead, it may be stripping the enamel to make your teeth appear whiter. Overuse of some whitening products can remove the natural shine of your teeth, and once the enamel is scratched away by the abrasive particles that “whiten” your teeth, it does not grow back.  This missing enamel leaves your teeth at risk for expedited tooth decay.

3. Harmful Ingredients: Blindly trusting manufacturers has lowered our guard and allowed potentially harmful ingredients to be added to our toothpaste.  Some ingredients to be wary of include Triclosan, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Propylene Glycol, and DEA. They range in the type of damaging effects they can have. Triclosan is a type of chemical suspected of altering hormone regulation in the body and may contribute to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. When Sodium Lauryl Sulfate collects in the body, it can do damage to your lungs, liver, heart and brain because it transforms into nitrosamines, a group of powerful carcinogens. Propene Glycol is an active component in antifreeze and can lead to brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities with prolonged exposure. Finally, DEA, the component that causes our toothpastes to foam, disrupts hormones and forms cancer-causing nitrates.

While it’s important to practice good oral hygiene, it’s also important to make sure that we are using safe toothpaste products. Besides learning about the ingredients in your toothpaste and discussing your dental habits with a dentist, there are several DIY alternatives that you may want to try instead of the commercial toothpastes you have used in the past. Baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, coconut oil, sea salt, mouthwash, and essential oils are some of the possibilities, and there are also natural toothpastes on the market that you could try. Now that you know the ugly truth about toothpaste, be sure to read labels and investigate what you’re putting on your toothbrush today.

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