Toxic toothpaste - better and safer options for kids' teeth
Some facts worth knowing
An article by Dr Prue King
An article Prue wrote for Choice magazine about why natural alternatives are a better choice for everyone's teeth.
Young children swallow a large percentage of the toothpaste they use. It is essential that they don't use adult fluoride-containing toothpaste.
Adult toothpastes contain as much as 1,000 ppm fluoride, 1ppm being the supposed 'safe' concentration to fluoridate water at as this will cause them to ingest fluoride at a level that can cause fluorosis - mottling, brown or white spots of the permanent teeth.
This is becoming much more widespread now, and if the child is living in a fluoridated water area, drinking tap water or having formula made up with fluoridated water then they will more than likely be ingesting too much fluoride.
Toxic effects of fluoride include brittle bones, mottled teeth, behavioural changes and an increased risk of osteosacoma (bone cancer).Whilst fluoride may have its place in hardening the teeth when applied topically, it should be kept out of the body wherever possible.
If children are using toothpaste containing fluoride they should use a very small amount on the brush and thoroughly rinse out afterwards. There are children's low fluoride 'mainstream' toothpastes available.
If you are interested there is much more on fluoride at this link!
Safety and adverse health effects of Fluoride
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate
Commercial toothpaste also contains sodium lauryl sulphate. The adverse effects of sodium lauryl sulphate are well documented – a gastrointestinal and liver poison, it interferes with eye development in children and is a potential carcinogen, also can cause mouth ulcers.
Colours often included toothpastes are FD & C Blue Dye # 1 & 2.
These can cause behavioural, learning & developmental problems in susceptible people, particularly children.
Also allergies, asthma, headaches and potential cancer risk. (They are made from petrochemicals).
Saccharin likewise is a potential carcinogen & interferes with enzyme production, breaking down to formaldehyde in the body.
Another ingredient worth mentioning is Triclosan, a biocide included in many types of toothpaste for its antibacterial properties, causing an increase in allergies, skin irritation, GI irritation and implicated in a rise in "superbugs" - antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Triclosan has been banned in Denmark and many supermarkets in the UK including Marks & Spencers. It is another potential carcinogen, stored in the fat cells & interfering with fatty acid metabolism.
Not just a local effect
All these ingredients are readily absorbed through the oral mucosa and travel to other parts of the body so their effect is not just local.
Obviously children are more susceptible to their effects, especially if they swallow large quantities of toothpaste.
Most toothpaste containing these ingredients have a health warning on them that if swallowed in quantities larger than normally used for tooth brushing they are poisonous. What does that tell you?
Natural and organic toothpastes
Natural and organic toothpastes are definitely a viable alternative to the more 'mainstream', loaded with chemical options.
Some have active ingredients like T-Tree and neem oils and CoQ10 which are good for gum health, oil of cloves, baking soda to decrease acidity of the saliva and casein derived re-mineralising agents which are just as effective as fluoride in re-mineralizing teeth (University research studies).
Some will be more therapeutic and effective than others, depending on the individual's needs, but it is important to remember that thorough plaque removal with brushing and flossing is the most important part - the toothpaste isn't essential in this process, it helps the taste and freshness of breath afterwards, a little like showering with and without soap!
Advantages of 'natural' toothpastes are that they don't contain fluoride, artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, colours, flavours or sodium lauryl sulphate, and do contain more natural therapeutic agents which may improve gum health and re-mineralization of the teeth as mentioned above.
Diet and cleaning the teeth play a much more important role in preventing tooth decay than fluoride in the toothpaste or drinking water.
Options for maintaining healthy teeth and gums:
- Brush 2 times every day and floss at least every 2 days
- Decrease all refined, acid-forming foods such as white flour & sugar, stick with whole, unprocessed foods (caveman diet). Beware too much soya milk, it often has added sugar & I have found a high incidence of decay in children who drink a lot of this.
- Increase calcium-rich foods such as broccoli, green vegetables and sesame seeds.
- Maintain a good intake of healthy oils to aid in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins.
- See your dentist regularly so small problems can be identified early before they become large.
- Appropriate toothpastes can be recommended - we use Modere Toothpaste which has casein-derived re-mineralizing agents, especially for young children as their teeth are developing & erupting, and Ecodent toothpowders which contain baking soda to alkalize the saliva and other oils for healthy gums, is non-abrasive and desensitizes sensitive teeth. They are both highly therapeutic without the added chemical cocktails in the 'mainstream' toothpastes.