Your kids must have asked you why they need to brush twice a day and how a little amount of paste can fight off germs and you show them different toothpaste as a reference to show how actually toothpaste works. But do you really know
- How your toothpaste actually works?
- What are the ingredients in it which claims to clean your teeth?
- Are those ingredients safe for you and your family?
- Today, let’s investigate the toothpaste without which our mornings seem incomplete.
What is toothpaste?
It is a paste or gel which is used with a toothbrush to clean the teeth and maintain the oral hygiene. It also serves as an abrasive agent to remove plaque from teeth and polish them. It also delivers active ingredients such as Fluoride to prevent tooth and gum diseases like gingivitis. But toothpaste alone can’t do anything; it is the mechanical action of toothbrush which utilizes the ingredients of toothpaste to rub the surface of teeth and acts as a medium to provide benefits of toothpaste to your teeth and gum. Although, brushing (dry or wet) only is able to remove plaque at some extent but when it is combined to toothpaste action then its effect increases two folds.
What are the ingredients of toothpaste?
When you think of toothpaste you must be thinking about a pea size paste on brush, foam and then a sensation of clean mouth and freshness. Well all these things are achieved by combination of ingredients which are:
These are tiny particles in your toothpaste which grind your teeth, remove any plaque and whiten them. It constitutes 50 percent of the paste and variety of abrasives such as aluminum hydroxide, calcium carbonate, calcium hydrogen phosphate, silica, zeolites and hydroxyapatite are used in different toothpaste.
Products containing hydrated silica as abrasive agent should be avoided in case of gum disease, tooth decay, sensitivity and receding gums. While these abrasive whiten your teeth but they can also alter the acid balance in the oral cavity thus causing harm to your dental health. Hydrated silica damage the enamel and prevent remineralization process just like using sand to clean glass.
This is present since First World War and has been used in toothpaste all over the world because it fights off the cavities and germ build up, helps in remineralization process by fusing with the surface of damaged enamel and strengthens the gums. Sodium fluoride is widely used as a source of fluoride but stannous fluoride, sodium monofluorophosphate and olafur (an organic salt of fluoride) are also used in various brands. Stannous fluoride is found to be more effective than sodium fluoride in reducing gum diseases such as gingivitis.
Minimal ingestion of sodium fluoride can cause salivation, nausea, vomiting, epigastric pain, and diarrhea while its large dose can cause paralysis, muscular weakness and colonic convulsions, followed by respiratory and cardiac failure. Therefore, toothpaste with sodium fluoride has written warning on the product that it should be kept away from the reach of children below 6 years of age and if someone swallows it accidently then medical help should be taken right away.
Surfactants or detergent
Surfactant or surface active agents are the soapy ingredient in your toothpaste which produces foam while you brush your teeth. It acts on the tooth surface and weakens the plaque or any stain particles which doesn’t go away after rinsing your mouth with water. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is commonly used as a surfactant in most of the toothpaste brands. This ingredient is used in different cleaning products such as shampoo, floor cleaners, engine degreaser and car wash soap.
According to a report of the journal of the American College of Toxicology, this chemical can penetrate the cell membrane and can cause harm to eye, brain, heart, and liver. It is used in baby’s “no tears” shampoo but if baby eyes come in contact with this chemical then their development process reduces considerably. It can cause cataract in adults, reduces healing process and hair growth.
This ingredient is added to fight off the bacterial build up in teeth and gums. Triclosan is the common antibacterial ingredient in toothpaste but zinc chloride is also used in many brands. This ingredient prevents gingivitis (a common gum disease), reduces tartar and put off bad breath.
This ingredient has been registered as a dangerous pesticide by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) but still many toothpaste companies claims that it is safe to use. The EPA has considered it as a risk for human and environmental health. It is chlorophenol which is a part of carcinogen chemical group phenol. If it is applied externally, it can cause skin irritation without any pain because it can temporarily deactivate the nerve endings. If it is ingested for long time then it can harm liver, kidneys, heart and lungs, suppress the immune system, and cause hormonal disruption, paralysis, sterility and brain hemorrhages.
Flavorings and dyes
Toothpaste is available in variety of flavors and color. The most popular flavors are peppermint, spearmint and wintergreen but there are also some exotic flavors such as Anethole anise, apricot, bubblegum, cinnamon, fennel, lavender, neem, ginger, vanilla, lemon, orange, and pine. If you don’t like flavoring then there are unflavored toothpaste available for you in market. The essential oils used for flavoring can trigger allergic reaction or skin irritation in contact sensitive individuals.
Studies have found that dyes used in toothpaste are synthesized from petroleum and cause allergic reaction, asthma attacks, headaches, nausea, fatigue, nervousness, lack of concentration, and cancer. These dyes have high penetration rate and can be absorbed within seconds by your lips and inner lining of mouth even if you don’t ingest your toothpaste. These dyes have carcinogenic properties and can cause a wide number of behavioral, learning, and health problems
This ingredient gives the texture to your toothpaste and retains moisture in it. Glycerin, sorbitol and water are the commonly used but Xylitol is the best Humectant. It increases the saliva production in mouth and thus prevents dryness of mouth. It also helps in preventing early tooth decay.
Studies have found that Humectant like glycerin reduces the remineralization process as it is very difficult to remove from the tooth surface. It doesn’t go away even after 20 rinses with water. Its coating on tooth surface prevents the minerals from fusing themselves with the enamel.
This is used to prevent any microorganism growth in the toothpaste and sodium benzoate, methyl paraben, and ethyl paraben are commonly used as preservatives. Among these, sodium benzoate is the safest preservative. Some natural preservatives has high citric acid content which may cause stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting if ingested in large amount.
This ingredient is used to give your toothpaste a thick texture and carrageenan, cellulose gum, guar gum and xanthan gum are used as common thickening agents in most toothpaste. Xanthan gum is a safe ingredient for those who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Side effect of this ingredient is rare but bloating or gas is noticed in some cases.
Now you have a fair knowledge of what is inside in your toothpaste so don’t get fooled by advertisements and the false claims. Look at the ingredient list and the percentage of each ingredient to decide yourself that your toothpaste is actually good for you or the time has come to change it with some better alternative. Keep yourself informed and remain safe with a perfect smile on your face!!!!