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Hidden Dangers in Toothpaste

Humans have struggled to implement dental care for hundreds of years, via ancient dentistry practices as well as trying to clean teeth with a variety of items.  In the past primitive man used foreign objects such as ash, cloth, twigs and quills to keep their teeth clean, but now brushing teeth with toothpaste is the recommended oral hygiene behavior.

Mass produced toothpaste first made it onto the scene courtesy of Crest in 1955. Since then the oral hygiene industry has grown to have annually revenues of over $2 billion dollars and consumers have hundreds of different toothpastes to choose from. Each toothpaste brand is marketed to differentiate itself from the competitive despite most of them having similar ingredients.

Toothpaste has been formulated to help remove the bacteria that causes dental plaque and bad breath. While most consumers know whether or not their toothpaste can fight cavities courtesy of ingredients such as fluoride or xynitol, but there are a myriad of other components that provide toothpaste with flavor, foaming ability and texture and some of them are less than savory.

Although many consumers spend hours pining over nutrition labels to ensure that the food they are buying is a wise choice, barely anyone pays attention to what is exactly inside toothpaste. While many brands have harmless ingredients like cocamidopropyl betaine (foaming agent), glycerin (moisturizing) and calcium carbonate,  there are other additives that can cause unfortunate side effects from toothpaste.


Many people look back at the 70s as a time for change in America with women’s rights, environmental protection and the advocacy of world peace taking center stage. It is also a time when Red Dye #2 was proclaimed to cause cancer. The dye earned its bad rap courtesy of soviet scientists and as a result it was banned from being used in American manufacturing. Consumers do not have to worry about that color, but FD&C blue dye No.2 (AKA indigotine) may be this decades enemy.

This specific dye is often used in toothpastes to create shades of blue and green associated with minty freshness. The dye can cause reactions including allergy attacks, headaches and behavioral issues (The Center of Science in the Public Interest). Plus the compound has caused documented cases of occupational asthma (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8814938).

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is an organic compound used in tons of consumer products including candy, soaps, shampoo and toothpaste. When lab animals got too much of the stuff they suffered from a myriad of health problems including depression and breathing complications. The Food and Drug Administration allows manufacturers to use the additive as it has been proved not to cause cancer, however it can cause abdominal discomfort in the form of diarrhea when consumed by humans.

As of April 7, 1998, the FDA requires toothpastes including sodium lauryl sulfate to be labeled as posing a health risk, with diarrhea being the main side effect of concern.


Triclosan is an antibacterial and anti fungal agent classified as a pesticide by the Environmental Protection Agency. The compound is in a slew of consumer products and in toothpastes it serves the purpose of being an anti microbial agent. Consumers should do their best to avoid the additive as it is being reviewed by the FDA to decide the fate of the compound.

There have been a number of health issues linked to triclosan. Studies have found it can trigger an allergic reaction in children and other studies have found that it is a potential carcinogenic.

Consumers concerned about the dangers in their toothpaste should take the time to review product labels before making a commitment to a brand. A dentist is also an excellent resource for learning about what toothpaste to choose.

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