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Sep 21

Natural Toothpaste for Going Green

natural toothpasteToothpaste is one of those things we don’t normally think about.  We get up, we brush, we floss (or if you’re fancy, your oral irrigator), and we grab a new tube when the last one ran out.  End of story.

There might be a bit more to it than that though.  Lately the internet has been buzzing about harmful ingredients, animal cruelty and questionable environmental practices by some of the larger toothpaste brands.  Down below we’ll take a quick look at some of these concerns and then bring up our top picks for natural and environmentally safe toothpastes.

Ingredients

The last ten year has seen a huge jump in the number of natural toothpaste brands as consumers have started to swear off certain ingredients.  There’s a lot to be said about toothpaste ingredients, but how much of it is actually true?  Below is a quick summary of the major ingredients you’ll find in toothpaste products and information about them.

Fluoride: While hotly contested, fluoride is still the only ingredient officially recommended by the American Dental Association as being effective against tooth decay.  Regarding the health concerns, studies show that even after ingesting amounts of fluoride significantly greater than normal, no adverse health effects have been found.

Triclosan: Triclosan is linked to a significant decrease in gingivitis and gum disease, but there have been some concerns about related adverse health effects.  While the FDA is still conducting their official review, Health Canada completed their review and concluded that “Triclosan does not pose a health risk to most Canadians, including children, pregnant women, and seniors.”

Carrageenan: Harvested from red seaweed, carrageenan is used as a thickening and stabilizing agent.  Despite studies showing that it’s free of health issues in small doses, it’s been banned by the EU in infant formulas.

Artificial Sweeteners: Once linked to cancer, the World Health Organization has recently relabeled artificial sweeteners such as saccharine as non-carcinogenic (doesn’t cause cancer).  That said, many dentists still recommend natural sweeteners such as xylitol in place of artificial sweeteners.

Glycerin: Used as a smoothing agent, glycerin can be obtained from plants, animals or created synthetically.  While not harmful in small doses, studies have shown that if topically applied for long periods of time it can wear away at the microhardness of your teeth, resulting in weaker outer layer of your teeth.

Micro Beads: These small abrasives were used by Crest to help clean and whiten teeth.  They worked well, but often got caught in patient’s gums which led to a number of issues.  They’ve since been discontinued from all products.

Animal Cruelty

Animal cruelty isn’t the first thing you think of when toothpaste comes to mind, but there’s a fair bit of it out there.  There are two big issues with animal cruelty and toothpaste.  The first is glycerin.  While glycerin can be sourced from plants or even made synthetically, it’s often cheaper and easier to get it from animals.  This leads a number of larger toothpaste manufacturers to choose the animal byproduct version over other more expensive alternatives.

The second big problem is animal testing.  While a number of larger manufacturers have sworn off animal testing entirely, the problem still persists in the industry.  Keep in mind that animals used for any sort of clinical testing are generally euthanized afterwards.

Environmental Practices

Along with animal cruelty concerns comes along issues with environmental practices.  While most of the ingredients listed above don’t cause major concern with humans, there have been plenty of studies showing they cause issues in animals and plants.  Ingredients such as Triclosan can significantly damage algea on water surfaces which can have a major impact on the local ecosystem.

Product Suggestions

Tom’s of Maine Simply White

There’s a reason Tom’s of Maine toothpaste has gotten so popular in the organic and natural community – it’s pretty darned good.  Not only does it use natural ingredients (and leaves out many ingredients consumers take issue to) but it’s completely vegan and environmentally safe.  Their Stewardship Model ensures includes a specific section on sourcing their ingredients in a sustainable way.  You can be confident that purchasing Tom’s of Maine toothpaste will not only help to protect your teeth, but it’ll help to protect the environment and its inhabitants as well.

Earthpaste

You don’t often find the level of transparency in a brand like you do with Earthpaste.  You can view their entire list of ingredients along with how they source them right on their website.  The only major downside to this brand is that they don’t offer a fluoride based toothpaste.

Desert Essence Toothpaste

Our final suggestion is Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil and Neem toothpaste.  Similar to the two suggestions above, it’s completely vegan and natural.  Desert Essence also takes sustainable sourcing in a very serious way.  In their words, “Creating a healthy, harmonious relationship with the Earth and our community is the foundation for all we do.”  You can read more about their commitment to the environment on their social responsibility page here.

Wrap Up

While it’s often easy to casually use our toothpaste, our floss, and our at-home whitening products without any thought, it’s important to keep in mind the wider scope.  The three suggested toothpaste products above will provide you with excellent care without harmful effects against the environment.  It’s not a major change, but every little bit helps.

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