Toothpaste is one of those products that you think should be completely benign. You use it every day (twice a day, if you’re following your dentist’s recommendation), and it’s meant to keep your teeth, gums and mouth healthy. But like most conventional personal care products, the ingredients in toothpaste aren’t heavily regulated and have been shown that they can do more harm than good over the long-term.
Plus, that dollop of paste you apply to your toothbrush daily has direct access to your body—not only are the tissues in your mouth highly absorbent, it’s also nearly impossible to keep from swallowing at least a bit of what you’re brushing your teeth with. That means repeated exposure to even some ingredients that have been banned in other products (triclosan and Colgate Total, we’re looking at you).
Why You Should Swap to Natural Toothpaste
The biggest issue with conventional toothpaste is the ingredient used to create that over-the-top foam: sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) or sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES). These surfactants can interfere with the functioning of your taste buds by breaking up the phospholipids on your tongue, which enhances bitter tastes (and is thought to be the reason why everything tastes so bad right after you’ve brushed your teeth).
And there’s more: During its manufacturing process (ethoxylation), SLS can potentially be contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, a carcinogenic byproduct. The manufacturing process also releases carcinogenic volatile organic compounds into the environment. Plus, SLS is a registered insecticide and may have toxic effects to marine life, including fish, insects, and crustaceans. Kinda doesn’t sound like something you want near your mouth, right?
SLS isn’t the only potentially dangerous ingredient hiding in your toothpaste: artificial sweeteners that the human body isn’t designed to break down and can instead be converted to formaldehyde that damages tissues; fluoride, which science demonstrates is a toxic chemical that accumulates in your tissues over time; propylene glycol, a type of mineral oil that, in the industrial grade, is used in antifreeze, paints, enamels and airplane de-icers; and diethanolamine, a known hormone disrupter and can react with other ingredients to form a potential carcinogen called NDEA (N-nitrosodiethanolamine).
3 Natural Toothpastes We’re Loving
This is the least gritty natural toothpaste we’ve tried—and it’s the mintiest! We think that comes from the carefully selected ultra premium mint oil from the Pacific Northwest. It’s vegan, cruelty free, EWG VERIFIED, sulfate/fluoride/artificial color and flavoring free, and 98 percent of its ingredients are sourced from the United States.
Created by a dentist and a breast cancer surgeon, Dr. Brite is full of only natural ingredients and is also EWG VERIFIED, and Certified Gluten Free. It’s SLS-free, triclosan-free, fluoride-free, alcohol-free, artificial coloring and flavoring free, and carrageenan-free. We love that they have more than just toothpaste—you can find great mouthwash, whitening products and products made especially for kids.
This toothpaste contains only five ingredients (four if you choose their unsweetened option). It’s got no foaming agents, no coloring, no glycerin and no fluoride, but has everything your mouth needs to feel clean. Ingredients like bentonite clay and activated charcoal leave you fresh, and help fight against bad breath and long-term mouth issues.
Making the swap to natural? Check out our guide to the best natural deodorants.