Toothpaste: what are we actually putting in our mouths?

It’s easy to pick up your toothbrush, half asleep in the morning and squeeze out a shiny blob of eye wateringly minty toothpaste. Without so much as a second thought, you start brushing and it foams up in your mouth, starts to tingle and may even change colour. But if you think about it - it sounds like you’re describing a chemical reaction happening in a science experiment, not something you should be putting in your mouth.

So what are we putting in our mouths? What makes it throth and foam, and what would happen if, god forbid, we accidentally swallowed it? All will be revealed here in our little guide to toothpaste.

5 generic toothpaste ingredients we know to be harmful


  1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

Now you may have already heard of this one, with the abbreviation SLS being thrown around as it’s in just about everything, from shampoos to bath bombs, make-up to toothpaste and even marshmallows. This synthetic ingredient is the culprit behind the foam, it breaks down the other ingredients and turns them into a liquid you can lather, but unfortunately not without consequences. It can be abrasive component in toothpaste causing micro-tears in the skin, and over time can cause mouth ulcers, canker sores and even damage to your tooth’s enamel. 

  1. Artificial colours 

Did you know that in the UK there are only 6 artificial colours that have been approved by theEU food standards agency? Generic toothpaste isn’t likely to contain any of the non approved ones, but the clue is in the word - artificial means it has been man made and our bodies won’t be used to it naturally. This becomes evident when you find out a lot of synthetic colours have derived from coal tar. 

  1. Propylene Glycol

When being handled in factories this chemical is forbidden to come into contact with the skin, so much so, that it’s compulsory to wear safety equipment and rubber gloves at all times. Propylene Glycol is mainly used as an active ingredient in anti-freeze products. It’s also warned that it can quickly become absorbed by the skin if you come into prolonged contact with this chemical, side effects include damage to the kidneys, liver and brain functions. 

  1. Fluoride 

Here is the age old question in the toothpaste industry, is fluoride bad for you? A simple answer - if overused yes. You may think it’s fine, with the small amounts in toothpaste that you come into contact twice a day, and this would be true but that’s not all you’re exposed too. As fluoride is a water mineral it can be found in filtered drinking water across the globe with 6.1 million of us Brits consuming it daily; and not all of it is there naturally. If exposed to too much Fluoride as a child you can develop dental fluorosis, this causes white streaks, dots and discolouration on your teeth. Thyroid problems have also been linked to over consumption of Fluoride with more calcium being produced in your bloodstream and less calcium in your bones. A great natural alternative ingredient with the same benefits as Fluoride, is coconut oil which can prevent the build up of harmful bacteria and plague that cause tooth decay.

  1. Triclosan 

This particular chemical has now been banned from body washes and shower gels and hand soaps but still remains an ingredient in Colgate toothpaste products.The main use for Triclosan in toothpaste is to help reduce the build up of bad bacteria in your mouth, however over usage of this chemical has been linked to resistance to antibiotics and caused tumors in mice when being tested on animals.


The all natural alternatives to generic toothpaste 


With a little research it becomes clear to see there are advantages and disadvantages of generic toothpastes in the relm of oral care. But if you conciously want to make an effort to help the enviroment and put an end to single use plastics, then why not try switching to a zero waste alternative, that is just as effective at cleaning your teeth and keeping your mouth healthy? 

We have a few options you can choose from that are designed to suit anyone. If you're always in a hurry or travel a lot we have our toothpaste tablets that are easily transported. We also make our toothpaste in the form of powder and a paste formula for however you're feeling. All these options come in a plethora of flavours from sweet orange (designed for the kids, or if you just like oranges), activated charcoal for if you're wanting a whiter smile and the classic spearmint and peppermint flavours to name a few.

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