We know that the patients of Mark C. Marchbanks D.D.S. are dedicated to improving their health, because they often ask us questions—like this particularly interesting one we’ve heard often:
How healthy are mass-produced toothpastes, really?
When our Arlington patients share concerns about additives or chemicals in their toothpaste, they also ask about natural alternatives, particularly homemade toothpaste. While the ingredients put into a natural toothpaste will all be organic or homeopathic, that doesn’t mean they are as effective (or more effective), or even safer than a store-bought toothpaste.
Below is a quick overview of the increasingly popular movement to create homemade toothpastes, as well as a conversation around its effectiveness when compared to manufactured toothpastes.
Homemade toothpaste background
Many advocates of natural toothpaste argue that homemade variations are devoid of ingredients that you simply don’t want in your body. These supporters claim that certain ingredients (like those that bring you the “fresh and foamy” feeling or specific flavors) are nothing more than unnatural chemical compounds can cause more harm than good.
At this point, you might be curious to learn what is actually in homemade toothpaste. Look no further, then, than your kitchen cabinet, since the base for most at-home remedies is baking soda! That, in combination with water, can be made to form a paste that can be applied to the teeth. Some people add essential oils to give the concoction a better taste.
Baking soda is used since it has been shown to kill germs and is totally safe to ingest. Though, while this might seem like the perfect natural ingredient, it’s important to keep in mind that too much baking soda can wear down the enamel of the teeth. This solid outer layer of the tooth can’t be replaced once it’s gone.
Another common ingredient used when making your own toothpaste is sage. One study found that those using sage mouthwash reduced existing gingivitis and mouth ulcers after six days of use. Sage is added with salt, baking soda and peppermint essential oil to form a paste. If you do use this mixture, it’s important not to leave it on the teeth or too long to ensure your enamel is protected.
In the end, look critically at all natural toothpaste recipes, even when they contain ingredients that seem harmless. Always avoid using hydrogen peroxide or vinegar in homemade toothpaste, for instance. These ingredients can break down your tooth enamel and cause yellowing teeth and problems with your gums.
Concerns with homemade toothpaste
The first issue to bear in mind with homemade toothpaste is that the American Dental Association does not endorse any toothpaste that doesn’t contain fluoride. Fluoride is a naturally-occurring chemical ion found in rocks, soil, and water; however, it does not exist on its own. To harness its benefits, it must be created though a scientific process.
Harnessing the fluoride ion was a considered a major scientific achievement, with fluoride’s benefits so widespread that it was added to water in the early 20th century. Naturally-occurring bacteria in your mouth feed on the outer surfaces of your teeth, which can lead to cavities and decay. Fluoride works by protecting your teeth and making them stronger and more resistant to this acid.
Fluoride toothpaste was developed in the 1950s and received the ADA’s approval right away. To develop the first ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste, Procter & Gamble started a research program in the early 1940s. The ADA established rigorous guidelines for testing and advertising of dental products, and the first ADA Seal of Acceptance was awarded in 1931. Today, about 350 manufacturers participate in the ADA’s voluntary program, and more than 1,300 products have received the Seal of Acceptance.
What is the bottom line?
The bottom line is that homemade toothpaste will never have all the same protective ingredients as those you can buy in the store. For children, specifically, the American Dental Association recommends brushing with fluorinated toothpaste since it has been shown to reduce the incidences of cavities.
In addition to the lack of fluoride in homemade toothpaste, some recipes could actually harm your teeth through the erosion of enamel.
If you are looking for natural ways to keep your teeth healthy and white, it’s important to prioritize your diet, steer clear of coffee, wine and other drinks that stain teeth, and make regular trips to our Arlington, TX office for appointments with Dr. Marchbanks!