Saturday, February 26, 2011

What the Heck is in Toothpaste?

Have you guys ever asked yourselves that question? Because up until now, I had never even thought about it. "Toothpaste? It’s blue, has baking soda to whiten your teeth, spearmint for fresh breath, fluoride for your enamel,… and that’s it."

Then I thought, we all a bunch of different toothpastes in our house, my daughter has the no-fluoride-baby-kind because she is under two. My son has the electric-pink-strawberry-kind with some kind of Disney cartoon character on it because we want him to want to brush his teeth. But do I know toothpaste really is? No idea. I use it twice a day, every day.

Will you promise to love it and use it for now and the rest of my life? I do.
You may now brush your teeth.

Maybe I should kind of figure this out.

So I bought the “all natural” Jason’s toothpaste to compare it to the usual stuff I use and did a little research about the various ingredients.

So first off, for both toothpastes, the entire list of ingredients is only listed on the box. The tube of Crest toothpaste itself only has the “active” ingredients. On the Jason toothpaste it just lists all the ingredients under the same category, no active/inactive.

The ingredients are in italics, with my detective work in brackets. Of course, this is my biased, unscientific research on all this.

Amazingly, the ingredient list is vastly different from one brand to another, besides water they only have two ingredients in common, silica and glycerin.

Anyway, here it goes:

Jason Powersmile, All-Natural Whitening Toothpaste
Calcium carbonate [Calcium supplement]
Aqua (purified water) [Enough said there]
Vegetable glycerin [Natural plant product usually made with soy and coconut oil, used to add smoothness and provide lubrication. Also used as sweetener]
Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate [Natural plant extract made from fatty acids in coconut, used as foaming agent]
Mentha Piperita (peppermint oil) [Natural plant extract used for taste and fresh breath!]
Carrageenan [Natural plant extract made from seaweed used as a gelatin stabilizer and thickener]
Aloe Barbadensis (organic Aloe Vera leaf gel) [Natural plant extract used for antimicrobial properties and fresh breath]
Bambusa Arundinacea (bamboo stem powder) [Natural extract used for antiseptic and whitening properties]
Carum Petroselinum (parsley extract) [Natural plant extract used for antiseptic, reduces inflammation, boosts circulation for gums]
Perilla Ocymoides seed extract [Also called beefsteak plant, natural plant extract used for fragrance and antiseptic properties]
Sodium bicarbonate [Mineral compound with antiacid properties]
Silica [Mineral abrasive used for removing plaque and stains]
Stevioside [Natural sweetener made from the leaves of the Stevia plant]
Citrus Grandis (grapefruit seed extract) [Natural extract used for antifungal and antioxidant properties]


Crest Whitening- Plus Scope
Active ingredient
Sodium fluoride [Used to prevent cavities and strengthen tooth enamel. Classified as toxic if ingested. Can cause dental fluorosis in children, which alters the look of teeth. Ingesting several ounces of pure fluoride can lead to poisoning and death for adults]

Inactive ingredients
Sorbitol [Artificial and sugar-free sweetener, also used to add smoothness]
Water [Same as Jason’s]
Hydrated Silica [Same as Jason’s]
Tetrasodium pyrophosphate [Chemical thickening agent]
Flavor [Geesh… this could mean anything and everything. Your guess is as good as mine]
Sodium lauryl sulfate [Chemical emulsifier and foaming agent. Can be linked to canker sores due to dryness properties and harsh chemicals]
Disodium pyrophosphate [Chemical preservative]
Alcohol (0.7%) [Used as odor-preventing and antibacterial]
Xanthan gum [Used as a thickener]
Sodium saccharin [Chemical artificial sweetener, delisted from the carcinogenic list since 2000, now deemed safe for human consumption]
Glycerin [Vegetable or animal? Sweetener. Also used to add smoothness and provide lubrication]
Carbomer 956 [Used as a chemical thickening and emulsifying agent]
Poloxamer 407 [Chemical dissolving agent, can be linked to high cholesterol]
Polysorbate 80 [Chemical emulsifying agent]
Sodium benzoate [Also called E211, used as a preservative. Can be linked to hyperactive disorders when found with artificial coloring. Carcinogenic substance when found with Vitamin C]
Cetylpyridinium chloride [Antiseptic agent, prevents plaque and helps fight gingivitis. Can be toxic if swallowed]
Benzoic acid [Another form of sodium benzoate, see above]
Titanium dioxide [Also called food coloring E271, classified as carcinogenic]
Blue 1 [Artificial food coloring, can be linked to cancer, studies in progress]

All in all, I am not sure what to think about all this, to tell you the truth. We use not only toothpaste, but mouthwashes, rinsing solutions, and strips to whiten our teeth. All of these things have similar agents and ingredients than the Crest toothpaste. Millions of us use those things every day and have for quite a while.

Does it make it ok?

I do believe in medical testing, EPA findings, and the overall medical and health fields.
If they say it’s ok, it’s ok right?

Except that they change their minds in terms of what is deemed safe and hazardous, they revise their findings, and reevaluate their standards. As one should in science.

So yes, the all natural toothpaste is more expensive ($5.59!). But how often does one need to buy toothpaste? It would probably cost my about $10.00 per year to upgrade to the all natural kind. I think I can afford that. I think for now I’ll stick to the more expensive and less threatening-looking toothpaste.

Seaweed extract gel (left) is more alluring to me than titanium dioxide (right).


By the way, here is an interesting link I found listing all the various food additives found in processed food and cosmetics, with a brief description of each one and an associated health rating. Very useful and quick way to see what-is-what when looking at weird ingredients:


  1. I have heard that toothpaste is actually only useful to combat bad breath and processed food products. If we ate only 'natural' foods -no high fructose crap and chemical things that aren't found in the wild- we could maintain healthy dentures by only using a brush and water every day. Toothpastes that promise 37hr long fresh breath and Hollywood teeth have popped up only fairly recently to cater to our society's standard of over-sanitation. Cro-magnon men didn't use Aquafresh and their teeth survived without decay for 30,000 years. I guess this relate to your eating-healthy posts: we need to cater to our teeth with high-end chemicals because we've been told anything less than minty-neon-white is gross, but also because we have high fructose diets that attack our denture in a completely unnatural way. The personal hygiene industry is also insanely profitable so there is a lot of lobby to maintain the impression that toothpaste is indispensable. I heard all this from my anarchist friend who has tattoos on his face and wants to overthrow the government, but it does make sense to me.

  2. Let me add some things here. 1. You only need to use the mechanical action of your toothbrush to get your teeth clean. Toothpaste was invented as a marketing ploy to make money. 2. The topical application of fluoride is good for teeth and is only harmful if you swallow it - and then, you would have to swallow a bathtub full. Fluoride is more effective when taken systemically - while the teeth are developing. The fluoride strengthens the dental matrix of the teeth making is less susceptible to decay. Saying this, latest research is showing that these fluoride drops, etc. have strengthened the outer layer of the tooth but not the innermost part. So, once decay penetrates that outer layer, it goes crazy and causes rampant decay underneath. Which, then, is only visible with an xray - unless the whole tooth falls apart.
    I guess what I am saying is if you are concerned with toothpaste - use the natural ones. I like 'Toms'. But, toothpaste is not necessary. And, fluoride might prove not to be what it was all cracked up to be.