We brush, floss and rinse with mouthwash to keep our teeth healthy, strong and fresh. Unfortunately, some of the very things we are doing to protect ourselves from disease could be making us sick. The ingredients listed on the back of our toothpaste tubes and mouthwash bottles might be things we’ve never given too much consideration, but, as it turns out, maybe we should. There is growing concern among consumers, activists and medical professionals that the most basic parts of our daily routines could be a double-edged sword. While there are many chemicals in dental products that have come under attack in the past several years, one in particular that is on the chopping block is being taken seriously by dentists, consumers and even the FDA. Triclosan, a chemical that you might be familiar with, as it is included in many antibacterial products, is supposed to help prevent plaque formation and treat gingivitis. According to Dental Health Magazine, however, Triclosan is so strong that it has been reported to disrupt the endocrine system and can contribute to the formation of the “superbugs” currently plaguing the American medical system. The European Union and many other countries have already banned the use of Triclosan and, in response to pressure from researchers, the FDA is conducting further studies on the safety of the chemical, due to be completed in spring of 2011.
Another chemical to avoid when looking for dental products (or any products, really) is Sodium Laureth Sulfate. This surfectant is toxic and irritating, according to Dental Health Magazine, and, according to Dr. Harold Katz, the founder of TheraBreath, has been proven to cause damage to oral tissue, lead to canker sore production and cause bad breath.
Saccharin is also commonly found in dental products, as it makes the products taste sweeter without contributing to the tooth decay that can be caused by sugar. If you’re trying to live a healthier lifestyle, you’ve probably heard about the dangers of saccharin and might be trying to stay away from it in the food and drinks you and your family consume. In addition to causing allergic reactions, headaches, diarrhea, skin eruptions and, ironically, weight gain, this chemical is considered a possible carcinogen even by the FDA.
The good news is, staying away from dangerous chemicals in your toothpaste and mouthwash is a relatively easy task, thanks to a number of companies who have stepped up to make oral care products that are safe and effective. Some may be skeptical of finding natural or organic products that are as effective as their current, chemical-laden ones, but many of these brands contain essential oils, which are nature’s answer to killing viruses and bacteria, eliminating damaged cells and regenerating new ones. Here are a couple of options that we think are winners:
For those who are open to trying something that feels a little different than their traditional toothpaste, Tooth Soap is a great option. Made from organic olive oil, organic coconut oil, distilled water, Himalayan Crystal Salt, coral calcium and essential oils, Tooth Soap was given a score of 0 on the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Database, meaning that is considered very low hazard. It is also Kosher certified Star-K and claims to remove oils, residue and contaminants from teeth, creating a healthy oral environment. Reviewers love it and claim it healed a variety of dental problems from sensitivity to gum disease to frequent canker sores, but warn that, as it is a liquid, it feels a little different than average toothpaste. Tooth Soap is available at Amazon.
For those who prefer a product that feels a little more like their old toothpaste, Tom’s of Maine Natural Antiplaque Plus Whitening Gel is another great option. Formulated without artificial ingredients or abrasives, Tom’s uses purified hydrated silica to clean and remove stains and has no chemicals or animal ingredients. In addition, it was given a score of 1 from the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Database, meaning it has a low risk of being hazardous to your health. This toothpaste is also available from Amazon.
Jason PowerSmile Mouthwash uses peppermint essential oil to freshen breath, Perilla Seed Extract, which is naturally anti-bacterial, to prevent tartar build-up and three natural whiteners to keep teeth bright. It received a score of 1 on the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Database, indicating it is low risk. This mouthwash is available at Amazon.
Tom’s of Maine also has a great Baking Soda Mouthwash that is alcohol-free, saccharin-free and has vitamin C, aloe vera, witch hazel and baking soda to nourish the mouth. Peppermint oil lends this mouthwash its refreshing flavor, and it was given a score of 2 by the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Database, meaning it has a low risk of being hazardous. Tom’s Mouthwash is available from Amazon.