Have you ever looked at the back of a tube of toothpaste and wonder “what is all this junk anyway”? There are so many things that the average layperson has absolutely no idea that it is mindboggling just to start to research all of them. Most of these materials are there to enhance the flavour, consistency, and surface of the paste. But some of them are salts, some of them are carcinogens, and many of them are plain unhealthy. Here is a breakdown of what’s in toothpaste.
What makes it tick
The active ingredients in toothpaste are very few, and are a very small percentage of the actual makeup of the product. The active ingredients in toothpaste are fluorides, minerals like calcium and magnesium, menthol and antibacterial and/or antifungal ingredients. Toothpaste is mostly made up of pH neutral, consistency boosting pastes. These are a bit greasy, a bit watery, easy to digest and make foam when brushed. But there are many ingredients in this foaming paste that can be unhealthy or are unnecessary.
What to look out for
These ingredients are either harmful, carcinogenic, or in some way can have negative health effects, and are very commonly found in most toothpaste:
Parabens are added to toothpaste as a preservative, and these materials are added to many cosmetic products as well. This class of chemicals is mostly banned from the EU, and is starting to be completely removed from the European market because it upsets, damages and confuses the human hormonal system, causing hormone deficiencies. Parabens are especially hazardous to children.
Triclosan is a biocide, meaning it kills pretty much anything it touches: viruses, bacteria, fungi, and sadly, your own cells as well. The EU has already banned the use of triclosan in anything that touches food stuffs, and is working on banning it in pesticides as well. It is still used in cosmetics though, mostly in toothpaste, for obvious reasons.
Sodium-lauryl-sulphate, or SLS is now under inspection, and the organic market has already banned using it and is proudly displaying on its labels when it doesn’t. This material is a salt that is added to toothpaste to make it foam, something that toothpaste doesn’t need to do to clean your teeth. SLS causes cold sores, weakens the mouth and irritates the mucus membranes, the cell lining and the salivary glands as well, and it is quite a strong irritant, as salts tend to be.
PEG is an emulsifier, meaning it keeps the greasy and the wet parts of the toothpaste together, instead of having it break down into water and everything else; it keeps the paste, well, pasty. The problem is that it makes human soft tissues translucent and easily permeable, which is bad for it, but also allows for infections.
Sweeteners are either feeding bacteria or causing cancer, and they are wholly unnecessary for oral hygiene. Mostly children’s toothpaste has this stuff in it, try and buy some that doesn’t have artificial sweeteners.