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In this instance, the formula reviewed is out of date.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
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.
My 5 criteria for a great toothpaste are:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 postDeodorant: 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.
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.
Though the average consumer may not know this, there is a significant debate about whether fluoride is good for teeth, and particularly whether it is good for the bodies attached to those teeth. There are highly educated, sincere individuals on both sides of this argument.
The American Dental Association is firmly on the side that fluoride is good for teeth, and harmless to people. On their website fluoridedebate.com, they state that at current water fluoridation levels, fluoride “is not toxic according to generally accepted scientific knowledge.” They further state that numerous studies have been done and “No charge against the benefits and safety of fluoridation has ever been substantiated by generally accepted scientific knowledge.” Most dentists, trained and certified by the ADA, agree with this “generally accepted scientific knowledge.” They will point out to you that fluoride can re-calcify tooth enamel, even when applied to teeth that are beginning to soften/decay. Fluoride is the daily armor, and the last defense, for ADA dentists.
On the other side of the debate, scientists point to studies which link fluoride consumption (whether from water, foods, toothpaste, supplements, and increasing levels in irrigated farmlands) to many illnesses, including alergies, arthritis, low IQ, cancer, and diseases of the brain, bones, thyroid, pineal gland, immune system, kidneys, and reproductive system. Check the Health Effects page of the Fluoride Action Network’s site to read more in depth about the studies which link these illnesses to fluoride. If you check back on the fluoridedebate.com site, you can find that some scientists find that the data is open to other conclusions, or find problems with the data itself, such as lack of controls.
This is all pretty technical, and I won’t try to recount for you the many studies or facts related to this debate; you would to better to read this at the source. I am convinced that fluoride is toxic by the following:
Fluoride in Drinking Water came as Hazardous Waste
Only calcium fluoride occurs naturally in water; however, that type of fluoride has never been used for fluoridation. Instead what is used over 90 percent of the time are silicofluorides, which are 85 times more toxic than calcium fluoride. They are non-biodegradable, hazardous waste products that come straight from the pollution scrubbers of big industries. If not dumped in the public water supplies, these silicofluorides would have to be neutralized at the highest rated hazardous waste facility at a cost of $1.40 per gallon (or more depending on how much cadmium, lead, uranium and arsenic are also present). Cities buy these unrefined pollutants and dump them–lead, arsenic and all–into our water systems. Silicofluorides are almost as toxic as arsenic, and more toxic than lead. (From Fluoridation: The Fraud of the Century.)
Up until the 1970s, European doctors used fluoride as a thyroid-suppressing medication for patients with HYPER-thyroidism (over-active thyroid). Fluoride was utilized because it was found to be effective at reducing the activity of the thyroid gland – even at doses as low as 2 mg/day (a common total consumption level for those drinking fluoridated water). There is concern that current fluoride exposures may be playing a role in the widespread incidence of HYPO-thyroidism (under-active thyroid) in the U.S. (From http://www.fluoridealert.org/health/) Since Hypothyroidism runs in my family, and I am currently being treated for this condition, I have decided to avoid fluoride completely for myself and my family.
Liability Cover Up
In reading through arguments on both sides of the debate, I find that the best the ADA can come up with is to question the methods of study, point to studies which were funded by those making a profit from the sale of silicofluorides, and to state that fluoride safety is just “accepted scientific fact.” I look at this as a grand cover up . . . after all, what kind of liability would the ADA have for so many health problems, potentially even thousands of deaths, were they to face the facts in regards to the health effects of fluoride?
Xylitol to the Rescue
OK, so at this depressing point, I’m pretty ready for some good news. And we do have it. Xylitol, a natural sugar, even produced by our own bodies, can do that same amazing thing that fluoride can do: re-calcify tooth enamel. It tastes great (it’s a natural sugar, for crying out loud), and it’s easy to get into our diets: toothpaste, mints, gum.
Speaking of gum, studies consistently find that school children who are given Xylitol gum to chew reduce their incidence of cavaties, even if their other dental health habits are poor or non-existent.
Even if you aren’t as convinced as I am that fluoride should be avoided completely, the great facts on Xylitol should convince you to make sure this IS in your toothpaste on a daily basis! (Read Toothpaste: the Quest for Fresh, Clean, and Non-Toxic for my reviews on several natural toothpastes.)