Toothpaste can easily be overlooked when shopping for bathroom essentials - how often do you buy the same one twice in a row? Or do you even notice? Apart from shiny flecks and different colors, there are more commonalities to toothpaste and the expectations most people share. Yet it can contain some questionable ingredients, like SLS & Fluoride. Both are crucial for toothpaste performance and both are linked to health & environmental concerns. So let's unpick it:
SLS or no SLS:
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a surfactant that's used in many cleaning products, shampoos and soaps. It makes products foam and clean better dissolving dirt.
It is also considered a skin irritant. From its link to cancer, and its ability to build up in tissue and organs, to its negative effect on marine life, there have been many alarming and contradicting reports about the damage this ingredient can cause. It also makes mouths more prone to cold sores and ulcers. If you would like to really get into it, please read the report we quote in the end of this post.
However, EWG database gives SLS different ratings depending on its use and concentration in a product. While some cleaning products get green light, some shampoos and toothpaste get red light. In toothpaste it's used to thicken the texture and create foam as you brush, which makes the sensation of brushing more pleasant, but doesn't really do anything for performance. Because of this, and because in toothpaste it comes in a direct contact with mouth and can be swallowed, as well as being spit directly into waterways, we decided to stay away from SLS until the studies fully clear consumers' concerns.
Our SLS criteria: No SLS
Fluoride or no Fluoride:
Fluoride is a chemical element makes the enamel more resistant to demineralization, preventing the decay. We naturally get fluoride from many foods like pickles, orange juice & tomato sauce, as well as our municipal tap water which is fortified with the element. However, a possible relationship between fluoride and cancer risk has been debated for over 30 years. There've been contradicting studies linking it to bone cancer, yet the amounts found in toothpaste are so minimal it's not considered a serious threat - especially if you spit it out.
Our criteria: Given the relatively low concentration of Fluoride in toothpaste the health concerns are not worth getting too worked up over. We consider having it a bonus, as we all get some naturally.
The cleaning properties of tooth brushing fully depend on your toothbrush, its bristles and your technique, rather than on toothpaste. The real purpose of toothpaste is just to make your mouth feel & smell fresh. Otherwise you could technically clean your mouth without toothpaste! So do a good job brushing and make sure that you only get toothbrush with medium bristles like this one.
|Foams well - for a good clean and a texture that doesn’t run down our chin.||SLS, a fatal toxin for marine life|
|Fresh taste - to enhance the clean feeling and have us feeling fresh.||Artificial flavours & sweeteners|
|Squeaky clean feeling that lasts all day.||Runny texture|
|Fluoride if we can achieve other must-haves at an affordable price.|
That sounds simple enough. But that nice foamy texture you like? That has a lot to do with SLS. And that sweet minty flavour? It's usually achieved with artificial sweeteners. So we started looking.
Brands we considered & tested:
To get to the shortlist of tested products we do a lot of online research, speak to professionals, read blogger's reviews, watch YouTube comparisons videos and analyze industry reports. Once we have a good list, we meticulously check ingredients for sustainability and cross-check prices to find out how affordable the product really is when it's not on sale or promotion. We then eliminate the products that are too expensive or have hidden nasty ingredients and start testing for quality.
|Verve Ultra SLS-Free Toothpaste||not tested due to price||no: $5.49 for 4.5oz||not checked due to price|
|Kiss My Face Enamel Xtra Cool Mint Gel Anticavity Fluoride toothpaste||not tested due to price||no: $5.95 for 4.5oz||
not checked due to price
|Hello Oral Care Toothpaste||not tested due to price||no: $4.25 for 4oz||
not checked due to price
|Tom's of Maine Botanically Bright||bee propolis didn't taste great||yes||didn't like the use of bee product|
|Tom's of Maine Antiplague & Whitening||tasted a bit medicinal||yes||yes|
|Himalaya Complete Care Gum Expert||cinnamon is quite intense||yes||yes|
|Himalaya Complete Care Simply Spearmint||cinnamon is quite intense here too||yes||yes|
|Uncle Harry's Peppermint Toothpaste||salty taste, runny texture make a mess||yes||yes|
|Jason Healthy Mouth||tea tree oil didn't taste great||yes||4.2oz is so tiny, you'll have to replace them regularly producing lots of waste|
|Jason Sea Fresh Strengthening Taste||yes||yes||yes|
You know when you go wine tasting and some of the real differences in taste and texture can only be experienced when you try several types back-to-back? Toothpaste is the exact opposite - the sensorial spectrum is vast and the differences are intense. Saltiness that shocks. Runny consistencies that pour down your chin. Abrasive textures that feel intended for specific uses. Taming the world of toothpaste was wild.
We noticed that SLS-free formulas tend to be runnier and foam less (the qualities SLS brings to the table). Another unpleasant surprise the natural toothpaste revealed was the taste. So many brands opted for the natural flavours that either didn't taste good (propolis, yuck!) or burnt the mouth (cinnamon is a natural skin irritant).
With its SLS-free formula that received an EWG Skin Deep rating of 1, it felt & tasted like a good old Aquafresh... with a slightly more natural minty flavor.
See what toothpaste became the winner here, in our store.
American tap water is often fortified with fluoride. One liter contains 0.7 - 1 milliliter of fluoride. In 2015 the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) suggested that the fluoride level in the public tap water should not exceed 0.7 milligrams per liter.
Godmother: Allison, Dental hygienist, 35 years experience.
- Effect of fluoride toothpastes on enamel demineralization, BMC Oral Health, 2006 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1543617/
- Human and Environmental Toxicity of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): Evidence for Safe Use in Household Cleaning Products, Environ Health Insights, 2015 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4651417/
- EWG Skin Deep https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/#.WxHgpFMvz-Y
- Self Nutrition Data: Foods Highest in Fluoride http://nutritiondata.self.com/foods-000146000000000000000.html?categories=19,10,8
- Wirecutter: Best Toothpaste 2018 https://www.consumersearch.com/toothpaste
- Good Housekeeping: The Truth About Natural Toothpaste
- Blissful Miss: 14 Best Natural Toothpastes https://www.blissfulmiss.com/natural-toothpaste-ewg-safe/
- Abundantly Minimal, Natural Toothpaste Review 2017 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCdKvyqj4qY
and many more.