Who would have thought something we use multiple times a day to clean our mouth could potentially be harming the environment and our health?
My whole life I’ve been a Colgate girl, finding pretty much any other toothpaste substandard. Then, after watching the documentary The Fluoride Deception, which points to evidence that fluoride, although marketed as a way to protect our teeth from decay, is in fact a means for the government to mind control us!
DUM DUM DAHHHHH!
Well, maybe it’s not that bad, but the documentary claims fluoride may have serious adverse health effects, including infant mortality, congenital defects and lower IQ rates. So for us it was a decision to avoid fluoride until we knew for certain what the real effects of it were, given, as long as you brush your teeth with a stellar technique a couple of times a day and avoid excess sugar you shouldn’t have problems with decay whether you use a fluoride toothpaste or not.
This also got me thinking about what other nasty ingredients can be found in toothpaste. Let’s take a closer look:
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
This is the substance in cosmetics that makes bubbles. It’s known as an irritant to skin and eyes. It seems to pose little risk to the environment, although it does only score a C on the EWG Guide to Healthy Cleaning.
Titanium Dixoide (TiO2 )
This is used in toothpaste to make it white. There does not seem to be enough data to reliably determine if TiO2 is a carcinogen. There is also concern that it may adversely modify soil health and ecosystem functions, although again, more research is required. It scores a C on the EWG guide.
This works as an antibacterial and antifungal agent in the toothpaste to kill germs. Research is indicating triclosan is doing us more harm than good, causing antimicrobial resistance to antibiotics, it is now under scrutiny for public health risk. The EWG dishes triclosan an appalling F for its high risk to the environment due to its ecotoxicity and tendency to bioaccumulate. STEER CLEAR!
Used as a preservative, further research needs to be completed to determine if parabens are a carcinogenic, although they may be linked to breast cancer. As far as the environment, from what I was able to decipher from the science jargon they are not good. They have the ability to adhere themselves to organic matter and are a b!@#h to biodegrade, essentially a hazard to some organisms.
It seems there are more adverse health impacts rather than serious environmental threats in toothpaste, as long as you’re using a more natural brand that doesn’t include triclosan or parabens – such as Grants, which is the one we settled on. Now seeing as though this is an environmental blog I’d best stick to what I know! But there was just one thing still bugging me…. the waste. So, for me, the main reason for switching to DIY toothpaste was to minimise my waste.
I still use commercial toothpaste for Peanut as teeth time is a battle already without her gagging on baking soda.
Most toothpaste comes in a plastic tube, inside a cardboard box (recyclable). In Australia the only way to recycle toothpaste tubes is through the TerraCycle program. This would require me to collect all my toothpaste tubes over a period of time and post them off to Colgate through Australia Post, where they will be melted down and turned into new plastic products. Even as a committed environmentalist, this was just another thing I didn’t want to add to my already extensive to do list.
Terracycle accepted waste packaging
So I decide to make my own, using products that for now, are a better environmental choice, that I can source with reuseable packaging from bulk food stores. I found loads of recipes online and put together a few of the ingredients that seemed most appealing. Ask the Dentist and Authority Dentalwere great resources.
My first attempt I used bentonite clay, bi-carb soda, coconut oil, cacao nibs and water. Bentonite Clay (used to remineralise teeth) reacts with metals minimising its healing powers and some claim can make it toxic, so I was ever so careful not to mix it with a metal spoon. After about 3 days I was regretting my decision to use cacao nibs as they were getting caught in my retainer… which is metal! It’s currently glued onto my bottom teeth so there’s no way around it unfortunately.
My bentonite clay toothpaste
I headed back to the drawing board, this time opting for a very simple paste of just bi-carb and coconut oil including a bi-weekly brush with charcoal for whitening. I must admit, the texture and taste don’t rate as high as commercial toothpaste, but they feel clean and don’t have that weird residue that toothpaste is notorious for leaving behind. I’ll stick with it for now as I can make it using ingredients that have no packaging and are naturally occurring and edible!
Activated charcoal (which I now know I can buy in bulk) and coconut oil and baking soda toothpaste.
Simple Toothpaste Recipe
2 Tablespoons of baking soda
2 Tablespoons of coconut oil
Mix together thoroughly. Ta Dah!
We also made the change to bamboo toothbrushes as regular plastic toothbrushes need to be recycled through Terracycle. Bamboo ones generally have nylon bristles so you just snap the head off, pop that small part in the bin and compost/reuse the rest (make great garden stakes).