Skip to main content

See also:

Healthy Minds and Body Awareness Series:Why Toothpaste can be a Health Danger

Spotlight on 3 chemical ingredients found in some toothpastes that threaten consumers oral and overall health.

 Putting toothpaste on a toothbrush
Putting toothpaste on a toothbrush Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Photo by Thegreenj 2008

Fluoride has been the topic of much discussion as to its dangers to the population who drink it in their tap water and brush their teeth with it; this article is not about fluoride. There are 3 additional chemicals in toothpaste that have recently gained attention by the media and they are listed below.

1. Triclosan (pronunciation); a chemical linked to Cancer in test animals.

Fox Business News recently reported the following on August 8, 2014;

"Millions of Americans may be putting a cancer-causing ingredient in their mouths every day. It’s called triclosan, and it’s in Colgate Total, Colgate-Palmolive’s (CL) top-selling toothpaste. Triclosan has reportedly been linked to cancer in animals. Many consumer companies have phased it out, and Minnesota has banned it." - To watch the video and read more http://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/2014/08/12/know-before-bell-usps-loses-2b-and-toothpaste-ingredient-tied-to-cancer/

Triclosan was approved for use in toothpaste by the FDA in 1997 and although is no longer used by many consumer companies Colgate defends its use because it helps fight gum disease.

So what exactly is triclosan?

This ingredient that is purported to do more harm then good is explained on the FDA Website as follows;

"Triclosan is an ingredient added to many consumer products to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination. It may be found in products such as clothing, kitchenware, furniture, and toys. It also may be added to antibacterial soaps and body washes, toothpastes, and some cosmetics—products regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)." read more - http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm205999.htm

The FDA article goes on to explain that triclosan is not known to be harmful in human usage. Yes, the website admits that there have been scientific studies that have shown that triclosan alters hormone regulation in animals. Then they go on to disclaim the scientific findings by stating, "... the dangers of the ingredients to animals doesn't always predict a similar effect in humans."

Then one might wonder, If that is the case, "Why test animals?" Animals are not going to buy the product and use it on their teeth voluntarily.

Another concern with the ingredient triclosan is that other studies in bacteria have raised the possibility that it contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

The following quote is an article from Bloomber.com was published 4 days ago entitled, "Shoppers Ditching Colgate Total Amid Triclosan Fears"

"Dr. Elliot Davis, 56, a Manhattan dentist who has been practicing for close to 30 years, said he stopped recommending Colgate Total to patients in about 2011, when he heard that triclosan, also used in temporary cement for crowns, was coming under scrutiny in Europe." - read more at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-14/shoppers-ditching-colgate-total-as-triclosan-fears-damage-brand.html

So you might wonder what is the response to the scientific data gained by the FDA? Will it be removed from the store bought toothpaste?

And the answer to that question is, "NO".

"In light of these studies, FDA is engaged in an ongoing scientific and regulatory review of this ingredient. FDA does not have sufficient safety evidence to recommend changing consumer use of products that contain triclosan at this time." - http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm205999.htm

2.a Sodium Laureth Sulfate Sles (SLS)- SLES is an irritant like many other detergents, with the irritation increasing with concentration.[2] It has also been shown that SLES causes eye or skin irritation in experiments done on animals and humans.[2] The related surfactant SLS is a known irritant,[3][4] and research suggests that SLES can also cause irritation after extended exposure in some people.[5][6]

"The difference between Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and Sodium Lauryl sulfate (SLS)? Though very similar to SLS, it is slightly different. It’s also a surfactant, and is used in products for the same reason that SLS is. It’s less irritating to skin and hair, however. Why? Because of how they process it."- http://www.drfranklipman.com/sodium-lauryl-sulfate-from-coconut-is-it-safer/

2.b Sodium Lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a good cleaning product, but is a skin irritant. It can cause damage to the outer layer of skin by disrupting the function of skin proteins and causing itchy, cracked, and dry skin. In shampoos, this ingredient can increase risk of scalp irritation, stinging eyes, and tangled, split, frizzy, and dull hair.

Among the possible dangers are the following

Skin irritation / skin corrosion
Hormone Imbalance
Eye irritation / eye deformities in children
Protein Denaturing
Carcenogenicity (potential to cause cancer)
- read more at http://www.natural-health-information-centre.com/sls-health-implications.html

These chemicals are the two most common types that you’ll see in personal care and cleaning products. Both are irritating surfactants. The difference is in how they’re processed." - read more at http://www.drfranklipman.com/sodium-lauryl-sulfate-from-coconut-is-it-safer/

They are also found in many over the counter products designed for health and beauty. In 1983 the following Journal defines the chemical and its possible effects on the human body

JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN COLLEGE OF TOXICOLOGY
Volume 2. Number 7, 1983
Final Report on the Safety
Assessment of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

"Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is an anionic surfactant used in cosmetics and industrial chemicals as a cleansing agent. In absorption, metabolism and excretion studies Sodium Lauryl Sulfate had a degenerative effect on the cell membranes because of its protein denaturing properties. High levels of skin penetration may occur at even low use concentration." read more http://www.natural-health-information-centre.com/sls-JACT-report.html

Here is a more clear-cut explanation of the products dangers I found during my research;

"Sodium lauryl sulfate is a detergent and emulsifier used in thousands of cosmetic and even cleaning products. If I challenged you to go to a convenience store right now and bring home a shampoo or toothpaste without SLS, I guarantee you would come back empty handed. It’s what makes shampoo lather and toothpaste bubble.

Sodium lauryl sulfate is actually derived from coconuts, but the process of manufacturing it is what makes it dangerous. SLS is contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, a carcinogenic by-product. In fact, several deaths have occurred when workers have been accidentally exposed to it. So while the argument has been made that SLS alone is not dangerous or carcinogenic, why take the risk?"- read more at http://mollyssudsbabysteps.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/sodium-lauryl-sulfate-what-you-need-to-know-about-this-common-ingredient/

So the real danger may be that SLS has been found to contain 1,4-Dioxane contamination; which has been linked to the development of cancer.

"1,4-Dioxane contamination

Some products containing SLES have been found to also contain traces (up to 279 ppm) of 1,4-dioxane. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that these levels be monitored.[8] The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies 1,4-dioxane to be a probable human carcinogen (not observed in epidemiological studies of workers using the compound, but resulting in more cancer cases in controlled animal studies), and a known irritant with a no-observed-adverse-effects level of 400 milligrams per cubic meter at concentrations significantly higher than those found in commercial products.[9] Under Proposition 65, 1,4-dioxane is classified in the U.S. state of California to cause cancer.[10][11] The FDA encourages manufacturers to remove 1,4-dioxane, though it is not required by federal law.[12]" - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_laureth_sulfate

It's true you can't believe everything you read online because information can be falsified. So I recommend that the community, and public at large, should do their own research on all of the chemicals listed in this article.

Crest Toothpaste Company seems very confident in putting Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) in their products. They released the following statement on their website.

"All versions of Crest toothpaste contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). While we're aware of the rumors circulating on the internet, SLS/SLES is safe in consumer products when used as directed. These supposed safety concerns stem from some misquoted research and have no scientific basis. In fact, a search of scientific literature found nothing supporting these allegations. We've thoroughly tested our products to make sure they're safe. - See more at: http://news.crest.com/faq-item/crest-complete-faq/does-crest-contain-sodium-lauryl-sulfate-sls-or-sodium-laureth-sulfate-s#sthash.2UGMhLny.dpuf

3. Glycerin (pronunciation); a chemical in tooth paste that coats teeth and prevents remineralization which leads to cavities.

Did you know this toothpaste ingredient can lead to dental cavities?

"Check your toothpaste. Glycerin, an ingredient in some toothpastes, can interfere with strengthening your teeth. Glycerin layers your tooth in a sticky film that keeps the minerals in your saliva from interacting with your enamel to strengthen it."- http://www.wikihow.com/Strengthen-Tooth-Enamel

What is Glycerin? Wikipedia defines it as the following

"Glycerol (or glycerine, glycerin) is a simple polyol (sugar alcohol) compound. It is a colorless, odorless, viscous liquid that is widely used in pharmaceutical formulations. Glycerol has three hydroxyl groups that are responsible for its solubility in water and its hygroscopic nature. The glycerol backbone is central to all lipids known as triglycerides. Glycerol is sweet-tasting and generally considered non-toxic."- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glycerol

Recommendations of alternative treatments can be found in a book by Dr. Gerard F. Judd's. His book is entitled, "Good Teeth Birth to Death" and it has received good reviews on Amazon.com.

A completed list of his dental research and recommendations are featured on the website Life Enthusiast. The article begins with the following;

"Letter from Gerard F. Judd, Ph.D., Chemist,

Researcher for 18 years and Professor of Chemistry for 33 years

April 2002

Dear Government Executive and Employee:

We can all stop spending billions for American dental work and research. Let me tell you why: I have learned the real causes of dental cavities and gum infection. People, including you, will now be able to take care of their own dentistry with insignificant cost, and end with perfect teeth. Cavities and gum infections are ended!"
read more at http://www.life-enthusiast.com/dental-health-letter-to-government-a-2260.html

This article is part of a series that is was started for informational purposes only. Most of the information was garnered from online research and the links have been attributed. Please click the hyperlinks/highlighted words for additional source material.

Final note: After checking several toothpaste brand's labeling the above ingredients appeared on most of them. Clicking on the names to see a photo of their labels readily available on Goggle Search; Sensodyne®, Crest, Biotene, Tom's, Colgate.

If you want to avoid these chemicals you can make your own toothpaste. Yes an alternative to store bought toothpaste can be found on several websites that contain instructions, as well as videos with demonstration, on how to make your own toothpaste; click on the featured video for one such demonstration.