Toxic Ingredients in Toothpaste: Nothing to Smile About

There are more toxic ingredients in toothpastes than you can imagine! Here’s what to avoid

By Diane Small

All of us want to have better health. So brushing our teeth is part of our daily hygiene.

Most dentists usually recommend mainstream toothpastes, even though they may be full of chemicals. But that practice may stop after a new, worrying report that suggests the chemical triclosan has been linked to cancer. Triclosan is found in several toothpastes, such as Colgate Total. But unfortunately, it’s far from the only toxic ingredient in toothpastes. That’s pretty bad, considering most of us use toothpaste 2-3 times a day, every day!

For anyone who cares about their teeth as well as their overall health, here’s what you need to know about the toxic ingredients in toothpaste, and how to avoid them from now on.

Colgate’s Total Fail

Toxic Ingredients in Toothpaste
Image: Colgate.com

Apparently, Colgate created Total toothpaste to help reduce bleeding gums and improve gum health. Although the company claims the Food and Drug Administration approved the toothpaste in 1997 approval as an over-the-counter drug, a closer look at that application process reveals that some of the scientific findings Colgate put forward to establish triclosan’s safety in toothpaste weren’t completely rigorous. Oh, and there were no independent studies done. That means only Colgate submitted evidence of the safety for their own product. Hmm.

When independent studies were eventually done, triclosan has been shown to be one of the most toxic ingredients in toothpaste – and other products. It disrupts the endocrine system of animals, throwing off their hormone functions and possibly leading to cancer. Given that humans are exposed to many chemicals every day that interact in the body, it is very difficult to link one substance to one disease. But of the 800 to 1,000 chemicals which are believed to disrupt the endocrine system, triclosan is 1 of around 10 that people are regularly exposed to, and which can be easily avoided.

Not just in toothpaste, unfortunately

Colgate’s own study showed fetal bone malformations in mice and rats. But the company claimed the findings “weren’t relevant”, even though such deformations indicate possible endocrine disruption. Triclosan is also found in soap, handwashes and hand sanitisers. These have been used more than ever after the pandemic, but few people seem to care about the dangers of this chemical. That being said, some companies, including Avon, Procter & Gamble and GlaxoSmithKline, have banned it from their products.

Furthermore, the European Union has banned the chemical in anything that could come into contact with food since 2010. The EPA in America began a review of triclosan due to growing fears it could be linked to thyroid disease and cancer, but so far, it’s not banned.

Colgate applied four times for FDA approval before it was granted five years after their first attempt. In a statement at the time, Colgate called Total “the most significant advancement in home dental care since the introduction of fluoride.” Which brings us to another point.

Fluoride Fears

toxic ingredients in toothpaste

Usually imported from China, fluoride is another one of the most toxic ingredients in toothpaste. It is a nasty industrial waste product and often comes loaded with traces of lead, arsenic, radio-nucleotides, aluminum and other industrial contaminants.

In many countries, including America and Canada, fluoride is actually added to water to ostensibly help prevent tooth decay. However, many studies show that fluoride does nothing to stop tooth decay. But even small amounts of fluoride lowers IQ. No wonder not even the Chinese put fluoride in their water!

You know how on the side of many toothpaste packets it says to call poison control if the product is ‘ingested’? Apparently, this warning assumes a mere quarter milligram of fluoride from toothpaste was swallowed. However, in many states and provinces, a single glass of water can contain this amount of fluoride. To remain in the ‘safe’ limits for the chemical, you would have to use so little fluoridated toothpaste, one tube would last one person several years.

Harming children – and the thyroid

Fluoride is definitely one of the most toxic ingredients in toothpaste because it accumulates in the body. Healthy adult kidneys excrete 50 to 60% of the fluoride ingested each day. But the remaining fluoride accumulates in the body, usually in the bones and pineal gland.

An estimated 80% of fluoride can accumulate in children’s bodies. That’s why many youngsters in North America have suffered from dental fluorosis (mottling of the tooth enamel). Early exposure to fluoride can also bring early onset of puberty.

But fluoride also negatively impacts thyroid function. It mainly causes hypothyroid (underactive thyroid). One study  found that otherwise healthy people suffered a lowering of thyroid function at 2.3 ppm fluoride in water. Indeed, during the mid-20th century, doctors used to give hyperthyroid patients fluoride to reduce thyroid activity. And only 2.3-4.5 mg per day was needed to do this!

To put this in perspective, the Department of Health and Human Services has estimated that the total fluoride exposure for those living in fluoridated areas is about 1.6-6.6 mg per day. No wonder one of the fastest increasing health problems in the USA and Canada is hypothyroidism.

SLS: In Shampoo, And In Your Mouth

Another of the most toxic ingredients in toothpaste are sodium laurel and laureth sulphates (SLS). These two foaming agents are commonly found in bubble bath, shampoo, soap – and toothpaste. They have no cleaning benefits, but bubble up nicely and make consumers think they’re helping to clean their bodies, hair and teeth as a result.

But the downside of these chemicals is hardly worth the bubbles. SLS can cause irritation in the mouth and canker sores, and if ingested, it can cause stomach cramps, diarrhea, liver damage, and even cancer.

All of those health risks – just for a bit of useless foam!

So Can We Do?

By now, it’s become pretty clear that conventional toothpastes are far from safe. The three toxic ingredients in toothpaste mentioned above are unquestionably terrible for our health. And worst of all, they’re completely unnecessary for good dental hygiene. So what can you do if you want to protect your health? Just avoid those nasty products.

Not sure what you can use instead? Don’t worry – there are plenty of natural alternatives to toxic toothpastes exist to keep your smile sparkling! To see a good list of natural toothpastes, just click here.

Diane Small
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