Crest and Colgate are our trusted toothpaste brands, but if you take a look beside those, you’ll find some others that call themselves “healthier” options. These “healthier” products claim to be composed of more eco-friendly and natural ingredients. Furthermore, some of these products claim to have other positive effects in your mouth as well, such as strengthening your teeth, detoxifying your mouth, reducing inflammation, or killing bacteria.
Recently, these claims of natural toothpastes caught the interest of a group of colleagues at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry.
Three men – John Brooks, Nasir Bashirelahi, and Mark Reynolds – published a research review of one popular ingredient of “natural” toothpastes—charcoal as it’s used in tooth cleaning products.
These scientists did not find any strong evidence regarding whether charcoal is safe or effective. Other scientists who have done research on charcoal for use in tooth products in India, came to split conclusions about whether charcoal was more of less effective at reducing cavities than chewing on a stick.
Regarding the UMD study, John Brooks points out that they’re not claiming that these products are bad, just that there isn’t any evidence to support the promises these products advertise.
On the one hand, Dentist Matt Messina points out there is strong data supporting fluoride’s benefits as used in toothpastes and other places, like in water fountains. Seventy-nine trials were run on 73,000 children and young adults and they concluded that even the smallest amounts of fluoride decrease the number of cavities. In fact, the number of cavities in the group given fluoride decreased by about 25% compared to the children and young adults given the placebo.
On the other hand, we all know that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Fluoride does have its downfalls, so it should be used responsibly. That basically means heeding the advice of your dentist and dental team, such as your Greenfield dentists here at Cigno Family Dental.
What are some of the cautions or concerns regarding too much fluoride?
Being exposed to too much fluoride can cause staining and white spots called “mottling” of the teeth. In very high doses, fluoride can be toxic. An overdose consists of stomach pain or intestinal blockage. If anyone happens to swallow a whole tube of fluoride toothpaste, call poison control right away. Battles have broken out in public over the fluoride in water fountains being a health hazard.
That being said, it is critical to note… there is no supporting evidence that the small amounts of fluoride in toothpaste or water have risks that outweigh the benefits. The benefits help to protect your mouth from bacteria deteriorating your enamel. When bacteria feast on sugars left behind, they release acids that deteriorate the enamel. Your enamel is what protects the blood vessels and nerves inside the tooth, so once your enamel is gone, your teeth are defenseless.
If you do really wish to utilize some additional “natural” ingredients to further protect your teeth, you may also want to consider a neutralizer to balance out the acids the bacteria produce. Consider it like a buffer. Saliva and baking soda are both agents that do exactly that. In fact, baking soda was an ingredient in the earliest toothpastes. Baking soda is great, but as a supplement and not just by itself. Specifically, it lacks the ability to strengthen the enamel like fluoride. This process is called “remineralization.”
Important to note is that charcoal dental products were also lacking this benefit, which was advertised on their product. This is why dentists often recommend using baking soda or many other natural ingredients, along with a fluoride rinse for best results. There are several choices to choose from when picking the right toothpaste for you, containing all the right ingredients for what you need personally. Then, if you wish to supplement with safe natural dental care ingredients, you can be sure you’re dental health is being comprehensively protected.