Toothpaste: the Quest for Fresh, Clean, and Non-Toxic

My 5 year old brushing his pearly whites.

Toothpaste always seems to be a top concern for people desiring non-toxic personal care products. It is the one product which we actually put into our mouths, and although we spit, we intuitively know some is getting into us. (Of course, the things we rub on our skin are in us too, but this doesn’t ameliorate the need to find a really great, non-toxic tooth cleaner.)

Before I dive into reviews on toothpaste ingredients and specific brands, let me mention that the dental products used, and even our “dental health habits”, have far less to do with dental health than does our state of nutritional health. A person deficient in the components needed to make and keep strong teeth (particularly minerals and the essential fats needed to absorb them) will have poor dental health, regardless of how often they brush and floss. Read Dental Health and Nutrition where I review Ramiel Nagel’s amazing work on nutrition and dental health. I thought I was educated on this topic, but this book was a real eye opener for me.

Toothpaste

My 5 criteria for a great toothpaste are:

  1. Non-toxic to overall health
    Ever wonder why toothpaste packaging warns not to swallow toothpaste? (Ha! tell that to your 2 year old!) Conventional toothpastes are filled with toxic ingredients, including Sodium Laurel Sulfate, paraben preservatives, sugars (why would we want to put our teeth to bed with sugar?!?), and synthetic flavors and colors. However, I consider fluoride (Sodium Fluoride, Sodium Monofluorophosphate) to be the most toxic ingredient in toothpaste; if this is a shock to you, read Xylitol: Alternative to Fluoride.
  2. Works (get’s our teeth clean/is good for our teeth)
    So you’re wondering: if there isn’t fluoride in your toothpaste, how is it going to fight cavities? Xylitol, a natural sugar derived from birch trees, has shown to be even more effective and preventing and reversing cavities than fluoride, without toxic effects. Read more in Xylitol: Alternative to Fluoride.
  3. Leaves mouth “feeling” clean and breath fresh
    This is really an aesthetic, but still very important to our family! Fresh breath is a delight; and we want our toothpaste to be “all in one” with this included.
  4. Tastes good while brushing
    We’ve tried some nasty tasting pastes, and regardless of how great they may perform, we won’t be repeat customers. And our kids are keeping their lips sealed on this one.
  5. Not exorbitantly priced
    Is it too much to ask that the perfect toothpaste be under $7 a tube? Seriously, I have 3 children!

It has been a long road to find a toothpaste I feel confident in for its benefits while making our mouths smile for its flavor. My favorite, Spry by Xlear, is reviewed at the bottom page; others are options you might be considering.

Tom’s of Maine: this extensive line of toothpastes is widely available, and although most of the toothpastes have fluoride in them, here is one that doesn’t: Tom’s of Maine, Natural Antiplaque Toothpaste with Propolis and Myrrh, Spearmint, 6 oz (170 g). Unfortunately this does have Sodium Laurel Sulfate in it, which since it is derived from coconut may not be toxic but it is still harsh to skin/tissue/gums.  I used several of their toothpaste flavors before I began to avoid fluoride, and they all tasted fine, fresh but not very sweet, and somewhat chalky in consistency compared to “regular” toothpaste. Price: $6.73 retail, $4.85 iherb.com.

Jason has two reasonably good choices of toothpaste, Powersmile, All-Natural Whitening Toothpaste, Peppermint and Sea Fresh Spearmint Toothpaste; non-toxic ingredients, pretty decent flavor, but I consider it a drawback that there is not Xylitol in the formulas. Still has that slightly chalky texture from the calcium/baking soda polishers. Price: $6.99 retail, $4.71 iherb.com.

Young Living, a company that manufactures and distributes their own high quality essential oils, has 3 toothpastes available for adults, and a kids line as well.  The Dentarome Plus Toothpaste I have on hand for deodorant (see my post Deodorant: Love-Hate Relationship). As a toothpaste, it tastes like you’d expect from the list of ingredients: slightly sweetened baking soda with some essential oils added. It does not lather. Price: $8.88, must purchase through a distributor.

Tooth Soap is the brand name for a line of dental care products based on a literal soap for teeth. The idea is that natural soap, like a natural olive oil bar soap, will thoroughly clean teeth. The company claims that glycerine, which is added to most toothpastes out there, is a negative for teeth, as it leaves a sticky residue. I researched glycerine, and it is a byproduct of the soap making process, and is present in natural soap. Although the amount of glycerine is likely less in tooth soap than in toothpaste where it may be one of the first few ingredients, I view the whole claim as a scare tactic, since their product must have small amounts in it as well. I have not used tooth soap, but a close friend has, and notes that it just tastes like soap (no fresh breath after brushing), and that the shavings can get stuck in ones molars. I have decided against trying this method, but this is for convenience/aesthetic/price reasons rather than toxicity. Natural soap is pretty non-toxic. Price: $25.95 per jar of shavings, which should last a person 2-3 months.

Tooth Powders are not actually toothpastes, although some are marketed for daily use, such as Christopher’s Original Formula, Herbal Tooth and Gum Powder, 2 oz. If you go with a Tooth Soap option, you will want to use tooth powder as an abrasive for whitening every few days.

Trader Joes has a wonderful Fennel Toothpaste, with Xylitol. It tastes like mild black licorice. It seems that the world is made of people who either hate black licorice, or love it. My family loves it, but we still prefer a mintier toothpaste experience, so this is not our favorite toothpaste. (My 2 year old actually does prefer this one as mint is a little too spicy for him still.) And what a great price: $1.99.

Tropical Traditions, a family owned company which has developed a fair trade business in Organic Coconut Oil for the native people of the Philippines, makes a toothpaste called Organic Teeth Cleaner with Organic Virgin Coconut Oil as its base. The other main ingredients are baking soda and essential oils. I have used this in the past, and it does seem to work to clean the teeth, however, it feels quite different from “regular” toothpaste with no lather and doesn’t leave a minty-fresh feeling after brushing (taste is very similar to the Young Living pastes, with baking soda being dominant). I believe it is a good option; we discontinued using it after bloodwork revealed a coconut allergy for me. Price: $6.50 plus shipping.

Xlear has a great toothpaste, my family’s favorite in fact, Spry, Toothpaste with Xylitol and Aloe, Cool Mint, 4 oz. It has a very high level of enamel-building Xylitol, and it tastes great, with a lovely, normal lather. There is not a chalky texture, and after brushing there is no feeling of dry-mouth that is common with “regular” toothpaste and most baking soda toothpastes. Price: $4.95 retail, $4.30 iherb.com.

(Read Iherb.com: Awesome Prices + $5 offIherb.com: Awesome Prices + $5 Off if you haven’t already discovered this great place for good prices on natural products.)

4 thoughts on “Toothpaste: the Quest for Fresh, Clean, and Non-Toxic

  1. I live in Puerto Rico. I visited my son in Georgia in november 2011,( 3 weeks go).I went with him to a spermarket and he buyed a toothpaste, that have been a miracle for me. Where in P.Rico can I obtained this toothpaste? I have visited various natural foodstores and regular food markets but I have not find it. The toothpaste is: All Natural . No Fluoride, Antiplaque Toothpaste with Fennel, Propolis and Myrrh exclusive by Trader Joe’s Needham, MA. Thanks very much.

    1. Hi Gladys, We love Trader Joe’s Fennel toothpaste too! Unfortunately, the Trader Joe’s brand is only available in their stores. However, I have found a toothpaste with very similar ingredients, which you can have shipped to you from iherb.com. (They ship internationally, so I believe they would send to Puerto Rico as well.) The toothpaste is by Tom’s of Maine; you can find it at this link: http://www.iherb.com/Tom-s-of-Maine-Natural-Antiplaque-Propolis-Myrrh-Toothpaste-Flouride-Free-Fennel-5-5-oz-155-9-g/37153?at=0
      When you order, use code RON268 to get $5 off your order.
      The main differences I see on the ingredient list are that the Tom’s paste does not include peppermint oil, and it uses sodium lauryl sulfate rather than sodium cocoyl glutimate. I generally avoid SLS as it is often from toxic sources, however, my understanding is that Tom’s of Maine sources theirs from coconut oil.
      I hope this helps, and that you find this toothpaste to work for you!
      ~Bronwyn

    1. Yes, I am aware of ewg.org. It’s a great idea, however, I haven’t found it to be very helpful. In this instance, the formula reviewed is out of date. You could technically look up all the ingredients in the new formula, but you have to use your best judgement in determining whether they are harmful. For example, SODIUM LAUROYL SARCOSINATE listed in this formula is a foaming agent, similar to the toxic SLS. Both carry “increased absorption” as a reason for danger. So if SLS is toxic, and is mixed with other toxic chemicals, they are going to be absorbed more fully by your stripped skin. If there’s not so much other bad stuff to absorb in the formula, then it’s not as much of a concern in my mind.
      Also, I was disappointed at how low the rating was for a potentially toxic aluminum product, the deodorant crystal. You can read my review in my blog post about deodorants.
      Unfortunately, this site does not seem to have enough staffing to keep up with a lot of products, or to have a scientist actually consider each product as a whole, and the data gap seems too large on many items. So it’s a place we can get SOME information, but I think we should still realize we’re gonna have to educate ourselves to protect ourselves. ~BD

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