You brush your teeth every day, so shouldn't you think about what you're putting on your pearly whites?
A simple perusal of the ingredients list of a tube of commercial toothpaste can yield a laundry list of chemicals, additives, detergents and (shock!) sweeteners. That's why we decided to try out some natural pastes and put them to the test.
Typical toothpastes can contain some harsh abrasives and chemicals. Among the worst ingredients to watch out for -- propylene glycol -- a solvent that is the active component in some anti-freezes, and is used in everything from makeup to mouthwash. Fluoride is also a questionable ingredient for some - it's used in commercial toothpastes to strengthen enamel, and many dentists recommend using a fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride is considered toxic when ingested in high levels and is a controversial additive in water. Accidentally ingesting high quantities of toothpaste -- as children sometimes do -- can be potentially toxic.
It's important to note that just because a product is sold at a natural foods store, it doesn't mean that its ingredients are all natural. In many of the "natural" toothpastes we tried, we found not-so-natural ingredients. Nearly all of the ones we reviewed contained sodium lauryl sulfate, a cleansing agent that creates lather. While not considered toxic, it's known to cause microscopic tears in mouths that can lead to canker sores. Sodium lauryl sulfate can be made from natural ingredients, like coconut oil or palm kernel oil. But while it might be "natural" it may still be irritating to the skin and body. That's why you should check the ingredients on the box before purchasing.
Here are our picks for the best toothpastes, based on the taste, feel and ingredients of a few of the most widely available natural brands.Best Natural Toothpastes
Dr. Ken's All Natural Maximum Care in cinnamon scored high marks for flavor. "It has a fresh, natural cinnamon taste that's not overwhelming or sugary," said our tester. The toothpaste contains green tea extract to fight bacteria and bad breath; papaya plant extract to whiten teeth; and zinc oxide and citric acid to fight tarter. We tested one with fluoride, however Dr. Ken's does come in fluoride-free varieties.
Kiss My Face Triple Action Whitening aloe vera gel is fluoride- and sodium lauryl sulfate-free (though it does contain sodium lauroyl sarcosinate, a cleanser that's considered milder than sodium lauryl sulfate). Its minty-fresh flavor approximated conventional toothpaste brands, but has purportedly natural ingredients. Plus, it's not tested on animals, and contains no animal-derived ingredients.
Tom's of Maine also scored high -- our reviewer gave it a 10 for its "classic" flavor. Plus, Tom's takes pains to disclose all of its ingredients and where they come from. This paste does include "naturally sourced" fluoride.
Auremere Ayurvedic Herbal Toothpaste got high marks for flavor and is also free of fluoride, gluten, bleaches, artificial sweeteners, dyes, animal-derived ingredients and artificial preservatives. Instead, it uses Peelu, a natural tooth whitening fiber. Our reviewer noted it had a "licorice" flavor.
The Natural Dentist Peppermint Twist Whitening Toothpaste has an appealingly mild minty flavor. While it has fluoride for fighting cavities, it doesn't have sodium lauryl sulfate and it isn't tested on animals. Our tests had this note of caution: Don't choose this tube if you prefer gels over pastes, because it is a bit pasty.The Rest of the Paste Pack
Tea Tree Therapy Toothpaste with Baking Soda uses tea tree oil to clean and refresh. However, this brand also contains titanium dioxide, a natural ore that Canadian researchers say is "possibly carcinogenic to humans."
Ayurvedic paste Vicco, an herbal toothpaste with licorice root, Indian almond, and clove, peppermint and eucalyptus oils, is a great alternative to typical toothpastes. Our reviewer found the paste had "a mild flavor and a somewhat chalky texture."
Dessert Essence Natural Tea Tree Oil Toothpaste received middling marks on flavor, but high ratings because it contains no harsh abrasives, synthetic sweeteners, or artificial flavors (though it does contain sodium lauryl sulfate) -- and it's fluoride-free. Tea tree oil is said to have antibacterial properties, and therefore great for promoting fresh breath.
Weleda's Salt Toothpaste uses sea salt and baking soda to reduce tartar buildup, and myrrh extract to promote healthy gums. It also comes in Calendula and Ratanhia flavors.
J/A/S/O/N Sea Fresh toothpaste "closely resembled conventional brands," according to our tester but is fluoride-free. It also contains CoQ10 for gum support and active blue-green algae and sea salts for dental health.
J/A/S/O/N Citrus Mint won points for its "very pleasing, mildly sweet citrus flavor," according to our tester, which it gets from a blend of orange and peppermint oils. It's also fluoride- and sulfate-free, and contains grapefruit seed extract, which helps block sugar acids.
Tell us: What toothpaste do you brush with?
Related ArticlesSecret Lipstick Ingredients Revealed
The Dirty Dozen: The Top 12 Foods You Should Eat Organic
DIY Recipes for Natural Beauty
We Try It: Gwyneth Paltrow's Detox Diet
For More Tips & Tricks You Can Count On: Subscribe to Good Housekeeping & Save!
Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.