I do everything I can to take really good care of my teeth – brushing, flossing, regular dental cleanings, and avoiding sticky, sugary candy and soda. Bad teeth and gum health are linked to all sorts of health issues. Not taking care of your mouth can even affect your cardiovascular system, possibly leading to clogged arteries and strokes. So taking care of your teeth is more important than just having a gleaming white smile – which is an awesome bonus of course.
When it comes to toothpaste, I’ve tried many different brands and switched it up a lot over the years as I learn more about the ingredients that are allowed for use in cosmetics and personal care products. This is especially the case when it comes to toothpaste, as this is something that we are putting in our mouth at least twice a day and even if we don’t swallow it, the mouth is one of the most absorbent parts of the body. Essentially, whatever is in your toothpaste is getting a free pass into your bloodstream – and once you see the types of chemicals that you’ve been brushing your teeth with, you might start to think twice about the brand you’ve been buying.
If you thought the processed food industry was bad, cosmetics are even worse!
The cosmetic industry, which toothpaste is part of, is one of the least regulated industries in the U.S.
Just like our food, they’ve been bastardized in America with ingredients that are banned overseas and self-regulated by the industry. They don’t even need to list all the ingredients on the label! It’s pretty scary and disgusting what some cosmetic companies are getting away with while raking in billions of dollars.
Don’t believe for one minute that the FDA is protecting you from toxic ingredients in your toothpaste – in fact they are part of the problem!
Case in point: Colgate has been selling “Colgate Total” for nearly 2 decades – and the FDA has just now FINALLY gotten around to banning its active ingredient triclosan… from hand and body soaps… but NOT from toothpaste.
The FDA says it is not okay to wash our hands with triclosan and rinse it off, but it’s perfectly safe to put in our mouth??? That makes no sense and some dentists are calling them out too. Why are they protecting Colgate – the only brand approved to sell toothpaste with triclosan? The FDA is clearly not watching out for consumers and are more interested in protecting the bottom line of some big corporations.
If the FDA isn’t protecting us, how do we know our toothpaste is safe?
If you’ve read the list of ingredients on a box of toothpaste lately, you’ll know that it takes a lot of research to seek out the safest brands. Even if you’ve become an expert food label reader, the ingredients in toothpaste are a whole new animal! You can’t trust the claims like “Natural” the package either, since anyone can just slap that on a toothpaste box.
That’s why I often rely on EWG’s Skin Deep Database to help me pick out safe products – and the nonprofit watchdog group Cornucopia Institute just came out with a Toothpaste Report and Scorecard, ranking toothpaste brands from best to worst, which I found very helpful… and it’s got some BIG surprises!
Check your toothpaste for these hazardous ingredients:
Artificial colors: Toothpaste can contain colors that are considered too toxic for food. The main colors I found in toothpaste were Red #30, Red #33, Blue #1, Yellow #5 – and the brands targeting children are almost always brightly colored! Made from petroleum, these artificial colors are contaminated with carcinogens and can also contain heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, and arsenic. Do you really care what color your toothpaste is?
Carrageenan: This additive is linked to intestinal inflammation and cancer, even in small doses! According to Cornucopia, “there is no restriction on the amount of carcinogenic poligeenan in the grade of carrageenan used in toothpastes”.
DEA (diethanolamine): This foaming agent interacts with other common ingredients in toothpaste to form nitrosamines, which are strongly linked to cancer in humans. You’ll even find this one in some “natural” toothpastes!
Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives: There is a long list of toothpaste preservatives that release small amounts of formaldehyde right into your mouth. This carcinogen is easily absorbed through the mucosal lining of the mouth. Europe and Canada have strong restrictions on formaldehyde, but that’s not the case in the U.S.! No one is checking toothpastes to see how much formaldehyde they contain, companies are not required to test them for formaldehyde and aren’t even required to disclose to customers that it might be in their product. Preservatives to watch out for on the label: DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, polyoxymethylene urea, methenamine, quaternium-15, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (Bromopol), 5-bromo-5-nitro-1,3 dioxane (Bronidox), and glyoxal.
GMOs: Unless it is certified organic or non-GMO verified, you might be supporting Monsanto with your toothpaste. Some GMO ingredients to look out for and the GMO crops they are usually derived from: Glycerin (GMO soy, cotton, or canola oil), Citric Acid (GMO sugar), Xanthan Gum (GMO sugar), Xylitol (GMO corn), and Lecithin (GMO soy).
Parabens: These endocrine disrupting chemicals mimic estrogen and can lead to cancer, which is why they are restricted overseas in other countries. That’s not the case in the U.S. where they are very widely used as a preservative in toothpastes, shampoos, lotions, deodorants, and cosmetics.
PEGs (polyethylene glycols) and Propylene Glycol: These ingredients make it easier for the other chemicals in toothpaste to penetrate the skin and get into your bloodstream, exposing you to more toxins. PEGs are notoriously contaminated with 1,4-dioxane (a carcinogen), and although there is a way for companies to remove this impurity from their products – many choose not to.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES): These foaming agents break down the protective lining in the mouth. SLES is another ingredient contaminated with the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane.
Should your toothpaste have Fluoride in it?
I have not personally used toothpaste with fluoride for years and have not noticed any negative affects on my teeth. It’s been drilled into us since childhood that applying fluoride to the surface of your teeth is supposed to prevent cavities – but its effectiveness is hotly disputed (sources: 1, 2, 3). Just taking a read about why two-thirds of our U.S. public water supplies are now “fortified” with manufactured fluoride (that’s riddled with arsenic) should be enough to give you pause.
Fluoride itself is highly toxic and when it accumulates in your body can lead to skeletal fluorosis, bone cancer, and thyroid disorders. New research links it to type 2 diabetes. This is a bigger risk for children who typically swallow more toothpaste than adults, where it can affect cognitive function and can cause yellow and brown stains on the teeth.
Most people in America are already getting doused with fluoride in drinking water, packaged beverages and soups (made with fluoridated tap water), and from naturally-occurring sources like nuts and fruit – you’ve got to question whether your toothpaste really needs it too or if this is just another big myth perpetuated by the chemical industry.
Popular Toothpaste brands to avoid all costs:
These toothpastes are filled with several of the toxic ingredients listed above and got the worst ratings on Cornucopia’s scorecard. The sad thing is these are the most popular ones that fill up mass-market grocery store shelves and spend big money on advertising! I’m sure many of you grew up brushing with these…
- Arm and Hammer
- Plus White Whitening
Watch out for some “natural” toothpastes too…
Desert Essence, Tom’s of Maine, Jason, Honest, Spry, Nature’s Gate and Kiss My Face toothpastes did not rank well at all… and they are sold in natural food markets everywhere. This surprised me a little bit, and I even personally have used some of these in the past when I didn’t know the risks associated with some of the ingredients. Some of these toothpastes contain carrageenan, foaming agents, possible toxic contaminants or potential GMOs. There are safer ones on the market (see a list below!).
Below are my top toothpaste picks, based on taste and the analysis from Cornucopia:
- Dr. Bronner’s All-One Toothpaste (Note: Dr. Bronner’s removed carrageenan this year, some online websites may have old ingredient listed.)
- Miessence Toothpaste
- Green People Toothpaste
- Weleda Toothpaste
- Real Purity Toothpaste
Top toothpaste picks for Children (although many of the above will work too):
Cornucopia also provides easy recipes to make your own homemade toothpaste in their report. I haven’t personally tried to make my own, but if you have please let me know in the comments below how yours turns out!
If you have friends and family who brush their teeth with carcinogens, please share this post with them! When more people start demanding and buying safer products, companies will take notice and better options will be made available to us all.