You would be hard pressed to find any dentist who would not advise that brushing several times a day is good for your teeth. But, does it matter which toothpaste you brush with or what it contains? The answer is possibly.
One of the biggest problems with some toothpastes came to light late last year. Several well-known name brand toothpaste products use tiny pieces of plastic, suspended in the toothpaste itself, to add extra abrasive grit. These same pieces of plastic can be found in many face and body washes, and are typically called “microbeads.”
Microbeads create an environmental issue, as they are often flushed along with wastewater into natural water bodies, polluting them. However, there are also personal health concerns created by these microbeads. They can actually get lodged between teeth and under gum lines and, unlike other substances used to create abrasive grit, they are not easily broken down by saliva. As a result, these can create irritation, trap food particles and bacteria, and lead to infections and tooth decay.
If you prefer a toothpaste with a bit of grit in it, you may find ones with baking soda a better option. The baking soda will dissolve in saliva, does not create the kind of pollution the plastic microbeads do, and baking soda has the added benefit of fighting odor.
Many have developed concern over the last few years about the effects of fluoride on the body. Many in the natural foods movement have suggested that fluoride in toothpaste and water causes cancer. However, a 2011 study by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessments concluded that there was no evidence of a correlation between fluoride levels contained in water and toothpaste and the occurrence of cancer.
Much of the concern over fluoride arose after a 2006 report about fluoride’s ill effects on those exposed to high levels. The report is largely misinterpreted by those with an agenda, as the study related to people exposed to unusually high levels of fluoride contained in well and aquifer water. The study itself noted that it was not an evaluation of fluoride added to tap water, but this is a fact frequently overlooked by those with an agenda.
The conclusion: fluoride in your toothpaste is not likely to harm you.
Failing to Understand the Purpose of Toothpastes
Possibly the biggest danger of using toothpaste is misunderstanding what it does. Simply put, you do not absolutely need toothpaste to brush your teeth. You would get most of the same results from brushing without toothpaste as you do when you use it. For the most part, the function of toothpaste is to taste good, improve your breath, and make you believe your teeth are clean. But, thanks to clever marketing, most people think they need toothpaste for their oral health or that it can replace proper brushing technique.
In reality, it is important to spend at least two minutes brushing your teeth, trying to get the brush onto every dental surface. The mechanical scrubbing of the teeth with a brush is what cleans them, not the paste on the brush. The toothpaste may help just a bit, but your teeth would probably have similar results even without the toothpaste if proper brushing is employed.