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What's In Your Toothpaste?

So you think your toothpaste is safe?

by Gerald H. Smith, DDS

aqua essence toothpaste

Most people assume that their toothpaste is safe because it has the American Dental Association's seal of approval. Think again. Check your toothpaste label to see if any of the following ingredients are listed:

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): SLS is a chemical and very effective foaming agent. It is probably the most dangerous ingredient used in oral care products. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a synthetic detergent commonly used in dentifrices, is responsible for causing a denaturing effect on the oral mucosal layer, with exposure of the underlying epithelium, thus inducing an increased incidence of recurrent aphthous ulcers. A statistically significant decrease in the number of aphthous ulcers from 14.3 after using the SLS-containing dentifrice to 5.1 ulcers after brushing with the SLS-free dentifrice.

Propylene Glycol (anti-freeze): Commonly known as antifreeze, propylene glycol is used as a moisturizer and emulsifier in many personal care products – it's about as pervasive as SLS, and just as dangerous. Propylene glycol is known to cause skin and eye irritation and may cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea when ingested. It has also been shown to cause mutations, birth defects, kidney and liver damage and seizures in laboratory animals.

Fluoride (Sodium Monofluorophosphate): The following statement is mandated by the FDA to appear on all fluoridated toothpastes sold in the U.S.: "WARNING: Keep out of reach of children under 6 years of age. If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek professional help or contact a poison control center immediately."

Remember: Even if you don't swallow any toothpaste, you're at risk from toxic chemicals. The mucus membranes inside your mouth are one of the most direct routes to the blood, the brain and other cells of your body, since the mucosal lining inside your mouth has about 90% absorption efficiency.

Both conventional and alternative medicines are often applied to the mucus membranes of the cheek or under the tongue for just that reason; it's one of the fastest and most effective ways to get chemicals into your body.

The fluoride concentration in Colgate for Kids toothpaste is 1,100 ppm. At 130 grams of paste in the average tube, this equals 143 milligrams of fluoride. The lethal dose of fluoride that could kill a 2 year-old who weighs 26.5 lbs. is 60mg. This is the equivalent of swallowing 42% of a tube of Colgate for Kids toothpaste.

There are a number of toothpastes on the market that now provide 5000 ppm fluoride: Colgate Duraphat 5000ppm, Fluoridex Daily Defense, Clinpro™ 5000, Prevident 5000 Plus and others.

Fluoride is recommended to strengthen teeth and prevent cavities. Sodium fluoride, the form found in most toothpastes, is also used in rat and cockroach poison, nerve gas, and behavior modifying drugs (Prozac). It has never been approved by the FDA. Fluoride can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, paralysis, convulsions, and cardiac failure. Four ounces of most toothpaste contains enough fluoride to kill a small child.

In a surprising turnaround, a 1990 study found fluoride to have no significant impact on preventing cavities or tooth decay, while it did cause an increase in dental problems, allergies, acne, arthritis, and cancer. Nevertheless, it continues to be used in virtually all commercial toothpastes.

SOURCE: Ellenhorn MJ, Barceloux DG. (1988). Medical Toxicology: Diagnosis and Treatment of Human Poisoning. Elsevier; New York. pp. 534.

Outside the U.S., a number of scientific groups and individuals have decided fluoridation is not safe. In France, the Chief Council of Public Health rejected fluoridation in 1980 because of doubts about whether it harms human health. The minister for the environment in Denmark recommended in 1977 that fluoridation not be allowed primarily because no adequate studies had been carried out on its long-term effects on human organ systems other than teeth and because not enough studies had been done on the effects of fluoride discharges on freshwater ecosystems. In 1978, the West German Association of Gas & Water Experts rejected fluoridation for legal reasons and because "the so-called optimal fluoride concentration of 1 mg per L is close to the dose at which long-term damage [to the human body] is to be expected."

ARCHIVES of DERMATOLOGY – 1975; Volume 111; Pages 793

Fluoride Toothpaste: A Cause of Acne-like Eruptions

To the Editor — I feel that I should share with my colleagues in dermatology an observation relative to the treatment of problem acne. All of us have the adult female acne patient who has closed comedonal or papular acne extending from the corner of the mouth to the chin area, sometimes in a slightly fan-like distribution from the corner of the mouth to the chin area and the proximal area of the cheek. This type of acne has often been recalcitrant to standard methods of therapy, and many of us have been under the impression that it is caused either by chemicals from cosmetics, such as lipsticks (as per Dr. Kligman), or hand-to-face activity in this area.

Having accumulated a number of such patients ranging in age from the early 20's to the 40's, all of whom were adamant in their denial of hand-to-face activity, and many of whom willingly abstained from the use of lipsticks and cosmetics on a relatively long basis without effect, I have had to reevaluate my thinking and interview the patients thoroughly, with an eye to determine a common denominator. My hypothesis was that either the saliva of these particular individuals, or some chemical carried in the saliva, could, during sleep, drain on the areas involved, enter the follicles, and cause a process resembling acne. The only common denominator I was able to elicit from all of these patients (approximately 65 in number) was that they all used toothpastes containing fluoride. This brought to mind a fact that has recently been elucidated: fluoridated steroids applied to the faces of women resulted in a perioral erythema-type eruption resembling acne. Industrial halogen fumes may also cause an acne-like eruption generally referred to as chloracne.

Recognizing the fact that fluoride toothpastes are the prevalent type of dentrifice and that my findings could be a mere coincidence, I requested, nevertheless, that these patients switch, on a trial basis, from their fluoride toothpastes to a nonfluoride-containing toothpaste. Within a period varying from two to four weeks, approximately one half of the patients thus observed cleared of their previously persistent acne-like eruption. The condition of the other 50% tended to persist without change. No other variation in the therapy of these patients was undertaken during this test period. On the basis that at this time I had at least circumstantial evidence that the hypothesis might be true, I asked the remaining patients who had not responded to switch from their present dentrifice, which contained brightening and flavoring agents and other unknown chemicals, to baking soda and a commercially available mouthwash (Scope) as a mouth freshener after brushing. The results of this maneuver were remarkably successful in that nearly all of the patients thus treated had considerable improvement and an almost complete clearing of their acne-like eruptions.

Several of the patients, who were concerned about the dental health factors relative to fluoride and its exclusion, requested to resume use of a fluoride toothpaste despite assurances that fluoride in water and dental treatments should be sufficient for good dental health and protection. These patients were then allowed to resume use of a fluoride toothpaste. Without exception, each developed the same distribution of acne-like eruption that had previously occurred.

I note again that all of these patients had been treated for some time with standard acne therapy consisting of special washing agents, dietary control, tetracycline in varying dosages, and lotions of various types and strengths. But no patient during the treatment period had any variations of his therapy other than the dentrifice.

It was also interesting to note that the patients who were able to recall uniformly that the side on which they had the greatest involvement was the side on which they generally slept, thus giving further credence to the hypothesis of noctunal salivary drainage of chemicals onto the involved areas of skin.

I am hopeful that this observation will be of help to my colleagues in dermatology and that perhaps it might be worthy of a more scientifically controlled and statistically evaluated study.

MILTON A. SAUNDERS, Jr., MD, Virginia Beach, Va

Vitamin C + sodium benzoate = benzene — A Proven Carcinogen!

Benzene is listed as a poisonous chemical shown to increase the risk of leukaemia and other cancers.

This alert clearly demonstrates how chemicals in processed foods and toothpaste, while considered safe on their own can create havoc when mixed with even safe nutrients like Vitamin C.

"Action to take: This is not a small thing, although the so-called experts will try to tell you that there's no harm at these benzene levels. But there is no safe level of benzene. And no one is talking about how it reacts with other carcinogens in your body, which could be a serious problem. We already know it reacts with healthy substances like vitamin C.

There is a solution. Eliminate all processed foods and unnatural drinks. All processed foods have chemicals in them for preservation. And many of these preservatives can damage your health."

As usual the FDA re-opens probe into benzene contamination of soft drinks after the fact!

Read your labels, especially toothpaste: Thera Neem Herbal Toothpaste

Ingredients: Calcium carbonate, Sorbitol, Aqua, Glycerine, Silica, Sodium Lauroyl Glutamate (derived from naturally occurring amino acid), Xylitol, Stevia Extract (Eupatorium Rebaudianum Bertoni), Xanthan Gum, Guar (Cyamopsis Tetragonoloba) Gum, Supercritical Extracts of Grapeseed (Vitis Vinifera), Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), Clove Bud (Eugenia Caryophyllus), Neem Leaf (Azadirachta indica), and Neem Bark (Azadirachta indica), Peppermint (Mentha Piperita) Essential Oil, Sodium Benzoate, Spearmint (Mentha Viridis) Essential Oil, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C).

Sorbitol: Prevents toothpaste from drying out. This medication is used as a laxative to treat occasional episodes of constipation. This medication is usually taken by mouth. Do not use for longer than one week.

SIDE EFFECTS: Nausea, gas, diarrhea, stomach cramps or anal irritation may occur. If any of these effects persist or worsen, notify your doctor or pharmacist promptly. Tell your doctor immediately if any of these serious side effects occur: rectal bleeding, vomiting, weakness, dizziness, persistent urge to empty the bowel. Tell your doctor immediately if the following highly unlikely but very serious side effect occurs: black, tarry stools. An allergic reaction to this drug is unlikely, but seek immediate medical attention if it occurs. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include: rash, itching, swelling, dizziness, trouble breathing. If you notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist.

Sodium Hydroxide: Sodium hydroxide is used to give that fresh, slick feeling – by dissolving the surface of oral tissues. Sodium hydroxide is extremely alkaline and dissolves proteins upon contact, right off of your teeth and gums. Sodium hydroxide is the same compound used in the product Oven Off to remove charred meat from oven racks. It is considered a moderate hazard.

Plaque prevention and control: Tetrasodium pyrophosphate (TSPP) is sometimes used as a water softening agent which removes calcium and magnesium from the saliva so that less plaque is formed. It is unpleasant tasting and alkaline and needs other ingredients (detergents) present to make it work. It is rated as moderately toxic by Toxnet.

Triclosan: This ingredient is a registered pesticide, used as an antibacterial and anti-fungal agent and can destroy fragile aquatic ecosystems. Triclosan is one of those bio-persistent chemicals which turn up in fish, breast milk and wastewater.

Flavorings are used to mask the unpleasant taste of some of the ingredients such as the detergents and phosphates. In addition, sweeteners such as sodium saccharin, a known carcinogen in animals, are added to improve the taste.

Bleaches and whiteners: Tooth whitening pastes may contain hydrogen peroxide. There are some health questions about the safety of this, especially in more concentrated amounts found in some products. One study (by Europa) concluded that most people suffered no problems from a 1.5% hydrogen peroxide solution used twice a day. However, hydrogen peroxide is also classed as a weak carcinogen and they also concluded that it should be sold in a 0.1% concentration only. Stronger solutions would need to be obtained by prescription.

Most over-the-counter tooth whitening pastes include carbamide peroxide, which is generally produced from perhydrol urea, an animal product rated as moderately toxic by EWG (Environmental Working It is banned in Canada.

Sodium carbonate peroxide is added to some whitening toothpastes. It breaks down into sodium carbonate (washing soda) and hydrogen peroxide. The hydrogen peroxide then bleaches the teeth and kills germs around the gums.

Stabilizers and bulking agents

Polyethylenes such as polyethylene glycol (PEG) and other polymers are found in many toothpastes where they are used to bind and stabilize. Health concerns include cancer, allergies/immunotoxicity and organ system toxicity.

Titanium Dioxide: "Titanium dioxide has recently been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as an IARC Group 2B carcinogen 'possibly carcinogenic to humans'...(it) accounts for 70% of the total production volume of pigments worldwide. It is widely used to provide whiteness and opacity to products such as paints, plastics, papers, inks, foods, and toothpastes. It is also used in cosmetic and skin care products, and it is present in almost every sunblock, where it helps protect the skin from ultraviolet light.

With such widespread use of titanium dioxide, it is important to understand that the IARC conclusions are based on very specific evidence. This evidence showed that high concentrations of pigment-grade (powdered) and ultra-fine titanium dioxide dust caused respiratory tract cancer in rats exposed by inhalation and intra-tracheal instillation.

Isopropyl Alcohol and Ethanol: Isopropyl alcohol and ethanol (ethyl alcohol) are drying agents, used to speed the entry of other toothpaste ingredients into the soft tissues of the mouth and gums. Ethanol is the primary ingredient in mouthwash and is a known carcinogen. It has also been clinically shown to destroy fillings. Ingesting as little as one ounce of isopropyl alcohol is deadly. In smaller doses, it causes headaches, dizziness, unconsciousness, nausea, vomiting and coma.

Potassium Nitrate: Potassium nitrate is one of several chemicals used to desensitize teeth. It does so by blocking the transmission of nerve cells within the teeth and gums. Potassium nitrate is also found in ice cream, cigarettes, bombs and as a component of gunpowder, where it is called saltpetre.

The paraben family: Preservative. Ethylparaben, Methylparaben, Butylparaben and Propylparaben are used to extend the shelf-life of products, like toothpastes, which have oils. The paraben family have all been known to cause allergic reactions in certain sensitive individuals. Laboratory testing of parabens have shown this substance to be clearly 'toxic' if ingested.

There is a growing number of toothpaste products on the market which offer more natural ingredients. One product in particular that has impressed me is Aqua Essence Toothpaste. Its list of ingredients is free of hazardous substances and provides many beneficial herbs, essential oils and Coenzyme Q10 to insure healthy gums. A big plus is its convenient pump dispenser, which dispenses the exact amount needed for brushing, a pee sized quantity. Many of our patients are using this product and enjoying its benefits of maintaining healthy gums plus its refreshing taste and clean feeling. I give this product a five star rating. The 4 ounce container provides a three month supply for one person brushing twice a day. Priced at $14.95.

  • Baker, Scott, "The 5 Hidden Dangers in Toothpaste,", accessed 25 April 2009.
  • Bartelby, "Toothpaste Without SLS: For Frequent Cold Sore Sufferers,", 5 September 2006.
  • DeVita, Sabina, Saving Face: The Scents-able Way to Wrinkle-Free Skin, Wellness Institute of Living and Learning, 2003.
  • Wright, Will, "The Hidden, Inactive Ingredients in Toothpaste,", 16 November 2007.