The problem with toothpaste

It’s been two years since I wrote about how to use your diet to improve your dental health.  I also wrote about my thoughts on toothbrushing not being a critical factor to healthy teeth and cavity prevention.  And when I wrote about the many uses of baking soda as well as about the uses of coconut oil, I mentioned that I use baking soda and coconut oil as toothpaste alternatives.  Though I haven’t been using commercial toothpastes for over four years, I’ve never shared my reasons here.

I have several concerns about toothpaste.  One is fluoride, which is a commercial waste product and toxin that despite all the hype hasn’t been proven to prevent tooth decay. (If you’re interested in learning more fluoride, you can start at this site).  It’s baffled me for years that there are warnings on the tube of toothpaste like “Do not swallow” and “In case of accidental ingestion, contact the poison control center” since swallowing a pea sized amount of toothpaste can poison a young child – but while we lock up chemical cleansers so they don’t get into it, we don’t even consider the free access our kids have to toothpaste.  Not only do we not keep them away from it, we lovingly open their tiny mouths and rub it all over their teeth.

Then there’s the another thing that puzzles me.  Dentists tell you to brush well after eating sweets, and then the paste you use to brush your teeth is filled with sweeteners.  Doesn’t that seem….well, contradictory?  You dip your brush in something sweet to rub away the residues of sweet food?

There are ingredients like the detergent sodium lauryl sulfate that may cause irritation to sensitive gums (linked to canker sores for many people).  And then there’s a very problematic ingredient called glycerin.  A good diet can substantially increase the strength of your teeth, and even remineralize them when decay has occurred (yes, that means you can heal your teeth through high quality nutrition).  Your teeth can only remineralize if they are clean, but glycerin coats your teeth with a film that prevents them from being able to absorb nutrients (and it takes 27 rinses to wash off the glycerin).  You can see how this is working against your efforts to build stronger teeth!

These are some of the reasons we don’t use toothpaste.  I’ll write about what what you can use as toothpaste alternatives as well as share about my kids’ dental history in another post.

(This post is part of Fight Back Friday.)


12 thoughts on “The problem with toothpaste

  1. One of my children has fluorosis: permanent damage to the teeth from use of fluoride. Another has porous enamel, something the dentist told us was “genetic and irreversible.” Genetic maybe, but the dentist himself has seen his enamel fill up since being on a real food diet. I generally make our toothpaste, but I keep some Weleda handy for emergencies.

    1. I don’t believe that problems with teeth are irreversible, but I do think most kids (including mine) start out behind the eight ball because of poor nutrition and things like fluoride. It’s so nice to hear your experience with your son’s enamel filling up – I love hearing stories of teeth healing!

  2. Very good post! I love to see more information about not needing fluoride, or commercial products. I got fluoride pills as a child because we were on well water (!).

    We do like tooth soap though (just olive oil soap with a little essential oil) because I like how it cleans more than just baking soda.

    1. Hi, Cara, welcome! I often think how crazy it is that so many damaging practices have become not only mainstream, but people have been hoodwinked into believing they are beneficial – fluoride in public water supplies is a good example.

  3. I had never had a cavity until the age of 29 when I was pregnant with my 3rd baby. I’ve always been not the greatest about brushing and flossing before bed… and it didn’t affect my teeth. Go figure :)
    I like your thoughts on toothpaste. I think I’d have a hard time convincing my husband to go toothpaste free though!

    1. Chanelle, a lot of people have problems with their teeth during/after pregnancy. It’s because the minerals for the baby’s development have to come from somewhere, and if nutrients aren’t adequately supplied in your diet, it will be pulled from your teeth. That’s what the saying that a mother loses ‘a tooth for every child’ is based on. But I have nine kids and no cavities, so it’s not inevitable! :)

  4. Avivah- this is so interesting. I used commercial toothpaste my whole life and enjoyed pretty healthy teeth. I started using just baking soda and hydrogen peroxide about six months ago and found out I had two big cavities about a week ago. When I told my dentist that out of my concern for the cavities, I had switched back to commercial toothpaste, she showed me that I actually already had these cavities almost a year ago (on old x-rays from my old dentist).

    She is WAPF-friendly and told me that using baking soda won’t cause cavities anyway, but that my cavities probably came from stress. I was surprised to hear that stress can cause cavities. She also told me that one of my cavities might have re-mineralized a little, which was surprising. I realized I have a lot to learn.

    One thing that has been difficult is that I miss the good flavor of commercial toothpaste (I guess it’s the sugars and flavorings you referred to). Do you have any tips on how to make alternatives more palatable?

    1. I just tried a new experiment on Friday for a toothpaste replacement that I’ll share sometime soon, Uriel – maybe it will help in the taste department. :)

  5. Hi Avivah- I like the idea!
    My kids are on the oh-so sweet grape (!!!) flavored toothpaste because they find the gum flavored one too strong , and that could be a much better alternative .
    What proportions of coconut oil/baking soda do you use? And what do you store it in?

  6. It’s wonderful to hear other people using the right things for their children’s teeth. We use baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. I also make a all natural mouthwash from herbs that is super. We have a great dentist who just doesn’t want to drill everything spot he sees. And yes, I do think our teeth can remineralize.

    Do you know of specific things that can help with a cavity being healed or filling back in?

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