Have you been trying to lead a more natural life? Your grocery list may be full of locally produced foods, and your cleaning supplies may be free of artificial compounds — but what about your personal care products? When it comes to an item such as toothpaste, you want to feel confident that it will work before changing your routine. Nobody wants to be caught with bad breath, or worse, face cavities and other oral health issues in the future.
The truth is, natural toothpaste can be just as effective as traditional toothpaste and offers many benefits. By understanding the differences between natural and traditional toothpaste and how natural ingredients work, you can feel confident choosing a natural option to fit your needs.
What Makes a Toothpaste Natural?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently regulate use of the natural label in personal care products. According to the Environmental Working Group, the FDA has never legally defined the term. Instead, it's up to consumers and manufacturers to decide what natural means to them. Sometimes, what defines a toothpaste as being natural is more about what ingredients are excluded, such as artificial flavors or sweeteners. These ingredients don't impact the efficacy of the product and are considered inactive ingredients by the American Dental Association (ADA).
Tom's of Maine openly shares its definition of natural in its Stewardship Model, which includes using ingredients sourced and derived from nature and using formulas free of artificial flavors, fragrances, colors, sweeteners, and preservatives. Tom's of Maine also upholds ingredient processing that supports a philosophy of human and environmental health and ensures its products are not tested on animals.
Other companies have different definitions of what natural means to them and why they choose to use the natural label, so it's important to know prior to shopping how you choose to define natural for yourself. When purchasing a toothpaste that is labeled as natural, be sure to check the ingredients list to see if it aligns with the ingredients you prefer to use and those you prefer to avoid. You can also educate yourself on how different manufacturers interpret the natural label by checking their company websites.
Does Natural Toothpaste Work?
There was once a time that natural toothpastes were considered a poor substitution for the many benefits found in traditional toothpastes, but this is no longer the case.
In today's natural personal care aisle, you'll find toothpastes claiming to freshen breath, reduce plaque buildup, prevent cavities, address tooth sensitivity, and even whiten teeth. By using innovative ingredients and technologies, natural brands are now able to compete with conventional toothpaste manufacturers.
There are even natural toothpastes available that have earned the ADA Seal of Acceptance. This seal requires scientific evidence to demonstrate both the safety and efficacy of an oral care product and is viewed by dental professionals as the industry's gold standard. Natural toothpastes must also contain fluoride to receive the ADA seal.
Special Properties of Natural Ingredients
Natural toothpastes often include unique ingredients not found in their conventional counterparts, and there is scientific evidence available to support the use of natural ingredients in promoting a healthy mouth feel.
For example, some natural varieties of toothpaste may include propolis, which is a plant resin — sometimes referred to as bee glue — that honey bees collect to repair hives. Propolis has been used as an antiseptic and natural remedy since ancient times, according to a study in PLOS ONE, which may contribute to its effectiveness in oral care products.
Another ingredient you might find in natural toothpastes is licorice root extract, which has been used for centuries due to its antiviral and antimicrobial activities, according to a study in Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica B. In Chinese medicine, licorice root is used to alleviate pain, eliminate phlegm, and relieve coughing. In oral care, it may help freshen breath by reducing foul-smelling volatile sulfur compounds, according to research published in the Journal of Breath Research.
Made with herbal resins propolis and myrrh, Tom's of Maine Fluoride-Free Propolis & Myrrh Toothpaste formula helps promote a naturally clean, healthy-mouth feeling. All the Tom's of Maine natural toothpaste products are made from ingredients sourced and derived from nature.
5 Benefits of Natural Toothpaste
Think about what you currently use to brush your teeth. You may have chosen the product because it was on sale, or simply because it was the product you've used your whole life and it is comfortable. Why switch now? Why use natural toothpaste?
I always feel better about using ingredients when I understand what they are, where they are derived from, and their purpose. Luckily, one of the benefits of natural toothpaste is that many manufacturers provide this information on the toothpaste tube, or on their company website.
Remember, some natural toothpaste companies might list their ingredients with their scientific, Latin names. Don't immediately reject a product just because it contains something you can't pronounce. Did you know that cocos nucifera is coconut? And glycyrrhiza uralensis is simply licorice?
While shopping, keep your phone handy for quick internet searches if there is a word you don't know. Understanding ingredient lists can be intimidating, but once you learn the basics, it gets much easier!
When natural products first entered the marketplace, choosing to use them sometimes meant sacrificing on efficacy. This is no longer the case! Thanks to increased interest in natural products, there is more research being done on the potential uses and benefits of natural ingredients.
Natural toothpastes can also help to address specific dental health problems like sensitive teeth. There are even natural toothpaste varieties that claim to whiten teeth as well as conventional toothpastes. Give a natural product a try to see if the benefits match up.
Sometimes, as a consumer of natural products, I wonder if I am better off making them myself. At least I would know exactly what I put in them. Sure enough, there are plenty of recipes for DIY toothpaste available on the internet. But are they truly safe?
According to the ADA, tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the body. But it can still get worn, exposing the dentin underneath. By purchasing your natural toothpaste from a reputable company, you can rest assured that factors like the Relative Dentin Abrasivity value have been considered, making it safe for your enamel. You will also know that it has been tested to protect against outside microorganisms. Natural toothpastes come with a clear expiration date. For DIY toothpaste, it's a total guessing game!
I admit it. As a mom, I worry more about the products I give to my child than the things I use myself. On more than one occasion I have fed my daughter a balanced meal of whole foods, while simultaneously fueling myself with corn chips. And when it comes to her personal care products, I am especially picky.
By choosing a natural toothpaste company, I know I can trust that the ingredients in my daughter's toothpaste are safe when used as directed. I also appreciate that many manufacturers will put my greatest concerns at ease by including front of pack messaging around artificial flavors and artificial dyes.
5. The Environment
For many natural toothpaste companies, a commitment to natural ingredients translates into a respect for the earth. I honestly wish I was further along in my own journey to live a sustainable life. I still find occasionally find myself choosing convenience over what is most environmentally friendly. But buying products that are manufactured responsibly is super easy, and helps me to feel like I'm doing my part.
Of course, the label "natural" does not automatically translate to "earth-friendly". Again, the internet is your friend. Check the website for the natural toothpaste company you are interested in to see if they list any of their environmental practices.
In the end, when choosing a natural toothpaste, the proof is in the health of your family members' smiles. This includes your youngest family members, too! It's never too early to replace your traditional toothpaste with a natural alternative.
Switching to a natural toothpaste might seem like a small step, but think of how often you brush your teeth! This one change can have a big impact. Learn more about making the switch to natural on the Naturally Good Products board by @tomsofmaine on Pinterest!
The views and opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Tom's of Maine.
Why It's Good
When switching to a natural toothpaste, you want to feel confident it will work. Nobody wants to get caught with bad breath, or worse, cavities! Thanks to new research and innovative ingredients, you can trust natural toothpastes to work just as well as traditional toothpastes to protect your family members' smiles.