Protect Those Pearly Whites

In my quest to become healthier, more economical and environmentally-friendly, I’m always finding things to improve upon.  Why am I always surprised when the best ideas are the simple, back-to-basic methods?  You mean, fresh produce is healthier than packaged foods?  Indeed, it is, believe it or not.  I don’t care how many vitamins and minerals they’ve added in the process.

It’s a challenge, sifting through the latest fads.  It’s exhausting, trying to discern the truth between what the health professionals are touting, what the latest FDA regulations say, and the myriad opinions of everyone else.

Health and hygiene products today contain all sorts of chemicals and additives – many of them because they’re cheap, extend the shelf-life of the product, make it smell good, or achieve a nice lather.  Little by little I’ve been trying to weed out some of these harmful products, and last year when I stumbled upon the idea of not using shampoo it got me curious about some of the other things I’ve been using.  Raising a family makes you more aware of even the smallest of choices.

Like… what kind of toothpaste you’re using.  I’ve been hearing more and more about the evils of Sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS.  Found in all sorts of products, from shampoo to bubble bath to body wash, it is a known irritant that can cause canker sores, among other things.

And what’s the deal with fluoride?  Nowadays it seems the more, the merrier.  Have an ice cold glass of fluoride, swish and gargle with fluroide, then brush with more fluoride.  If a little is good, more must be better, right?  As Kelly says in her article on Fluoride Safety,

“‘What is more natural?’ Adding something to water that doesn’t naturally occur there in the first place doesn’t sound natural to me. So here’s where we came down on the subject: we got rid of it.”

The latest concern revolves around the effect of glycerin in toothpaste.  It’s in almost every kind of toothpaste, even the fluoride-free varieties.  There are those, like Dr. Gerard F. Judd, who believe glycerin coats the teeth, preventing  remineralization.  On the other side of the fence we have people like Dr. Paul H. Keyes, who criticizes Dr. Judd’s research, insisting that his findings are false, that glycerin is a “harmless additive” that has important anti-bacterial qualities.  Better safe than sorry?

Some of the other common ingredients in toothpaste and other oral care products that can be toxic or potentially lethal include alcohol, food dyes, silica, and Triclosan, among other things.  No wonder there are warning labels on tubes of toothpaste!  And if you’re the frugal type, there are even greater concerns – like the bargain toothpaste that can be found at discount and dollar stores, as they are most likely unsafe imported toothpaste from China, containing DEG aka Diethylene glycol (used in anti-freeze).

Curious how your brand of toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, or other product scores for safety?  Check out the Cosmetic Safety Database (CSD), where you can find out how a product ranks according to its ingredients and supporting data.  For instance, after inputting Burt’s Bees Natural Toothpaste Kids’ Orange Wow – which I got on sale a few months ago – I find that it gets a whopping 4 out of 10 on the hazard scale.  For a kids’ toothpaste?  That’s wow alright.  Along with all the data it gives for a given product, CSD also gives a link for the percentage of similar items that have a lower hazard concern.  Here is a list of toothpastes, starting with the lowest hazard.

Nowadays you can easily find a fluoride-free toothpaste, if not at your grocery store or pharmacy, then online stores such as Amazon or Drugstore.  Brands that offer fluoride-free varieties include Burt’s Bees, Jason Natural, Miessence, Nature’s Gate, WeledaKiss My Face, Natural Dentist, and Tom’s of Maine.  Here’s the rub: most of them still contain glycerin and other controversial ingredients. *sigh*

I decided to google homemade toothpaste recipes, mostly because I was sick of looking for fluoride-free children’s toothpaste for the kiddos, then for myself as I read up on some of the more common ingredients in traditional toothpaste.  As it turns out, there’s a whole slew of recipes for homemade toothpaste.  The most common ingredients include soap (as a cleanser, duh), coconut oil (for whitening and anti-bacterial qualities, among other things), stevia or xylitol (both as sweeteners, and in the latter for anti-bacterial and cavity control ), baking soda (for polishing teeth and freshening breath), and essential oils (for flavoring). Some of them contain glycerin, as the jury is still out on that debate.  I came across this recipe for homemade toothpaste when looking for one specifically without glycerin.  Here are a few more from Passionate Homemaking, Tammy’s Recipes, and The Nourished Life.

If you really want to get down to basics, Dr. Ray Behm Jr. DDS reveals The Secret to saving your teeth.  It all comes down to baking soda and salt, mixed with one of three liquids (colloidal silver, hydrogen peroxide, or aloe vera).

Feel like trying a toothpaste that’s free from all those chemicals and additives, but don’t feel like making your own? Tooth Soap has gotten rave reviews, and I imagine there are shops similar to Rose of Sharon Acres on Etsy that sells a product called Tooth Chips (I would love to try the clove!).

I’ve been using a homemade version for about a week now, and am curious to try some of the other concoctions.  After scouring some of the organic brands, I’m going to try Nature’s Gate Creme de Anise (with a more traditional mint flavor for the hubby).  What brand of toothpaste are you currently using, and have you had success with a natural toothpaste?