Evaluating my toothpaste use has been a very recent addition to the natural health care regimen. I had picked up a Green Beaver xylitol-based toothpaste previously for camping, because its natural ingredients and nonfluoridation mean that it’s not too bad to swallow if you don’t have a sink, but hadn’t fully immersed myself into looking for safe products. After figuring out that isothiazolinones and a few other biocide-preservatives were a problem for me, I went back and reevaluated my choices.
The Really Bad – Colgate Total
My family had been using Colgate Total, so this is the first toothpaste I checked into. Directly from Colgate’s website, I learned that this toothpaste creates a film of triclosan, a biocide, on your teeth (and probably the rest of your mouth, too), which is what helps your teeth feel clean for so long. This is also why it’s only recommended for children ages 6 and up. Considering that isothiazolinones are biocides, and I already knew I had a problem with other biocides, this concerned me a lot. Anything that leaves a potentially harmful chemical behind in my and my child’s mouth is not acceptable to me. I immediately purchased a safer childrens’ toothpaste for my daughter (fluoridated, as per her dentist’s recommendations), and went out looking for safer alternatives for myself. My husband decided that he would continue using the toothpaste until it was gone, but not repurchase.
I have some tooth sensitivity issues, and that has made it especially hard to stay on natural toothpastes long-term. Recently I picked up two new ones to try. Both are fluoride free. Although I am not quite decided yet on whether toothpaste is necessary for children or adults, and how much is sufficient, our water is fluoridated here, so my prime concerns for myself are my mouth staying clean feeling at least through the night and sensitivity concerns. Also, if I am going to use a toothpaste that contains herbal ingredients, I want the herbs to actually be in there. I picked up one toothpaste from a local health food store and it wasn’t until I got it home that I realized that all of the herbal components had little asterisks beside them. It turns out they were all present in homeopathic quantities, ie. nonexistent. Fail! Returned that one to the store.
Green Beaver is a Canadian company whose sunscreen I absolutely love. Their toothpaste, however, leaves a little to be desired. Perhaps it is because it is so natural, but I find that my teeth feel “fuzzy” as soon as six hours after using it. In addition, it seemed to worsen my tooth sensitivity. Not my ideal. This was why I had primarily used it for camping. Plus it doesn’t foam at all, getting liquidy and hard to keep in my mouth and not drool all over myself while I’m moving the brush around. It’s good in that it doesn’t contain SLS or carrageenan, but the other minuses are enough to make it unpleasant at best.
The two toothpastes I tried next were Jason Healthy Mouth Active Defense and Himalaya Herbal Healthcare Botanique toothpaste. Both contain mint ingredients, so they are not safe for people with mint allergies. The Himalaya contains SLS and the Jason contains carrageenan. I figured that if I am not allergic to the ingredient per se, a short exposure thoroughly rinsed out would be fine. Plus I could rinse my lips afterward to make sure I have no reaction there.
Himalaya Botanique toothpaste is a gentle-tasting blend of flavours, including pomegranate and neem. It is slightly fruity and slightly minty in taste, but not overpowering in either regard. Its SLS content means that it does foam up in your mouth. It definitely reduced my tooth sensitivity issue. My teeth still feel quite clean after a night’s sleep, and the product did not seem to be irritating to either my mouth or lips. Over time, though, I started wondering whether the SLS might be exacerbating my tooth sensitivity, as SLS is an irritant.
Jason Healthy Mouth
Next I tried the Jason Healthy Mouth Active Defense. This toothpaste doesn’t taste quite as good as the Himalaya one, since its main ingredients are mint and cloves, but it definitely helped my tooth sensitivity more than the Himalaya. It also foamed in the mouth due to the carrageenan. It kept the teeth feeling cleaner longer than the Himalaya, which was another bonus. Around this time, I started realizing I might have a sensitivity issue with cloves. Throw another toothpaste out.
Back to the Green Beaver, But…
And so I returned to the humble Green Beaver. The Green Beaver is available in about four flavours, including mint, orange, green apple, and anise. Not content with its cleaning power nor its ability to soothe tooth sensitivity, I did some research online. I found that baking soda is one of the most gentle scrubs for your teeth but has inferior cleaning power, kaolin clay is aluminum-based but has great cleaning power and is very gentle (it’s also one of the two main ingredients of the original Kaopectate, the other one being pectin), and xylitol can help to remineralize teeth.
Thus my frankentoothpaste was born. First on the brush, a pea-sized amount of Green Beaver mint toothpaste. Next, a dip into my home-blended mixture of baking soda, kaolin, and xylitol (about half and half on the two powders, with less xylitol to taste. Although the toothpaste does already contain xylitol, a little more doesn’t hurt, and helps to make other things more palatable. After the dip, I gently get the powder wet to prevent accidentally breathing it in when I first put it into my mouth (it’s not great to breathe kaolin), and in it goes. I make sure to spit and rinse afterward to avoid leaving residual aluminum in my mouth. This mixture, though a little funky tasting at first, makes my mouth feel super-clean and keeps it feeling clean all day. My last dental checkup was better than the one before, and my tooth sensitivity stays away with regular brushing.
I may experiment with making my own toothpaste in the future, but why mess with something that works?
What alternative toothpastes have you tried that worked for you? Comment below.