Are you interested in switching over to more natural beauty products, but not sure where to start? It's best to tackle one product change at a time and to transform your bathroom cabinet slowly. Here are some tips on which ingredients to look for when buying natural toothpaste. Also, just because it's natural doesn't mean it's healthy, so look out for ingredients to avoid.
Ingredients to look for:
Neem: The neem tree is an evergreen that grows in India, Southeast Asia, and parts of Africa; also known as "divine tree" or "village pharmacy", this tree has been recognized for its medicinal properties for thousands of years. Specifically for teeth, neem shows good results for oral hygiene-a six week study showed significant reduction in plaque and oral bacteria for those subjects using neem gel.
Peelu: The world's first toothbrush called "Kayu Sugi" or chewing stick from the peelu tree (native to India, Pakistan and Iran) was used to maintain oral hygiene. Once the bark is peeled away from the stick, chewing on the soft fiber underneath will release the anti-bacterial ingredients into the mouth. A 2012 study showed that peelu provides effective protection against oral bacteria.
Tea Tree oil: An essential oil with anti-inflammatory properties shows reduction in the effects of inflammation and gum bleeding in subjects using tea tree oil containing toothpaste. It is not advisable to use the essential oil directly on a toothbrush or added to toothpaste as it can be toxic if swallowed. (As a general rule one should avoid swallowing toothpaste anyway.)
COQ 10: COQ10 is a natural substance that the body makes and it is involved in several bodily functions, especially energy production. The multiple uses of COQ10 make it a popular supplement available in health food stores. There are also toothpastes with COQ10 as it has been shown to improve periodontitis (inflammation of the tissue around the teeth) in adults.
Licorice root: Licorice root extract has shown promise in fighting bacteria that causes tooth decay and gum disease. Look for brands that contain this versatile substance, although people with high blood pressure, kidney disease or heart disease need to avoid it.
*Natural teeth whiteners: According to Dr. Oz, apples, strawberries and his blend of baking soda and real lemon juice are home remedies to whiten our smile and care for our teeth naturally.
Ingredients to avoid:
Zinc oxide: Used in toothpastes to help with tartar build-up, zinc oxide was previously thought to leave the body immediately. A study now shows that the nanoparticles stay in the body at least five hours or more, spreading to the liver, kidneys and other organs. More research on this is needed.
Triclosan: This is a substance added to products as an anti-bacterial aid, for example in anti-bacterial soaps; the European Union classifies triclosan as irritating to the skin and eyes and it may have long term negative effects on aquatic life. As of 2012, the FDA is conducting a comprehensive review of this substance due to animal studies showing disruption of hormone regulation.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)/Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES): These foaming agents, often derived from petroleum (there are plant based varieties as well), cause skin irritations and are classified as toxic to aquatic organisms.
Propylene glycol: This is a solvent that is the active component in some anti-freezes, and is used in many beauty products. Skin and eye irritations are associated with this additive according to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry.
Fluoride: Fluoride is used in commercial toothpastes as it is thought to strengthen enamel, and many dentists recommend using a fluoride toothpaste. A review on the effectiveness of fluoride treatments in preventing cavities conducted in 2008, published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, concluded that there is weak and inconsistent evidence that the use of fluoride supplements prevent dental cavities in primary teeth.
Photo credit: mbsurf