Most people don't think twice when buying their toothpaste, but it might be worth looking into the ingredients that most contain, since there could be some that are not so beneficial to your health. Even though you don't use much toothpaste and you don't normally swallow it, small amounts do end up in your body and bloodstream via absorption in your mouth. One of the most important ingredients to watch out for is fluoride. Although dentists have advised using (sodium) fluoride for years because of its qualities against tooth decay, the supposedly beneficial fluorapatite layer formed on your teeth from fluoride is so thin that scientists question whether this ultra-thin layer can actually protect your enamel and provide any benefit, considering the fact that it is quickly eliminated by simple chewing. Furthermore, when you swallow too much fluoride, you can get a condition called fluorosis, which causes white spots on the teeth. Other possible side effects are nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Another ingredient to look out for is triclosan, an anti-bacterial agent added to help prevent gingivitis, classified by the EPA as a pesticide, stating it poses a risk to both human health and the environment. The chemical has been linked to antibiotic resistance and endocrine disruption. Many toothpastes also contain surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate (SLS), or sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES), added to make the toothpaste foam. One of the main problems with SLS is that the manufacturing process (ethoxylation) results in it being potentially contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, a carcinogenic byproduct, but it can also damage eyes, irritate skin and lead to labored breathing. The manufacturing process releases carcinogenic volatile organic compounds into the environment. Propylene glycol is another ingredient that you would like to avoid in your toothpaste. It is a mineral oil, used in antifreeze, paints, enamels, and airplane de-icers. The pharmaceutical-grade form is used as a surfactant and is a known skin, eye, and lung irritant and may cause organ system toxicity.
Although microbeads are slowly being taken out of toothpastes, there are still some brands that contain them. Microbeads are tiny plastic pieces found in various personal care products like body washes, facial scrubs and toothpaste. The microbeads go down your drain, through the filters at most wastewater treatment plants, and into the environment. Plastic microbeads absorb toxins from the water and are eaten by a wide variety of marine life and, ultimately, by humans as well.