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Hazardous substances reported to be components of toothpaste

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
toothpaste, harmful ingredients, blue dye, triclosan, aloe vera

Health conscious Americans scrutinize labels for preservatives, chemicals, and other substances that they deem to be harmful. However, most pick up a tube of toothpaste without checking its ingredients list. When one brushes his or her teeth some of the substances in the toothpaste, albeit a small amount, are absorbed into the system. According to Harold Katz, a dentist and national oral healthcare expert, your tube of toothpaste may contain ingredients of questionable benefit, while some are basically unhealthy.

Dr. Katz notes that here has been a surprising lack of attention paid to toothpaste. He suggests that all consumers, but especially parents, take the time to read their toothpaste tubes labels. The effects of potentially unhealthy toothpaste ingredients are multiplied in the smaller bodies of children.

The following toothpaste ingredients should be avoided:

  • FD&C blue dye No. 2: This commonly used toothpaste dye is one of several on the list of additives to avoid, maintained by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. It’s said to be linked to learning, behavioral and health problems, severe allergic reactions, and headaches, among other problems.
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate: The American College of Toxicology reports this ingredient in cosmetics and industrial cleaning agents can cause skin corrosion and irritation. Doses of .8 to 110 grams/kilogram in lab rats caused depression, labored breathing, diarrhea and death in 4 out of 20 animals.
  • Triclosan: An anti-microbial ingredient, the federal Environmental Protection Agency lists triclosan as a pesticide and regulates its use in over-the-counter toothpastes and hand soaps. According to the agency’s fact sheet, “Studies on the thyroid and estrogen effects led EPA to determine that more research on the potential health consequences of endocrine effects of triclosan is warranted. … Because of the amount of research being planned and currently in progress, it will undertake another comprehensive review of triclosan beginning in 2013.”
  • Saccharin and aspartame: Both of these artificial sweeteners are on the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s list of additives to avoid.

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Dr. Katz recommends that toothpaste buyers should look for natural ingredients, such as aloe vera juice, which cleans and soothes teeth and gums and helps fight cavities, according to the May/June 2009 issue of General Dentistry, the Academy of General Dentistry's clinical, peer-reviewed journal. He notes that aloe vera tooth gel is said to kill disease-causing bacteria in the mouth. He also recommends that individuals should avoid all toothpastes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate, a harsh detergent that has been linked to canker sores. Toothpastes that are free of sulfates include Weleda’s Salt Toothpaste, TheraBreath and Tom’s of Maine.

Brush your teeth at least twice a day and get children into the habit from a young age, stressed Dr. Katz. He notes that if you do so you will have fresh breath, avoid painful dental problems, and be far more likely to have your teeth in your mouth when you go to sleep at night as you age. In regard to young children, he recommends that only a pea-sized drop of paste should be placed on the brush; then oversee the brushing to ensure that your child does not swallow his or her toothpaste.

About Dr. Harold Katz:
Dr. Harold Katz received his degree in bacteriology from UCLA and is the founder of The California Breath Clinics and author of The Bad Breath Bible. He has been featured on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” CBS’s “Early Show” and “The View” with Barbara Walters and countless other TV shows. Dr. Katz’s formulated the TheraBreath oral care program in 1994 and has continued to update products in order to make use of the most effective and most natural ingredients.

Source: Dr. Harold Katz