Commercial vs. Natural Toothpaste: Which is best for Your Teeth?

In recent years, the natural and organic options have flooded every part of the U.S. market from eco-friendly cars to shampoos and body washes. Punch a “natural” anything into an online search and you can find dozens of homemade recipes for cosmetics and care products. Toothpaste is no exception to this natural craze. So the big question is should you consider making your own or buying a natural rather than the commercial ones that have been around for decades? The answer is more complicated than you might think.


Make Them Whiter
An important thing to consider is what is being used as a whitener within the toothpaste. Surprisingly, most “whitening” agents are not actually making the teeth whiter. They are abrasive agents that remove stains. Keep that in mind when you’re checking out different types of pearly whites paste. In commercial toothpastes this could be in the form of calcium carbonate or hydrated silica, while homemade or natural recipes you’ll find baking soda or hydrogen peroxide suggested instead.

Beating Bacteria
Of course, the primary purpose is to keep teeth clean by killing bacteria that creates plaque. By extension, this also means tartar control. Detergents in commercial brand toothpastes will use sodium lauryl sulphate along with sodium lauryl sarcosine or lauryl polyglucose and lauryl glucoside. Some of these can irritate skin, so those that have skin disorders should be aware of this and use precautions. On the natural side of things, high grade oils and herbs with antiseptic or antibacterial properties are used, including but not limited to tea tree oil, mint, thyme, and cinnamon. Often these herbs and oils also provide the pastes with their flavor, whereas commercial tubes add in colors, flavors, and sweeteners to accomplish this marketable aspect of the product.

Some commercial pastes also have tartar suspension agents that keep tartar particles in saliva rather than clinging to your chompers. These are most commonly pyrophosphates and xanthan gum. This is especially great for those suffering from sensitive gingiva or a poor diet.

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Make Sure it’s Full of Fluoride
Countless studies have shown that fluoride can help strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities. Dentists all agree that fluoride needs to be an ingredient in any toothpaste, natural or otherwise for these reasons. Over 95% of the toothpaste sold in the U.S. now contains fluoride, with many grocery stores carrying few if any non-fluoridated brands. (Source: Fluoride Alert) Despite the controversy surrounding fluoride, most dentists agree that the only acceptable toothpaste without fluoride is that used for children under the age of 2 due to the fact that they can swallow too much of it as they learn to brush their teeth.

When Sensitive Teeth Need a Sensitive Paste
In addition to the above considerations when you choose a tooth polish, you may need to narrow down your search to a product that can help with your sensitive teeth. Sensitive tooth paste contains Potassium Nitrate or Strontium Chloride, which fills the tubes in exposed dentin where enamel has eroded away and made nerves vulnerable to pain. The American Dental Association says “Desensitizing toothpaste usually requires several applications before the sensitivity is reduced. When choosing toothpaste or any other dental care products, look for those that display the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance…” (Source: ADA Sensitive Tooth Publication Sheet).


Part of a Routine
Of course, frequency and pairing up with floss is essential for toothpaste to do its job. Nothing can replace the plaque fighting power of floss. It’s very important to use it no matter what toothpaste you choose to use. Also, make sure you’re brushing long enough and getting the plaque off of all your teeth, getting the paste where it needs to be to do its job. If you have questions about which toothpaste is best for you, please feel free to contact our office. We’d be happy to help you make this important decision based on the condition of your teeth.

About Mark C. Marchbanks, D.D.S.

Dr. Mark Marchbanks has practiced dentistry in Arlington Texas since 1983. He enjoys caring for patients young and old. You can find Dr. Marchbanks on
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