Toothpaste - Good Or Bad12 Nov, 2015
Toothpaste - Good Or Bad
I bet that you have heard a few times that toothpaste is bad for your health. People often say that almost every component in toothpaste is bad and detrimental to the actual re-mineralization of your teeth and your physical condition in general. Is this true? Is toothpaste a major conspiracy to make some companies rich? Are we being given unnecessary poisons that could potentially threaten our health and make us ill? My objective with this article is to talk about the current issues surrounding toothpaste and what - if any - scientific evidence there is to conclude that toothpaste is dangerous or detrimental to the re-mineralization processes of our teeth.
What is so bad about toothpaste? Most of these white creamy stuff we use is composed of some safe ingredients, most of it is diatomaceous earth, silica, glycerin and other agents to increase viscosity such as carboxymethylcellulose. As a chemist, I can tell you that most of these products are harmless from a toxicity point of view bringing no significant harm to anyone who ingests them. However some people argue that these products have a detrimental effect on our teeth. A colleague -Dr Gerard F - published a book a few years ago in which he says that glycerin "coats" the teeth and effectively prevents re-mineralization. However his experiments were far from conclusive and no peer-reviewed publication up until now has proved that glycerin effectively form a film that prevents re-mineralization. On the contrary, it is expected that a highly water soluble substance like glycerin should dissolve quickly into saliva with any film - if any - being dissolved within a short period of time.
The largest problem with toothpaste however seem to be caused by fluoride, most commonly sodium fluoride used in toothpaste formulations. Fluoride is the anionic form of the element fluorine which is a very compact and reactive entity that will destroy enzymes, alter protein conformations and do some other nasty things that will cause death at relatively low doses. So yes, fluoride is very toxic and the only reason why we use it in toothpaste - and don't swallow it - is because it changes enamel's molecular structure from hydroxyapatite to fluoroapatite, the substitution of a hydroxide group by a fluoride in this mineral phosphate actually does make teeth much less prone to the attack of acids and therefore makes them less likely to demineralize. The re-mineralization rate of teeth also increases dramatically with fluoride as it has been proved that re-mineralization is a diffusion mediated process that takes place regardless of the living tissue within the tooth meaning that the argument that fluoride may kill or hinder enzymes that are "responsible" for re-mineralization does not have a scientific basis.
There are however other arguments against fluoride such as that the introduction of fluoride in the 1940's should have eliminated cavities by the 1990's when in fact they have - if anything - increased from previous mid-century values. The problem is however that other factors are not taken into account. For example, the massive introduction of acidic drinks such as sodas and a much more "sweet heavy diet" has made the demineralization process in teeth much worse than before (it is worth saying that sugars do not damage teeth on their own but their presence feeds bacteria which generate acids that dissolve teeth), reason why data from the past century cannot be compared with current data due to dietary differences. This is another reason why you cannot compare the dental health of a country like the US - with a very sweet and acid diet - with a third developed country where fruits, vegetables and grains are much more commonly consumed, even if dental health and fluoridated water is not available. When accounting for all these differences we see that the use of fluoride does indeed have a preventive effect on cavities and that there is no significant reason to believe that it "does not work".
However not everything about toothpaste is good. Of course there are many additives that have proved to cause some health hazards. For example- laurlyl sulfate- a very common synthetic detergent used in most cleaning products, has shown to cause canker sores on some percentage of the population, although evidence is still not conclusive enough to show a direct relationship.
In the end we have enough evidence to support that fluoride does decrease cavities and aims re-mineralization while there is little evidence to suggest that either glycerin prevents re-mineralization or fluoride deteriorates some enzymes which may cause the same effect. However fluoride remains a toxic substance and several of the additives in toothpaste have been linked with some health problems. For this reason I believe that the best decision is to act in a precautionary fashion and avoid the use of regular fluoride toothpaste replacing it with a glycerin-free bar soap and a healthy calcium and phosphate rich diet with no sugary or acidic drinks. I can tell you that I have been using a soap based natural toothpaste for a while and my teeth have felt and do look a lot better than before.
Daniel Fernandez is a day trader, chemist and published author. He has several websites and currently started a self improvement and growth blog to help others called entirely4you.