toothpaste tubeRecently on a holistic health page, we noticed someone asking about whether she should avoid glycerin in toothpaste.

That this was even an issue was news to us – but apparently not to some corners of the internet, where you’ll find more than a few bloggers, not to mention sites about “curing” tooth decay and “healing” teeth naturally, claiming that glycerin prevents tooth remineralization.

But it just isn’t true.

The claim appears to come from a deceased chemist named Gerald F. Judd, in a “treatise” he called “Good Teeth from Birth to Death.”(A later version of his treatise is available here.) “All toothpastes,” he claimed,

make a barrier of glycerine on the teeth which would require 20 rinses to get it off.

But like many of those who promote the idea, Judd offered no evidence for his claim – a claim which is at odds with basic chemistry.

Glycerin is water-soluble. It dissolves easily. It’s also bacteriostatic – that is, it prevents bacteria from reproducing – and has, according to Dr. Gerry Curatola, “prebiotic properties that Dr. Judd also regretfully seems to know nothing about.”

As we’ve discussed before, a healthy mouth is one in which there is a healthy bacterial balance, with the good keeping the harmful in check. It’s also contingent upon a healthy biological terrain. When the terrain is healthy, clean, and ordered, pathogens are denied the environment they need in which to thrive.

Dr. Judd makes some other questionable claims in his treatise, as well, such as the notion that bacteria play no role in oral disease. In fact, the acids they generate destroy tooth enamel, allowing pathogens access to the softer tissues within the tooth, where they can establish infection.

And don’t worry about sugar, he wrote. It has “little or nothing to do with this process.” Again, nonsense. Sugar is the preferred food of oral pathogens. Feeding them allows them to thrive, multiply, and generate yet more acidic waste.

Sugar also reverses the flow of dentinal fluid within the teeth, changing it from an outward to an inward flow. Pathogens and acids are pulled into the teeth instead of repelled.

But we digress…

Too often, we hear from folks who “do their research” yet come away with a partial understanding or misunderstanding of what they’ve read. It’s like they get the broad outlines without grasping the details, so fill in the gaps with what seems to make sense.

Perhaps the most notorious example of this is the belief that you can “cure” tooth decay merely by quitting sugar and using butter oil supplements. They cite Weston Price as their authority, even though Price made it clear that while the decay process can be stopped, the new mineral growth over the lesion will be non-living material and will never be enough to fill in the entire cavity. (You’ll find more on this topic here.)

Somehow, that detail gets lost in translation. But we see the unfortunate results when new patients come in, having attempted to “cure” decay on their own. Typically, the decay is deeper, the lesion larger. In a conventional office, they might even be candidates for root canal treatment.

Experience is a hard teacher.

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