Don’t Use Natural Toothpastes?
Posted on Friday, August 28th, 2009
A short and silly item recently ran in “The Thin Green Line” eco-blog at SFGate.com, which we reproduce here in full so you can immediately appreciate the mind-blowingness of it:
Dentist: Don’t use natural toothpastes
Good news and bad news at the dentist this morning. The good news is, my teeth are fine. The bad news is, the dentist told me I should give up Tom’s of Maine and Nature’s Gate in favor of Crest and Colgate.
I pressed him on it because I know sometimes people have knee-jerk reactions about green products, and he insisted that he’s only come to the conclusion after observing many people’s teeth. In fact, he went so far as to say that I’d be better off brushing my teeth with just water. He said the big C’s of dental care have “lots of artificial ingredients in them that are great for your teeth.”
And so it is with much dread that I will be reuniting with the tacky blue goop of my youth. The dentist did give me permission to go with the plainest, simplest version of a mainstream paste: No microbeads or built-in mouthwash needed.
First, simple observation doesn’t tell us much of anything. It certainly can’t, in and of itself, confirm a cause-effect relationship.
Second, just what are those “‘artificial ingredients…that are great for your teeth'”? The only one we can think of is xylitol, a sweetener that seems to be protective against cavities but is not used in all big-brand toothpastes. Even if it were, though, there are a number of ingredients that the health-conscious should be wary of, such as fluoride and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), the potential effects of which we’d hardly consider “great.”
Third, toothpaste itself is not the most important factor in dental hygiene, nor is it the only one. The key in cleaning your teeth is to thoroughly disturb the biofilm formed by microbes in the mouth. Biofilm (also called “plaque”) is kind of like pond scum: the result of colonizing microbes. (Read more about what dental biofilm is and how it affects your teeth. You can even watch how it colonizes here.) Just as when you twirl a stick in pond scum, the scum breaks up, so brushing, flossing and other cleaning actions break up biofilm in the mouth. Toothpaste acts as a mild abrasive and kind of “soap” for the teeth, thus making brushing more effective. The ideal paste contains no fluoride, sugar or SLS, and you can read more about the subject here.