Oral Care, Health & the Planet. How are they Connected!
From an early age we are taught the importance of good Oral Hygiene. brush and floss at least twice per day at a minimum. Sugar is bad! Visit the Dentist every 6 months. The maxims and rules are many, and there have been numerous studies that relate how a healthy mouth and teeth are connected to so many other aspects of our health.
None of that is in dispute, however, how often do you consider the effects that the products we use themselves have on our bodies and the ecosystem which we live in. Basically, we are not saying that brushing your teeth is bad, quite the opposite. WHAT you are brushing (flossing, rinsing, etc.) them with might be an issue!
In this article today, we will attempt to identify some ingredients to avoid and practices to change in order to help create a healthier, more planet friendly routine when you take care of your Pearly Whites!
People have been railing against "artificial ingredients" for decades now. But why? Is it just some romantic idea that if it's natural, it's better for you? Turns out , no. Although we share the belief that if it's natural, from the Earth, it's probably better for you, there is hard scientific data behind ill effects of artificial ingredients.
The more the effects of these ingredients are studied and known, the worse a picture it paints. Let's look at some common synthetic ingredients used in commercially produced toothpastes and other oral care products:
A synthetic anti-microbial agent used in many popular toothpaste and consumer product brands as an anti-bacterial. The chemical was labeled as a Pesticide and regulated by the F.D.A. (in 1969). In the ensuing years, it has been banned by many states, but still remains in use in toothpastes and other self care and beauty products.
Triclosan has been linked to conditions such as cancer, birth defects, endocrine problems, and helping to breed more anti-biotic resistant organisms. Studies have shown it can alter hormone regulation in animals.
The substance can enter the body more quickly through the membrane in the oral cavity (the same way that Hemp Extracts are absorbed when taken by tincture). This introduces them to the systems of the body faster than if it was swallowed, and with less filtration.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
This chemical is a surfactant (causes the foaming of the product).
It is believed by the American Chemical Society that SLS reduces function in the taste buds, enhancing bitter tastes. If you suffer from frequent canker sores in the mouth, you should be aware that studies show using SLS free toothpaste can reduce the occurrence of sores by as much as 81%. It also produces carcinogenic compounds during manufacture.
The use of SLS has been linked to skin problems. SLS making your skin tissues more permeable (thinner) and more subject to irritation as well as making it easier to absorb other harmful substances into the bloodstream. Studies conducted in Germany found 42% of 1600 participants had some form of irritation. Another study found that warmer water temperatures worsened the effect of the irritation.
If you ae looking for a toothpaste that has a pleasing appearance (pearly white, minty green, red, etc.) then you might find and purchase one which uses some kind of artificial colorant to give it that appearance. Unfortunately. studies have linked these synthetic chemicals to ADHD in children.
Titanium Dioxide (TiO2)
This substance is used as a pigment. Generally, it is used as a pigment for paints (about 70%), but it is also used in cosmetics, toothpastes, pharmaceuticals, paper, and foods.
TiO2 is classified as a Group 2B (meaning "possibly carcinogenic to humans") by The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Although unclear what the total effects of this chemical are on humans, research suggests that there is cause for concern. Especially since this compound is present in a great many consumer products we use or ingest daily.
This is a synthetic liquid which absorbs water and is used in chemicals, food, and drugs as an "antifreeze" where leakage might lead to contact with products. The F.D.A. classifies it as "generally recognized as safe." However, this "generally safe" liquid is also used to make polyester compounds and as a base for deicers.
Exposure, especially frequently, can cause skin irritation. It also causes the skin to become more permeable, which allows faster access for other harmful chemicals to reach the bloodstream.
One ingredient that you may be familiar with already is Fluoride. Nearly every commercially available Dental Product on the market contains it, and you are likely treated with it by your Dental Hygienist semi-annually during your check up.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring compound, normally, but the Fluoride used commercially is likely a byproduct of phosphate fertilizers and not the naturally occurring type.
It has been shown to reduce tooth decay and in small amounts, help re-mineralize teeth. But the FDA, which regulates it, recommends only a small dosage allowable, what they say is too much is "more than what is used for brushing."
If more is ingested than recommended, then it can (ironically) CAUSE tooth decay, spots on the teeth, skeletal fluorosis, and toxicity. Excess Fluoride may lead to hyper-thyroidism, depleting calcium in the blood and bones. It has also been documented as a neurotoxin that affects childhood development.
The FDA having a recommended limit is fine, and a good guide. However, the problem is, Fluoride is added to SO MANY other things besides dental products. It is found in most city water supplies, bottled waters, processed foods and some drugs. It becomes literally impossible to keep track of how much you are ingesting on top of what you are being exposed to in your oral routine.
More studies are needed to determine the full extent of consequences of over-fluoridation of products. However, caution is warranted by the consumer of these products.
Several companies have removed some of these ingredients from their products because of consumer concern and industry pressure. But, some still use them, or just slight variations of them. It is important to always READ THE INGREDIENTS of any product you intend to use in or on your body. If you don't recognize one, pull out your handy search engine and look it up. Seeking out all-natural products, or making them at home on your own, is another alternative to avoiding chemical poisons!
What about the Planet?
First, consider the health of it's inhabitants. There are not very many (if any at all) Oral Care products which you use and swallow. Therefore, the waste from the use of that product has to go somewhere. That somewhere is generally in the form of spit, into one's sink, and rinsed out into the wastewater system.
Now consider the list of artificial ingredients that were listed above, and that the product you may be using may have some of these for ingredients. If that is true, then the waste you are rinsing down the sink contains them also. A great many of these will be unable to be filtered completely, or at all, before finding their way back into nature in the groundwater supplies and oceans of the world.
Just look at the compound Triclosan. According to a CDC study (2012), it has been found in 58% of waterways. Specific studies are needed to determine the effect on marine life, but one concept holds true, if it affects any such life, it can affect the entire food chain, right up to humans.
If this consequence wasn't enough, think about all of the waste which is generated by oral care products annually:
Most municipal recycling programs do not accept used toothpaste tubes because they are too difficult to clean before processing. Therefore, they wind up decomposing in a landfill for hundreds of years. The same with plastic toothbrushes, as they have been exposed to your mouth and thus are too expensive to process.
Most commercially available Dental Floss is made from Nylon or some other synthetic material. It is not recyclable, and generally coated with some kind of wax to make it easier to use. If you floss with this type daily, once or twice or more, then you are contributing yards of this waste "floss" to landfills yearly!
Since plastics do not Bio-Degrade, this buildup of plastic waste can become a problem. Although eventually, after several hundred years, they may decompose, all they are really doing is becoming smaller and smaller versions of the original material. These so-called "Micro-Plastics" can have an enormous negative impact on the environment and food chain, being easily ingestible and found in the water supplies of the world.
Consumers should look for viable alternatives to these products to help mitigate some of these consequences to future generations. Toothpaste tubes made from recyclable materials, or even Bio-Plastics so they can bio-degrade and not affect future generations. There are toothbrushes made from materials such as Hemp wood and Bamboo that disappear from the environment quickly as well. Floss can be made from natural materials which are just as strong and effective as synthetics suck as Silks and Cottons.
Our health and our Planet's health are important. We want to live long, fruitful lives free from disease and complications. Most of us want to leave a world in which our descendants can do the same.
If these are important, then we as humanity and as individuals need to be knowledgeable about and remain aware of what we are putting into our bodies and our ecosystems. By cutting out the synthetic ingredients with questionable side effects and being cognizant of our daily routines, we can accomplish this and forge healthy and helpful habits. We can do it now of our own volition, or wait until we are forced to by circumstance. Which seems preferable to you?
What do you think? Tell us in the comments below.
Triclosan: Is this Hazardous Toxin in Your Toothpaste?; By Annie Price, CHHC
February 29, 2016
What is sodium lauryl sulfate and is it safe to use?; By Yousuf Mohammed, December 8, 2019 1.52pm EST
How to Avoid Toxins in Your Toothpaste: 12 Ingredients to Ditch Now; By Mark Burhenne, DDS | February 28, 2019
The Dark Side of Propylene Glycol: Side Effects And How to Avoid Them; By Thomas Ropp, Published: March 7, 2017
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