A toothpaste is a toothpaste, is a toothpaste, right? Wrong. Not only are there certain toothpaste ingredients we would all do well to avoid, we can also look for the right toothpaste for our own unique oral health situation: the ultimate ‘clean,’ personalized toothpaste. In this two-part article, we show you how to choose the best from the pre-made toothpaste options, as well as recipes to make your own!
Mounting research demonstrates a greater link between systematic and oral health than ever previously imagined. While most of us are aware of the need to brush twice per day, floss, and moderate sweets, it’s easy to feel frustrated by the continued dental decay that some of us experience despite strict adherence to American Dental Association guidelines. While diet, lifestyle choices and our overall health status play a key role in supporting optimal oral health, choosing the right toothpaste can be highly beneficial. Included are some options that I have found to be helpful as a nutritionist specializing in oral health care.
Ugh… where did that cavity come from?!
Within our mouth we have a cavity-forming strain of bacteria known as S. mutans. These are one of the main causes of tooth decay. We make these bacteria extra active when we overindulge in sugars, natural sweeteners, and other simple carbohydrates (or even complex carbohydrate when they are left on our teeth for a while). These harmful bacteria show their appreciation for their generous host by multiplying and releasing acids that lower the salivary pH, thereby causing the release of calcium and phosphate from the teeth, and the eventual formation of a cavity.
Beyond those bad S. mutans bugs, chronically low salivary pH (influenced by a range of factors including constantly snacking on acidic and cavity forming foods, inadequate fluid consumption, chronic stress, and mouth breathing), a diet low in essential nutrients, hormonal imbalances, stress, and other factors can cause further decay unrelated to bacterial acids.
What to do about cavities?
Many practices exist to prevent and, in certain instances, reverse cavities. Dental pioneers from the 1930’s demonstrated that diet plays a key role. They specifically studied indigenous people noted for their excellent facial development and almost complete immunity to dental decay (none of whom brushed their teeth or flossed—we’re not recommending you follow suit!) The remarkable oral health of these people came to an end with their transition to the modern diet. Modern research shows that other factors also help prevent cavities including managing stress, balancing hormones, and minimalizing free-radical exposure.
A well-formulated toothpaste can be highly beneficial for supporting dental integrity, as we also work towards adopting healthier habits, and correcting metabolic imbalances. Here’s how the conventional toothpastes stack up against the alternatives, as well as my personal favorite selections.
Contain topical fluoride, which has been proven to significantly reduce the risk of cavities. Scroll down to read more about the pros and cons of fluoride.
Topical fluoride can be hazardous is swallowed. Conventional toothpastes also contain many questionable ingredients including color pigments, artificial flavoring, and synthetic chemicals such as propylene glycol, triclosin, sodium laureth sulfate, trisodium phosphate. This is particularly troubling when you consider the thin cellular lining of the oral cavity, and the risk of something problematic entering your blood steam on a regular basis while brushing.
Free of topical fluoride and other potentially problematic ingredients.
If chosen carefully, they address some of the specific causes of tooth decay including bacterial imbalance and low pH.
Natural brands might still contain problematic ingredients, and lack a good substitute the fluoride they exclude.
The Skinny on Fluoride
Fluoride is highly controversial among natural health circles, and is a topic we have considered in depth as well. In our view, fluoride applied topically, with no/minimal swallowing may be the best way forward for those with clear need, but not necessarily everyone with otherwise healthy teeth. The pros and cons of fluoridated water deserves more detailed attention which we will address in a separate blog in the future.
Our Recommendations for Store-Bought Toothpastes
1. The CLEANEST toothpaste
Short of making your own toothpaste, I have found Earthpaste to be the best choice for the pickiest of consumers. It contains only five easy-to-pronounce ingredients in a combination that inhibit S. mutans and provide a balanced salivary pH. It can also be purchased in methanol-free flavors, which are often preferred among individuals taking homeopathic remedies.
Earthpaste is a good choice for those who have no existing problems with dental caries or sensitivity.
2. The most MINERALIZING toothpaste(s)
Mineralizing toothpastes can dramatically reduce sensitivity and help to slow the progression of dental decay. I especially recommend mineralizing toothpastes to those who have existing dental decay, alongside nutritional changes and hygiene habits. In a mineralizing toothpaste, I look for ingredients that are anti-microbial, pH neutralizing, and restore missing minerals back to the teeth. Here are my top three brands:
i. Recaldent helps to mineralize one’s teeth by directly delivering calcium and phosphate into the enamel.
ii. CariFree combines the mineralizing benefits of Recaldent with ingredients that are anti-bacterial, and neutralize the salivary pH. I find this product to be more effective than Recaldent.
iii. Tooth Builder is a popular fluoride-free, anti-bacterial, and mineralizing toothpaste, containing the fewest objectionable ingredients. The research behind this product is limited when compared to the other two brands, but it does get good reviews among consumers and is a reasonable compromise for those who want a mineralizing toothpaste with the best of ingredients.
Have you tried using alternative toothpastes? Do you have any brands that you would recommend? Feel free to share your experiences in the comment section below.
This article was submitted by Jay Wolkoff MS. Jay is a clinical nutritionist specializing in integrative and functional medicine. He currently practices at the office of Dr. Alan Wolkoff, DMD, where he offers nutrition and lifestyle counseling to support individuals experiencing dental concerns including extensive dental decay. Jay has a special interest in herbal medicine, and is a keen organic gardener, meditator and yoga practitioner.
Jay says much of my understanding of nutrition for oral health has been due to the excellent work and teachings of Dr. Judene Benoit, DDS. Her website is a valuable resource for those wish to learn more: http://judenedds.com/