Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Natural Toothpaste – A Misguided Waste of Money

There has been an on-going debate concerning fluoride toxicity for several decades now. Recent studies that tie over-exposure to fluoride to a number of newly discovered health issues have renewed interest in the topic. In our efforts to combat cavities, are we over-exposing our citizens – and more troubling – our children to fluoride? Many individuals believe that the answer is "yes" and have made specific efforts to reduce their fluoride intake. This means opting for fluoride-free toothpaste, supplements and mouthwash.

Somehow, during this conversation, a natural toothpaste movement has been on the rise. While based on good intentions, this concept is rooted in misinformation and myth rather than reality and sound science. Simply using a "natural" toothpaste is not enough. There are other factors you should be looking for to make sure your toothpaste is both safe and effective.

I must admit, I am a bit of a toothpaste enthusiast. I’m not only a practicing dentist and a dental professor at USC, I have also spent the last 20 years of my career in toothpaste research and development. So while I am pleased the health community is discussing the pros and cons of fluoride, I am disappointed the conversation almost inevitably settles on "natural toothpaste" being the solution.

A healthy mouth requires several things: regular professional dental cleaning, proper home hygiene routine, adequate saliva, a neutral pH and minimal sugar exposure. With these things in mind, rather than looking for a "natural" toothpaste, you should look for a toothpaste that helps enhance these criteria:

  • Your toothpaste should be SLS and fluoride free (especially for children), and it should be free of harsh abrasives, herbs and other irritating additives.
  • It should contain Xylitol to aid in decay prevention and enhance the flow of saliva.
  • Look for ingredients like baking soda to help remove stains and neutralize acids.
  • Your toothpaste should taste good without adding saccharin or other synthetic sweeteners.

Let’s face it, "natural toothpaste" is a myth... a marketing ploy. After all, if a product was truly natural, it would require refrigeration. Many of the herbs and plants touted by these toothpastes are – in reality – totally ineffective against tooth decay. Furthermore, they may even have unpleasant side effects and are often sprayed with potentially harmful pesticides.

So, the next time you go to replace your toothpaste, don’t look for "natural toothpaste", look for a toothpaste that is healthy, effective and safe. To learn more about the science behind truly healthy toothpaste, visit my website.

About the Author: Dr. Flora Stay is a wellness expert, author, speaker, practicing dentist and a professor at the University of Southern California. She first introduced her flouride and SLS-free toothpaste line in 1993. Unprecedented demand for SLS-free products impelled the Cleure line to also offer salicylate-free personal care products, including sensitive skin care products.

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