Toothpaste: what are we putting in our mouths?

It’s easy to pick up your toothbrush, half asleep in the morning and squeeze out a shiny blob of eye wateringly minty toothpaste. Without so much as a second thought, you start brushing and it foams up in your mouth, starts to tingle and may even change colour. But if you think about it - it sounds like you’re describing a chemical reaction happening in a science experiment, not something you should be putting in your mouth. 

So what are we putting in our mouths? What makes it throth and foam, and what would happen if, god forbid, we accidentally swallowed it? All will be revealed here in our little guide to toothpaste. 

5 generic toothpaste ingredients we know to be harmful 
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) 
Now you may have already heard of this one, with the abbreviation SLS being thrown around as it’s in just about everything, from shampoos to bath bombs, make-up to toothpaste and even marshmallows. This synthetic ingredient is the culprit behind the foam, it breaks down the other ingredients and turns them into a liquid you can lather, but unfortunately not without consequences. It can be abrasive component in toothpaste causing micro-tears in the skin, and over time can cause mouth ulcers, canker sores and even damage to your tooth’s enamel.  

Propylene Glycol 
When being handled in factories this chemical is forbidden to come into contact with the skin, so much so, that it’s compulsory to wear safety equipment and rubber gloves at all times. Propylene Glycol is mainly used as an active ingredient in anti-freeze products. It’s also warned that it can quickly become absorbed by the skin if you come into prolonged contact with this chemical, side effects include damage to the kidneys, liver and brain functions. 

Artificial colours  
Did you know that in the UK there are only 6 artificial colours that have been approved by the EU food standards agency? Generic toothpaste isn’t likely to contain any of the non approved ones, but the clue is in the word - artificial means it has been man made and our bodies won’t be used to it naturally. This becomes evident when you find out a lot of synthetic colours have derived from coal tar.  

This particular chemical has now been banned from body washes and shower gels and hand soaps but still remains an ingredient in Colgate toothpaste products. The main use for Triclosan in toothpaste is to help reduce the build up of bad bacteria in your mouth, however over usage of this chemical has been linked to resistance to antibiotics and caused tumors in mice when being tested on animals. 

Here is the age old question in the toothpaste industry, is fluoride bad for you? A simple answer - if overused yes. You may think it’s fine, with the small amounts in toothpaste that you come into contact twice a day, and this would be true but that’s not all you’re exposed too. As fluoride is a water mineral it can be found in filtered drinking water across the globe with 6.1 million of us Brits consuming it daily; and not all of it is there naturally. If exposed to too much Fluoride as a child you can develop dental fluorosis, this causes white streaks, dots and discolouration on your teeth. Thyroid problems have also been linked to over consumption of Fluoride with more calcium being produced in your bloodstream and less calcium in your bones. A great natural alternative ingredient with the same benefits as Fluoride, is coconut oil which can prevent the build up of harmful bacteria and plague that cause tooth decay. 

The all natural alternatives to generic toothpaste  
With a little research it becomes clear to see there are advantages and disadvantages of generic toothpastes in the relm of oral care. But if you conciously want to make an effort to help the enviroment and put an end to single use plastics, then why not try switching to a zero waste alternative, that is just as effective at cleaning your teeth and keeping your mouth healthy? We are proud to stock Georganics toothpaste which does a fantastic job of cleaning our teeth without nasty chemicals. 

Read next story