Having a healthy smile is so important to me and my children. I take them to the dentist every six months. It’s a lesson that my parents taught me and one that I am actively teaching our children: brush your teeth every morning and every night… and floss too! But little did I know that most leading toothpastes have a high toxicity. We, as parents, have devoted our lives to helping our children be healthy and active, and it is unbelievable to think that one of the crucial elements of good hygiene, brushing your teeth, might actually cause harm.
There’s no denying that dental hygiene is important, and it’s crucial to start forming good habits early; however, have you wondered why the label on most toothpastes available at your local pharmacy state that ‘in the case of intake’, contact a medical professional immediately? The reality is that several ingredients in toothpaste that help make your smile brighter and whiter can be dangerous in large quantities. Due to the size of children, less is needed for these negative effects to emerge, and due to their size, accidental consumption is not as rare as we hope.
Most dentists and healthcare professionals recommend brushing your teeth twice daily to minimize tooth decay. Children under three should only use a smear of toothpaste while children from three to six should use no more than a pea size dollop. Now, as we know, children can be quite picky with their tastes so there is a multitude of children’s toothpaste available in ‘fun flavors’ such as bubble gum or cherry. While this might make brushing easier, it also makes it more likely for children to mistake toothpaste as a candy which can lead to accidental consumption.
What exactly are these harmful ingredients? First, the one we most commonly identify with good oral hygiene, is fluoride. Fluoride is a natural occurring mineral that can be found in water throughout the UK. Water fluoridation is the process of adding fluoride to tap water, and it itself is quite controversial. Fluoride is used to prevent tooth decay by protecting your teeth from the acid produced by bacteria in your mouth. In large quantities, consumption of fluoride can cause severe problems, including nausea, intestinal blockage, and difficulty breathing. Fluoride can cause endocrine disruption meaning that it disrupts hormones in the human body causing developmental disorders, birth defects, and, in some cases, cancer. In most toothpaste, fluoride in bonded with sodium, and sodium fluoride has long been used as a roach poison. Sodium fluoride is a prescription drug that companies have been trying to market as a supplement, and the reality is that our tap water already has fluoride added to it during the filtration process. Due to their size, it is easy for our children to consume unnecessarily large amounts of fluoride in tap water and in toothpaste.
Besides fluoride, another common ingredient in toothpaste is sodium lauryl sulfate. A thickening and foaming agent, it helps dissolve dental plaque; however in some cases, it can irritate sensitive skin and cause sores. It is an example of a surfactant which can also interfere with the taste buds on your tongue. Triclosan is another potentially harmful ingredient, commonly found in most Colgate toothpastes. Shown to prevent gingivitis, it has also been linked to antibiotic resistance and endocrine disruption, like fluoride. Other ingredients that may be harmful are glycerin, di-ethanolamine, and sorbitol; all of which are acceptable to use in toothpaste, yet have potentially dangerous if swallowed.
The important thing to consider is that only a small amount of each ingredient is in every tube of toothpaste, and when used correctly, the ingredients will have the intended effect. The general consensus of medical professionals is that it is necessary to use fluoride toothpaste; however, for your convenience, several organic or eco-friendly stores and websites offer chemical-free toothpastes.
If you do decide to try other brands of toothpaste at your local drugstore, you’ll have to read the ingredients and look out for any of the above-mentioned chemicals. It has been rumored that the square of color at the end of each tube indicates a color coding system; however, that has been proved false as it is simply there to indicate, during production, where a machine should cut the tube. Now, the ingredients of toothpaste can seem like a laundry list of chemical terminology so you can always ask your dentist or doctor for a recommendation and be sure to express your desire for a more natural option.Oral hygiene is crucial for good health and should begin when the child starts teething. To prevent accidental swallowing, it is vital that we monitor our children’s brushing habits and store toothpaste out of reach from curious hands. Happy and healthy children is all we can ask for, and a beautiful, strong smile is as a good place as any to start.