Toothpaste is obviously a hygienic necessity for all of us (at least I would hope so!), but that dose of toxic chemicals we get with each brushing? Definitely unnecessary.
The two most common active ingredients in toothpastes – sodium fluoride and triclosan – have been associated with a number of health risks. What’s more, they aren’t necessary to maintain proper oral health!
95% of toothpastes on the American market contain sodium fluoride. This chemical poses a significant threat to children, who – both accidentally and purposefully – ingest a significant amount of toothpaste and thus fluoride. According to the Journal of Public Health Dentistry: “Virtually all authors have noted that some children could ingest more fluoride from [toothpaste] alone than is recommended as a total daily fluoride ingestion.” Dental fluorosis is a significant side effect of swallowing too much fluoride between infancy and 8 years, formative years during which teeth are developing. Mild dental fluorosis exhibits itself as cloudy white splotches and streaks on the teeth. More severe forms of dental fluorosis appear as brown and black staining of the teeth as well as pitted teeth and weakened enamel. If children also drink fluoridated water, the risk of dental fluorosis is increased.
Chronic sodium fluoride consumption can also cause skeletal fluorosis, a bone disease caused by excessive fluoride exposure that damages the bones and causes joint pain. More troubling, some studies have linked sodium fluoride to developmental and reproductive toxicity as well as organ system toxicity (non-reproductive).
Triclosan is a pesticide that was just approved for use in personal care products in 2008. In just a few short years, it has invaded the market! It can now be found in most antibacterial handsoaps and toothpastes. But clinical studies on animals have shown that tricolsan impairs muscle function and skeletal muscle contractility. The chemical is also a known hormone disruptor (also referred to as an E.D.C., endocrine disrupting chemical) that can disrupt hormone regulation at even low-level exposure. The World Health Organization and United Nations this year concluded: “Exposure to E.D.C.s during fetal development and puberty plays a role in the increased incidences of reproductive diseases, endocrine-related cancers, behavioral and learning problems, including A.D.H.D., infections, asthma, and perhaps obesity and diabetes in humans.”
So what can you do?
To avoid these chemicals, choose a natural toothpaste that doesn’t rely on these ingredients to protect your oral health (since they obviously compromise your overall health). Check out the Skin Deep database to help you find a safer option.
Sources and further reading:
- Environmental Working Group, Sodium Fluoride
- New Jersey department of Health, Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet: Sodium Fluroide
- UK Health Protection Agency, Sodium Fluoride: Toxicological Overview
- The World Health Organization, State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals 2012, Summary for Decision-Makers
- Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database, Triclosan
- Environmental Working Group, Guide to Triclosan
- American Medical Association, Use of Antimicrobials in Consumer Products (see page 4)
- Smithsonian.com: Surprising Science, Triclosan, A Chemical Used in Antibacterial Soaps, is Found to Impair Muscle Function
- Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Parabens