Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Be choosey about the toothpaste you use

Have you ever read the warning label on a tube of toothpaste? Are you alarmed that toothpaste even has a warning label? I’ll guess that few people have bothered to read the safe use instructions on the package, including not swallowing the toothpaste and, on some popular brands, “Recommended for adults and children over 12 years.”

Why should we all be concerned about this? Because most people haven’t a clue what’s in toothpaste and digging up a list of ingredients takes more than a little effort.

You might be surprised to discover that conventional toothpaste contains the artificial sweetener Saccharin. Health Canada banned the use of Saccharin in food 30 years ago due to animal studies that linked consumption to an increased risk of bladder cancer. (They are currently rethinking that ban, due to heavy lobbying from the diet-food industry, but many scientists continue to recommend against lifting the ban.)

Most brands also contain Triclosan as an antibacterial agent. The EPA considers Triclosan a pesticide and part of a class of chemicals that is thought to cause cancer in humans. Most whitening toothpaste also contains lye, considered a poison by the FDA

Then there is the controversy around fluoride. It’s not that fluoride is bad it’s just that we may be getting too much of it. When you combine toothpaste, fluoridated drinking water in some communities (not Rothesay or Quispamsis) and the consumption of all sorts of processed foods that are made with municipal water that is fluoridated, some health experts are worried that we’re ingesting too much fluoride. It builds up in our bones and among other things is linked to increasing rates of bone cancer in young boys.

Children under the age of two shouldn’t use toothpaste with fluoride and all children should be supervised while brushing to prevent swallowing. Not that it helps. The commercial brands for kids are formulated to taste just like candy and putting a toothbrush spread with children’s toothpaste in a child’s mouth is like giving them a lollypop and telling them not to swallow.

Now that you know some ingredients you might like to avoid, there are several alternatives to conventional drug store toothpaste, including options for children.

Tom’s of Maine gets a good rating since it’s saccharin-free, Triclosan-free and offers several options without fluoride, as do Natures Gate, Jason and Green Beaver (made in Canada). All carry a great variety of flavours. My children won’t budge from Tom’s of Maine Apricot and I prefer Nature’s Gate Fennel.

These brands are more expensive than convention brands but keep in mind you only need a small amount to do the job. For a little extra whitening power (minus the lye) keep a little pot of baking soda by the sink and brush with that a few times a week. Combined with proper flossing you won’t be compromising your dental health for the sake of overall wellness.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh my, I guess not all households are aware that there are warning labels. And most of them are targeted at children's use of toothpaste. It might be helpful to always be there with them so they will brush their teeth properly, and avoid swallowing the toothpaste.

Lawrence Gilstrap