Are You Healing or Harming Your Mouth?

By Xandre Probyn

How often do you have the time to check the label of a product you buy? Although we are all becoming more aware and striving to live a healthier lifestyle, our daily lives do not always allow us the luxury of investigating every product that we use. So, most of us focus on foodstuffs – we buy organic produce and stay away from additives and colourants. But what about necessities like toothpaste? Do we buy the marketing hype of ?whiter, brighter, fresher?, trusting that the manufacturers have our best interests at heart and considering that we use it in our mouths and at times swallow some of it, we generally assume that it is harmless. It is after all a product that is meant to maintain and improve our oral and dental wellbeing so, we naturally assume that the ingredients will benefit us and be safe.

Thanks be to those health conscious organisations that understand the scope and depth of that last sentence and live it through their brands by ensuring that their ingredients are in fact both therapeutic and harmless. Most of these products are free from chemicals and other damaging elements and made from natural herbs, plant extracts and food products. However, before becoming too excited at finding a product that promises healthy oral care it may be a good idea to still check the label as, some of the so-called natural toothpastes contain certain elements which can have serious and far-reaching effects on your health. Still, compared to a number of the established toothpastes in the market, these are still streets ahead.

Composition of toothpaste

When you look at that little blob of toothpaste on your brush, do you fully understand what toothpaste is meant to do for your teeth and mouth? Toothpastes are composed of a number of different elements, each with their own function. They contain abrasives, detergents, humectants, thickeners, preservatives, flavouring agents, sweeteners and colouring agents. Only the abrasives and detergents clean and polish the teeth, prevent cavities and gum disease and remineralise and strengthen your teeth. The rest are used for visual appeal, taste and prolonged existence – i.e. for the purpose of binding the different ingredients, improving the taste, creating foam, providing colour and ensuring that it has a longer shelf life.

Plaque Prevention

The largest components of toothpastes are abrasives and usually include calcium carbonate, bicarbonate of soda, and various silica compounds. Studies, such as the double blind study done at 4-Front Research UK Ltd in Maldon in the United Kingdom showed that calcium carbonate’s was more effective and a healthier option in removing stains from your teeth. 152 Adults with stained teeth were given toothpaste, which either contained silica (not to be confused with silicates) or calcium carbonate and then they were then told to brush their teeth twice daily for two weeks. The results showed that the toothpaste containing calcium carbonate removed significantly more stains than the toothpaste with silica.

Natural toothpastes often include kaolin clay as both an abrasive and a polisher as kaolin has a unique physical characteristic, which makes it effective more effective. Unlike many other abrasives, which have an irregular ball-shaped forms that can at times scratch or gouge your teeth, kaolin particles are thin, flat platelets. When you brush your teeth, you press the kaolin platelets up against your teeth where they position themselves flat against the surface. As you brush, the tiny ridges of the platelets act together as small files to produce a micro-smooth surface with lots of shine.

Triclosan is used in conventional toothpastes to prevent plaque build-up and as an antiseptic agent. Triclosan is banned in the European Union. In the USA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified it as a pesticide and as a result of intensive lobbying the USA Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the EPA have agreed to relook at the viability of allowing triclosan to be used in household products (including toothpaste). Rather try and find a natural toothpaste, which has replaced triclosan and fluoride with xylitol and/or Curcuma xanthorrhiza (Javanese tumeric) as numerous scientific studies have shown that these two natural plant extracts are extremely effective in preventing plaque formation and cavities.

Most of the toothpaste brands that you will find on the shelves use fluoride to fight cavities. For decades, fluoride has been punted as the answer to cavity prevention – to the extent, where a number of countries added it to their water supplies and dentists recommended it to build stronger and healthier teeth in young children. Currently, there is much controversy within the scientific and dental fields about whether it is in fact as safe as we have always been led to believe. Fluoride has already been banned or rejected in most European countries.

In 2009, this growing concern prompted over 2000 medical, scientific, and environmental health professionals to present a signed petition to the United States congress to call for the removal of fluoride from the water supply and all products that people would consume in one form or another. These petitioners state that fluoridation has harmful effects, which includes dysfunctional thyroid activity, diminished mental capacity, dental fluorosis, bone fractures and possibly even bone cancer.

Clinical studies done at the Department of Preventative Dentistry and Public Oral Health in Seoul, South Korea showed that combining xylitol with Curcuma xanthorrhiza extract (CXE) completely prevented the growth of the bad bacteria (S.mutans) which causes plaque formation. This, after only one minute’s exposure at a concentration of 50ppm. Additional studies done at the Yonsei University in Seoul showed that CXE is also excellent in preventing and healing gingivitis and periodontitis.

Periodontal Diseases

Did you know, that after the age of 30, periodontal disease (gingivitis and periodontitis) is responsible for more tooth loss than dental cavities? Traditional toothpaste brands use chlorhexidine to combat this however, chlorhexidine can cause staining of the teeth and desquamation (peeling of the skin). So, rather opt for a tocaothpaste that contains something healthy, like rhatany root extract for example. Rhatany root extract has astringent, anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties and is therefore, excellent for the treatment of mucosa inflammation, gingivitis and ulcerated and spongy gums.

Finally, look for natural toothpastes that have replaced the foaming agents Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) with Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate. Scarily, both SLS and SLES are esters of sulphuric acid and are known to cause skin irritations. SLS is also commonly used to degrease engines.

Makes one think, doesn’t it? So, next time you are shopping, think of that little bead of toothpaste sitting on your toothbrush and ensure that you are feeding your mouth health, not harm by looking closely at the back of the box to see what you will be putting into your mouth twice a day for the rest of your life.


On October 19th, 2011, posted in: Latest News from Purefresh by
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