A quick search on the internet machine reveals that a lot of people are very concerned and suspicious about the ingredients in their toothpaste. Let’s face it, the thought of putting Dicalcium Phosphate Dihydrate in your mouth may sound a bit scary.
For the concerned consumer, there is actually a big market out there for natural and organic toothpastes.
Personally, I tend to be quite practical about these sorts of things. I generally begin with some basic assumptions, that… A) Just because a corporation is large, does not mean it is trying to cause harm to people and B) People buy “natural” alternatives because they feel they ought to be better, without really having any knowledge about it one way or the other.
So let’s go inside the tube to see what’s in your standard Colgate brand toothpaste. Each ingredient is there for a reason. They break down into either active or supporting ingredients. Active ingredients are there to clean your teeth, and the supporting ingredients help the active ingredients do their job.
Abrasive Polishing Agent – The primary job of toothpaste is to scour your teeth the same way you would clean gunk off your stove. In toothpaste the abrasives are relatively gentle so as to not remove the enamel from your teeth. A standard abrasive would be Silica.
Historically, Silica was one of the first “tooth powders” that was used centuries before toothpaste was invented. It can be found naturally in the earth.
Fluoride – To prevent tooth decay. While some people are fear-mongering over fluoride in the water supply, the benefits have been made massively clear over time. Medical evidence against is sparse.
Surfactants – Usually this is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, the same ingredients found in shampoo to cause foaming. The reason for this is that it helps spread the toothpaste around your mouth, and moves away debris.
Moisturizing Agent – As toothpaste sits on your shelf for a couple months, it would dry to a flaky powder without some help. Glycerin and Sorbitol do the job, keeping it a gooey paste.
Binding Agents – As with many chemical compounds, individual ingredients don’t always get along. Hydrated Silica, Cellulose Gum, and Carrageenan make sure that the parts do not separate or settle.
Sweetener – To cover up the bitter flavour of the main ingredients Sodium Saccharin is added. It’s an artificial sweetener, like Aspartame, but has just the right amount of sweetness for most adult tastes.
Flavour – No mysterious ingredients here. If you buy peppermint toothpaste, it will contain some form of peppermint. Baking Soda flavoured toothpaste will contain Sodium Bicarbonate (that is baking soda) which also acts as an abrasive and lends a little assistance to fighting bacteria.
Whitener – For toothpastes that claim to whiten your teeth, the active ingredient might be Hydrogen Peroxide, which effectively is a bleach, and/or Titanium Dioxide, which is the same little white flecks of metal used to make white paint. Health-wise, the peroxide is more harmful than the titanium, but the latter really only “paints” your teeth temporarily.
That’s it. So relax, and smile your beautiful smile. Colgate is not trying to kill you, they are just trying to let you feel good about your teeth.
While some people like to point out that toothpaste shares some ingredients with rat poison, it’s a bit like saying your car uses some of the same metals as a ballistic missile. Does that make you want to drive a car made out of compressed wood chips?