I’ve been working on some new toothpastes to flesh out my range at The Apothecary , and I realised I had so much to say about them that I needed to devote a whole post to the topic! I use the Spotless toothpaste  as my base recipe for The Apothecary toothpaste range. I wrote quite a bit about the benefits of the main ingredients of that recipe when I first added it. But I didn’t say that much about how this toothpaste differs from what you’re getting in most commercial toothpastes.
There are many toxic and dubiuos ingredients in “ordinary” toothpaste, but some of the most common and problematic are:
- sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) which is a harsh detergent that provides the foam;
- hydrated silica, a crystal compound which provides the abrasive action that does most of the cleaning;
- sodium saccharine, an artificial sweetener, added to give toothpaste its artificial sweetness;
- sodium fluoride, a toxic form of fluoride which is the only “active” ingredient of toothpaste and is added to help build tooth enamel;
- microbeads, tiny insoluble polyethylene beads (plastic balls) added to assist with cleaning and to provide a good flow and silky feel.
So, what is wrong with these?
Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS)
SLS is a known irritant that degenerates cell membranes. Have you ever considered why we need toothpaste to lather up? We don’t – we have just come to associate foam with cleaning action. SLS promotes mouth ulcers and compromises the delicate, super absorbant mucous membranes of the mouth. It is routinely used in clinical studies as the “Standard Dermatological Irritant” by which to measure other suspected irritants or to purposely irritate the skin in order to test the effectiveness of soothing lotions. SLS also messes with our taste buds, resulting in many foods tasting strange after brushing. SLS is ubiquitous in “ordinary” cleaning and “care” products because it foams up so well. If you suffer from itchy, dry, irritated skin, ulcers or a flaky scalp, SLS may well be the culprit. Do you really want to put this in your mouth?
Hydrated silica is a hard, insoluble abrasive mineral found in sand and flint. I always chuckle when critics of using bicarb (baking soda) in toothpaste say it is too abrasive and may damage teeth. The best way to measure a mineral’s abrasiveness is to test its ability to scratch another substance, or be scratched by it. The Moh’s scale of mineral hardness  is a scale of exactly this. Diamonds (the hardest known mineral when the scale was invented) scores 10 on the Moh’s scale and talc scores 1. Silica’s hardness scores about 7, and tooth enamel (apatite) scores 5, meaning that silica will scratch teeth. Perhaps this explains why the mis-named “toothbrush abrasion” (read “toothpaste abrasion”) is such a common cause of dental interventions. Bicarb (baking soda) scores 2.5 on the Moh’s scale, meaning it will clean your teeth without scratching them.
There is much debate and controversy over the safety of this artificial sweetener and whether or not it causes cancer. What is certain is that it has no benefits for teeth. Xylitol (which sweetens the Spotless recipe and The Apothecary toothpastes), on the other hand, is a natural sweetener that is excellent for teeth for a number of reasons, which I’ve written about previously . It both inhibits plaque and promotes the re-mineralisation of teeth.
This toxic ingredient is a by-product of fertiliser production classified as hazardous waste. As well as toothpaste, it is used as an insecticide and in chemical and biological weapons. The lethal dose for an adult is about four to ten grams. While it seems indisputable that fluoride helps teeth to take up the minerals they need to rebuild enamel, fluoride is also a toxin and sodium fluoride is its most dangerous form. My recipe includes naturally-occurring calcium fluoride instead, which is the form of fluoride found in natural, untreated waters. It is slightly less toxic than table salt. Calcium fluoride is the safest form of fluoride because of its extreme insolubility and because calcium is an antidote to fluoride poisoning.
These small plastic beads cannot be filtered out of waste water and end up in the sea. They do not biodegrade, and as they age they become sponges for other toxins and are taken up by filter feeders and other sea creatures who absorb them or eat them, mistaking them for plankton. The plastics kill these creatures and /or are passed through the food chain, often ending up where so many fish do: on our plates. Microplastics are added to many lotions, exfoliants and other “care” products, especially toothpaste. Watch this  to learn more.
of all these truly horrid ingredients, my recipe is based on antimicrobial coconut oil, so that you can benefit from the ancient technique of oil pulling, and bicarb (baking soda) to gently scrub and clean your teeth and gums. It is sweetened and enriched with xylitol and fortified with the minerals, trace minerals and tissue salts your body needs to re-mineralise and heal enamel. Essential oils each add their own flavours as well as some potent extra benefits for teeth, gums and breath.
In my book, that’s plenty of reasons to give it a try, even if at first the sensation is unfamiliar and the taste seems strange. After years of using it at home, my children refuse to use anything else. I occasionally find one of them literally eating it out of the jar! (And that’s totally fine.) Have a go: in the long run, you’ll be smiling.