5 Things You Didn't Know Were in Your Toothpaste

Common Ingredients You May Want to Think Twice About

When it comes to toothpaste ingredients, you may be like me—not giving it a lot of thought as long as it tastes good and gets your choppers clean. After all, we’ve been brushing at least twice a day for years now—and so far, so good, right? Well . . . maybe.

We recently decided to take a look at a few of the most common ingredients in some of the big name brands. While this list is by no means exhaustive, here are five you should know about.


Sulfates: SLS and SLES

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are synthetic cleaning agents added to toothpastes, soaps, shampoos and detergents to make them foam. But:

  • SLS irritates the skin, eyes and respiratory tract, and it’s hazardous to marine life.
  • SLES has the same hazardous effects as SLS and comes with a kicker: it’s often contaminated by 1,4 dioxane during manufacturing, which has been shown to cause cancer.

According to DentalBuzz.com, toothpaste doesn’t contain enough of either of these surfactants to adequately remove the stuff that accumulates on your teeth anyway. It might be best to avoid sulfates altogether. The best advice is to brush more thoroughly—for at least two minutes.



Triclosan is the same antimicrobial that’s used in some hand sanitizers. And while it’s currently found in only one big-name toothpaste in the U.S., Colgate Total, we thought it worthwhile to mention here. Triclosan has been shown to:

  • Encourage growth of cancer cells
  • Impair muscle function
  • Impair the ability of muscles—like heart and skeletal muscle—to contract

It’s also a known endocrine-disruptor. But because it’s a germicide, Colgate-Palmolive is able to claim that it is the “only toothpaste approved by the FDA to help fight plaque and gingivitis.”



While research is still ongoing, large amounts of fluoride in your drinking water may not be good for you.

But what about fluoride in toothpaste? What impact might that have, especially on youngsters whose teeth are still developing? According to Ocean Pediatric Dental Associates, pre-school-aged children who ingest too much fluoride could suffer from dental fluorosis, which can result in a chalky white or brown discoloration of permanent teeth. They recommend the following steps to ensure children, especially, are not over-fluoridated:

  • Place only a pea-sized drop of children’s toothpaste on the brush when brushing
  • Be aware of all sources of ingested fluoride before requesting fluoride supplements
  • Use baby tooth cleanser on the toothbrush with very young children
  • Obtain fluoride level test results for your drinking water (check local water utilities)



Some toothpaste manufacturers originally included these tiny plastic beads to add color. However, the tiny beads have now been listed as a toxic material by Canada and banned by the U.S. due to their environmental impact. But the U.S. ban doesn’t go into effect until next year, and as reported by Mother Jones magazine, some brands still contain them. According to some dental professionals, microbeads in toothpaste:

  • Can irritate gums if they get trapped beneath gum tissue.
  • Can trap bacteria in gum tissue, possibly leading to periodontal disease and/or gingivitis.


Artificial colors

Many toothpastes contain ingredients like Blue #2 or Blue #1, which may be inadvertently be swallowed during brushing. Included for esthetic reasons only, these artificial colors do nothing to protect or clean teeth or to alleviate bad breath. Always read labels carefully—some artificial dyes have been shown to enter the bloodstream through the skin as well as the digestive tract, and have been linked to:

  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • ADHD
Toothpaste on a toothbrushDid You Know?
Just a pea-sized amount of toothpaste is about all you need. And brush for at least two minutes to make sure you don’t miss any spots!

Dental Buzz: Toothpaste can do more harm than good
News USA: Toothpaste Ingredients Dentists Say to Avoid
Healthy Child Healthy World: Skip Products Made With SLES (and SLS, too!)
The Atlantic: Hand Sanitizer May Impair Muscle Contraction
Mercola.com: Toxic Toothpaste Ingredients You Need to Avoid
EcoWatch: Antibacterial Agent Triclosan Linked to Growth of Breast Cancer Cells
Newsweek: Is Cancer Lurking in Your Toothpaste? (And Your Soap? And Your Lipstick?)
Collective Evolution: Triclosan Found In Colgate Total Toothpaste Linked To Cancer & They’re Still Putting It In There
BeWell: Flouride Warning: Toothpaste Dangers
American Cancer Society: Water Fluoridation and Cancer Risk
Movement Blog: U.S. Passes Law Banning Plastic Microbeads
The Washington Post: Why dentists are speaking out about the plastic beads in your toothpaste
Mother Jones:
These 19 Big-Name Toothpastes and Face Scrubs Will Be Forced to Ditch Tiny Bits of Plastic

LiveStrong: The Health Dangers of Food Dye Blue No. 2
Fox News Health: New fear about food dyes
CBC News: Microbeads listed as ‘toxic substance’ en route to ban
Chemical Watch: Canada adds microbeads to list of toxic substances

comment_2Have you given much thought to what’s in your toothpaste? Or your children’s? We’d love to hear from you! Just leave us a comment below.
Do you brush your teeth for two minutes or longer?

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