Life Health & Wellbeing

Thursday 14 November 2019

Toxic toothpaste: are we poisoning our bodies?

Brushing morning and night is so ingrained in our daily routine that we rarely give it a second thought, but some chemicals in the products we use to clean our teeth may actually be harming our health, writes Denise Smith

Brushing morning and night is so ingrained in our daily routine that we rarely give it a second thought, but some chemicals in the products we use to clean our teeth may actually be harming our health
Brushing morning and night is so ingrained in our daily routine that we rarely give it a second thought, but some chemicals in the products we use to clean our teeth may actually be harming our health

Denise Smith

There’s no guesswork involved when it comes to the food we choose to fuel our bodies with.

Likewise when it comes to beauty and cosmetics: we are more mindful than ever of what we put on our skin, and we have even made the move away from toxic cleaning products in our homes.

But have you ever stopped to think about your oral health? Or, more specifically, the harm oral health products could be doing to your body?

That’s the very real concern of Irish dentists Lisa and Vanessa Creaven. The pioneering sisters behind the popular teeth-whitening brand, Spotlight, say that many commercial toothpastes contain chemicals that have been linked to possible cancers, nervous system ailments and heart ailments, as well as mouth irritations and environmental pollution.

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In fact, recent research published in America in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology found that people may absorb toxic industrial chemicals from some brands of dental floss.

Another study, in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, analysed data from 1,848 women and found that those exposed to a chemical used in some toothpastes, soaps and antibacterial products are at a higher risk of osteoporosis.

The chemical in question is triclosan (TCS), which was banned in biocidal products, including hand sanitisers, by the European Chemicals Agency at the beginning of 2017. Despite this, it is still allowed in cosmetic products for preservative purposes.

In fact, toothpastes, hand soaps, body washes, shower gels, non-spray deodorants, face powders, concealers and professional nail products are all allowed levels of the chemical of up to 0.3pc. Mouthwashes are allowed to contain 0.2pc triclosan. The chemical is also used in some cleaning products.

The Galway-based Creavens are now warning people of the huge number of toxins in everyday dental products.

“Propylene glycol is an ingredient that is found in 95pc of household toothpastes and it’s an ingredient found in antifreeze. It has been linked to brain and liver damage — and we are brushing our teeth with it.

“As dentists, we know that the human mouth is 3,000 times more absorbent than your skin and it’s alarming to know that while you’re brushing your teeth twice daily, you are exposing yourself to ingesting harmful toxin ingredients like this.

“As dentists, general health along with dental health is our concern. For example, poor control of gingivitis has been linked with increased risk of diabetes mellitus, increased risk of foetal abnormality and increased cardiovascular risk.

Vanessa and Lisa say their concerns prompted them to spend two years developing organic toothpastes that were 100pc safe to use.

“In our toothpaste for gum health, we have an active ingredient chlorhexidine, which has been clinically shown to reduce gingivitis which, in turn with proper periodontal treatment, has been linked with better systemic health.”

“What prompted us to develop the range was a sensitivity report shown to us by one of our patients. It had been given to them by their doctor after some tests and it listed a range of food and ingredients the patient was to avoid.

“The patient brought it to us because she had discovered that two of the ingredients on the list were in her toothpaste and she wanted advice on what brand of toothpaste she could use. When we started to look around for her, we realised that the only toothpaste that we could find that was clean of these ingredients was an organic one.

“The problem with all the organic toothpastes we found was that none of them contained any active ingredient to combat dental decay and maintain oral health (eg. fluoride), and as such, we could not recommend them to her. The exercise prompted us to look more closely at the ingredients of everyday toothpaste, including the toothpaste we used to recommend and we were, frankly, disgusted at what we found.

“Regular toothpaste is full of cheap, nasty ingredients — many of which have been linked to a whole host of systemic illnesses — and it simply isn’t good enough.

“This prompted us to develop a range of organic toothpastes that would include active ingredients such as fluoride that are necessary for optimum oral health, but none of the risky and potentially toxic ingredients we had found during our research.”

Whitening

Shining a spotlight on Irish people’s obsession with their pearly whites, the dentists also warn about the dangers of some select teeth-whitening products.

“Charcoal toothpaste is absolutely damaging to the teeth. Charcoal is an extremely abrasive ingredient, which permanently damages the outer layer of the enamel surface. Without your enamel protecting the outer surface of your teeth, you’re significantly weakening your teeth.

“If you looked at the tooth under a microscope following the use of charcoal, you would see a mottling or pitting of the outer layer of the enamel surface, which leads to increased discolouration of the tooth surface.

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Holly Carpenter getting her teeth whitened.

“In reality, using a charcoal toothpaste to whiten teeth is counterintuitive — the more you use a charcoal-like toothpaste, the more roughened the outside surface of the tooth, which means the less likely a tooth is to shine and whiten.

“We would recommend a peroxide-containing product to chemically lighten the teeth. This does not cause damage the outside layer of your tooth surface, but instead breaks down the extrinsic stains only and as such, is the safest way to lighten the colour of your teeth.”


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