Do you still use toothpaste? (1) | The Brown Bottle

Do you still use toothpaste? (1)

Jun 12, 2017 by Sora

Do you know why fruits tastes weird when you eat it after brushing your teeth? When you brush your teeth, first it feels fresh, but not long afterward it seems like you have bad breath. Did you know that that is the result of surfactants (foaming agents) in your toothpaste? Doesn't that make you wonder what else is really in your toothpaste?

I’m concerned as my little one used to swallow the toothpaste rather than brush her teeth… Is it truth that the foaming agents in toothpaste are the same as those in detergent? Why has fluoride, which protects our teeth from tooth decay, become an issue?

What is in your toothpaste?

There are a variety of toothpastes products on the market at various prices. But their main ingredients are all very similar regardless of price or target audience (old, young, healthy teeth or not). Toothpastes commonly consist of abrasives, fluoride, preservatives, surfactants, and so on. Abrasives are very fine sand-like ingredients that grind away the plaque on teeth, Fluoride prevents tooth decay, while preservatives preserve the toothpaste ingredients, and surfactants (the foaming agents) cleans out the oily residue in our mouths. Let’s take a close look at one particularly famous brand’s toothpaste:

-- Active Ingredients: Fluoride 0.24% (0.15% w/v fluoride ion), Triclosan 0.30% 

-- Inactive Ingredients: Water, Hydrated silica, Glycerin, Sorbitol, Flavour, PVM/MA Copolymer, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Cellulose Gum, Sodium Hydroxide, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Saccharin, Mica, Titanium Dioxide, FD&C Blue #1, D&C Yellow #10

  • Sodium fluoride: This is a highly debated topic. Sodium fluoride prevents tooth decay and removes plaque effectively, and it is in our tap water for daily use. However, many related research results link fluoride use to illnesses and developmental disorders in children. And so the exact health benefits of fluoride are subject to debate even now. 
  • Triclosan: This is a bleaching agent and antimicrobial used in hand sanitisers, deodorants, toothpastes, etc. Recently, many countries have started to limit its usage in oral care products because triclosan has been shown to disturb the hormone system and contribute to liver cancer.
  • Glycerin: Although glycerin itself is not necessarily bad, it does create a film on your teeth that prevents remineralization. For this reason, it is very important to choose toothpaste that doesn’t contain glycerin for preventing cavities. 
  • Sorbitol: This is a kind of sugar-alcohol which is synthesised from glucose and used as a food additive like artificial sweeteners. When you ingest significant amounts of sorbitol, it can cause stomachaches and diarrhea because it cannot be digested easily through the small intestine.
  • Flavour: Synthetic taste and flavour enhancers.
  • PVM/MA copolymer: This is used to increase the viscosity of toothpaste. It is not known to be toxic.
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS): SLS is a surfactant ingredient (a foaming agent) that irritates gums and dries the inside of the mouth and can cause stomatitis and bad breath. It is especially problematic in oral care as it can be contaminated by 1,2-dioxane, a cancer-causing agent.
  • Propylene glycol: This is an antifreeze agent. As such, it is known to cause skin irritation, allergic reactions and side effects as extreme as kidney damage if is ingested. It also boosts skin absorption, meaning that it helps other nasty ingredients penetrate the skin.
  • Sodium saccharin: An artificial sweetener and another controversial ingredient because it has been recognized as a carcinogen leading to bladder cancer in mice that were fed sodium saccharin. However, there is no evidence showing that the ingredient has caused cancer in the human body yet.
  • Titanium dioxide: This is added to toothpaste as a whitener but it is generally classified as a "potential carcinogen". 
  • FD&C blue no.1, D&C yellow no.10: These are common food colourings. Animal tests are being conducted to determine their carcinogenic potencies, if any. The FDA warns that if someone has “leaky gut syndrome”, FD&C blue no.1 can be fatal and strongly urges them to avoid products that include the food colouring. But this warning is nowhere to be found on current toothpaste labels.

Toothpastes are made for oral care and hygiene, yet it seems that with these nasty ingredients it might be better to not use toothpaste at all. Young children, especially, typically swallow toothpaste, ingesting its contents, before learning to rinse and spit after brushing. And even adults may not be doing enough; experts advise that everyone should rinse their mouths at least seven times after using most current toothpastes on the market.

Do you use toothpaste that contains microbeads?

Microbeads, also known as microplastics, are used as exfoliators in toothpastes or scrubbing products. These minute particles are added to toothpaste to provide mild exfoliation. However, the particles' sizes are so fine they can pass through sewage treatment plant filters and flow directly into the sea.

These particles then absorb toxic pollutants in the water while also leaching their own chemical substances. Microplastics enter the food chain, absorbed by sea life that are eaten by larger animals like fish, and the contaminated fish become those on our dinner tables. We then eat them ourselves, and it's only a matter of time before the pollutants accumulate in our bodies.

Recently, in the United States, the use of microbeads in daily goods like toothpaste and skin cream was banned as the result of campaigns by consumer rights organisations. Australia and Canada are also currently considering similar legislation.

To be continued...
Toothpaste that we use at least twice a day! The toothpaste that we use without thinking is harmful to our health and our precious earth. We will talk about healthy alternatives like tooth powder next time.

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