Our mouths are full of mucous membranes and are rich with vascular vessels which means anything we put in our mouths enters our internal bodies. The chemicals in mouthwash and toothpastes are not good for our bodies.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a foaming agent (also used in car washes), known to cause irritation and dry out mucous membranes, and has been shown to increase the likelihood of developing canker sores and cold sores in individuals prone to recurrent aphthous ulcers. In some cases, it can create a sloughing, or ‘peeling off’ of the gums. It’s toxic to human cells and really should be avoided whenever possible. (Side note: check your shampoo and hand soap and body wash too.)
Triclosan is the most ubiquitous antibacterial agent used in household products today. It’s also a primary ingredient found in the only FDA approved toothpaste on the market. Yet the FDA has confirmed that Triclosan is in fact ineffective as an antibacterial agent. In a proposed 2013 ruling the agency stated that Triclosan “could pose health risks, such as bacterial resistance or hormonal effects”. In other research, Triclosan has been shown to be harmful to human health and to the environment.
Fluoride as an additive to the water supply and as an anticavity ingredient in oral care products has been under increasing scrutiny. Too much fluoride can cause a condition known as fluorosis that discolors or spots tooth enamel and affects 41% of American adolescents, according to the CDC. Many clinicians share a concern that fluoride may upset the iodine balance in the body leading to widespread symptoms of low thyroid function such as fatigue, weight gain, cold hands and feet, dry skin, irregular bowel function and brain fog. The concern stems from the fact that fluoride comes from the same family of elements as iodine, the essential component to thyroid hormone. Fluoride toothpaste should not be swallowed and therefore not used by toddlers or anyone cannot sufficiently spit out all of the toothpaste. There are cases of acute fluoride poisoning from water systems, including side effects up to death.
Glycerin is a humectant (reduces the loss of moisture) that gives toothpaste it’s texture. It’s petroleum-based (in most commercial products) and leaves a film on the teeth that prevents you from having that nice, squeaky clean feel after brushing.
Hydrogen Peroxide is an oxidizer, bleaching agent, and disinfectant found in most popular whitening toothpastes. While it does whiten teeth, it also oxidizes your tooth enamel and may irritate soft tissues in the mouth, particularly the gums. Hydrogen peroxide goes into dentinal tubules and cleans out the minerals, weakening the tooth, and often leading to painful sensitivity.
Alcohol is used by major oral care brands because it is an inexpensive way to provide the user with that tingling / burning sensation that implies something good may be happening in your mouth. But, alcohol is a powerful antibacterial agent that destroys the good bacteria in your mouth (95%) along with the bad (5%). Alcohol is a drying agent that can lead to ‘dry mouth’, a painful and uncomfortable condition that can be transient or persistent. It’s also a known carcinogen (cancer-causing) and in this study was shown to “contribute to the increased risk of development of oral cancer”. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends avoiding mouthwashes that contain alcohol.
Artificial Dyes found in virtually all mouthwashes can stain your teeth over time, diminishing the whiteness of your smile. Commonly used dyes like FD&C Green No. 3, D&C Yellow No. 10, and FD&C Blue No. 1 have been shown to be cytotoxic (toxic to living cells). Yellow #5 is under review due to links to hyperactivity, anxiety, migraines and cancer Artificial dyes create an unnecessary burden for your liver, where they are processed.
Artificial Preservatives like sodium benzoate, methyl paraben, and ethyl paraben are used to extend the shelf life of many top selling brand name mouthwashes and have been shown to be both cytotoxic and carcinogenic.
Artificial Sweeteners such as sorbitol, a liquid that keeps toothpaste from drying out, is a laxative that can cause diarrhea in children and saccharin has been linked to bladder cancer, brain tumors and lymphoma in rodents. Instead, try stevia or xylitol as natural sweetener alternatives; the latter has been shown to also prevent tooth decay by increasing saliva, thus decreasing harmful bacteria in the mouth.
Carrageenan is derived from red seaweed and is added to thicken toothpaste, but it’s been linked to gastrointestinal inflammation, ulcers and even colon cancer in laboratory animals. While food-grade carrageenan sounds safe, it has also been linked to insulin resistance and glucose intolerance in mice.
Propylene glycol is the main active ingredient in antifreeze and is used to soften cosmetic products. It has been linked to damage to the central nervous system, liver and heart.
Suggestions for Healthy Alternatives
If you’d rather buy than DIY, look for clay paste like Earthpaste. Alternatively, try Neem Active Toothpaste, derived from the Neem tree in India; it’s been shown to prevent gum disease and cavities and is antifungal and antibacterial. You can also add Neem oil and/or essential oils like peppermint or cinnamon to your own homemade toothpaste. I like Uncle Harry’s toothpaste in a jar. Here are links to learning about oil pulling (I have seen oil pulling do incredible things)