The many aspects of toothpaste

The common, heavily marketed, commercial brands are fairly inexpensive. A look at the ingredients, beyond the Madison Avenue hype and glitz, reveals some startling information.

The common, heavily marketed, commercial brands are fairly inexpensive. A look at the ingredients, beyond the Madison Avenue hype and glitz, reveals some startling information.

by Dr. Nicholas Meyer — 

Toothpaste is a ubiquitous product found in practically every bathroom across the land. Have you ever given much thought as to why you select a certain brand? Is your selection based on the taste, the price or the ingredients; for prevention of cavities; or perhaps you received a free sample from your dentist? How is it that the plethora of manufacturers has concocted such an array of oral care products?

For the most part, toothpaste is a delivery system of something, and the ingredients added to a gooey base (the paste) are what differentiate one brand from another, as well as the various formulations within brands. In general, many varied ingredients are found within the commercially available types. These include cavity-fighting fluoride; the sudsing agent of sodium laurel sulfate (SLS); silica particles for fine polishing; flavoring agents, like MSG (a so-called natural flavoring agent); and coloring agents (red dye 40, yellow lake, blue lake, etc). Also found are ingredients to help hinder tartar formation and strontium chloride or potassium nitrate that help to desensitize the teeth.

Then there are the more boutique brands of toothpaste — essential oil-based, homeopathic-based, herbal-based, Ayurvedic, powders and a few more. It is not uncommon to see an overlay of ingredients among the different types.

The common, heavily marketed, commercial brands are fairly inexpensive. A look at the ingredients, beyond the Madison Avenue hype and glitz, reveals some startling information.

Fluoride, marketed as a cavity-fighting agent is a byproduct of aluminum processing. The book Fluoride, The Aging Factor, by Dr. John Yiamouyiannis, tells the dark side of how fluoride found its way into toothpaste and water in our communities. Some of the reasons are that it competes competitively for the iodine-binding site in your thyroid gland, thus producing inactive molecules of thyroid hormone to your body. It is also used as rat poison and is fed to cattle to slow down their mentation and make them more docile.

SLS is derived from coconut (natural) but is irritating to the sensitive oral tissues and can contribute to the initiation and propagation of canker sores in the mouth.

The whole family of commercial food dyes has a rap sheet that can make your head spin. Some of the more notable issues are that they directly contribute to ADD and ADHD.

Tartar-reducing ingredients have been found in clinical practice to reduce the tartar but increase the sensitivity of the teeth. The trade-off is somewhat obvious — do you want your teeth to be sensitive all the time or not?

Desensitizing agents can be helpful for those who suffer from sensitive teeth. These ingredients, although different, work in a similar manner. They cause a precipitate to form on the surface of the tooth, much like a cork-in-a-bottle effect, thereby sealing the inside of the tooth. I recommend that you brush with this type of dentifrice and only spit out the froth. Your saliva will quickly wash it away, but leave it on the teeth for a little longer contact to lessen the sensitivity.

I would consider the following groups the safest products to use.

Essential oil toothpaste most often contains peppermint and/or spearmint oil as the active agent, which works well to freshen the breath. Some of the delivery systems include the oil incorporated into a paste or gel; others are simply a diluted form of the oil, which are applied directly to the toothbrush for use. The caution here is that oils by themselves can be very strong and must be used with caution lest you burn yourself. The use of peppermint oil while taking a homeopathic preparation can render it inactive. Be sure to ask your health care provider for guidance.

Homeopathic preparations are, for the most part, grandfathered drugs and are considered extremely safe. The FDA has oversight of these preparations, but due to their low incidence of problems, the agency exerts little pressure on the group. As a “medicine,” these ingredients have an energetic effect on the tissues and can help in restoring health to sickened tissues.

Herbal preparations have the whole plant kingdom as a possible candidate, and some plants are known to exert positive, beneficial effects on the tissues.

Ayurvedic preparations are designed to support the type of person you are constitutionally. These are derived from plants and based on a person’s dosha type as Veda, Pitta or Kapha. A common ingredient in these preparations is neem.

 

Nicholas Meyer, D.D.S., D.N.M., is a general dentist in Scottsdale, Ariz., who has a special interest in developmental disturbances of the facial complex that contribute to such maladies as TMJ, snoring and sleep apnea. www.milldental.com, DrMeyer@milldental.com or 480-948-0560.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 32, Number 4, August/September 2013.

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