Your toothpaste options have expanded considerably in recent years. Gone are the days when the big questions in the toothpaste aisle were "peppermint or spearmint?" or "Should you branch out and try the cinnamon?" Nowadays, you can choose between regular toothpaste and all natural toothpaste, which contain different ingredients but still claim to clean your teeth and freshen your breath.
The major difference between all natural toothpastes and conventional toothpastes such as Colgate Total® Clean Mint is the ingredients they contain. Although no toothpastes contain sugar – which contributes to tooth decay – conventional products do contain some type of sweetener to improve their taste, such as saccharin. It's significantly sweeter than regular sugar, and its health effects have always been open for debate so naturally, some people prefer to avoid it. All natural toothpastes also have sweeteners, but these ingredients, such as xylitol and stevia, come from herbs.
A natural toothpaste is also less likely to contain artificial or man-made dyes, which often gives gel toothpaste its blue color. Not every type of conventional toothpaste contains artificial colors, though. For example, you won't find dyes in toothpastes that are meant to be white.
Both all natural toothpaste and conventional toothpaste do share some ingredients in common. You may find carrageenan, a thickening agent Tom's of Maine explains comes from red seaweed, in both regular and natural products. Both types of toothpaste also often contain glycerin, which gives the paste its soft texture. Where the glycerin comes from depends on the type of toothpaste. According to Cosmetics Info, it can come from synthetic sources, such as propylene, or from animal and plant-based sources.
Another big difference between certain types of natural and regular toothpaste is whether or not they test on animals or use ingredients that are derived from animals. If you're vegetarian or concerned about animal welfare, it may be important to you to find a toothpaste that doesn't contain animal ingredients. One ingredient that can come from either animal- or plant-based sources is glycerin. The majority of glycerin used today is vegetarian, according to the Vegetarian Resource Group.
If you are concerned about animal ingredients or animal testing, you can always call the manufacturer of the toothpaste to ask about their policies on animal testing.
The Fluoride Question
Although a number of natural toothpastes don't contain fluoride, some do. Fluoride, a naturally occurring tooth-strengthening mineral, is the only ingredient recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA) as a cavity fighter. If decay has already started to occur, fluoride can remineralize your teeth, reversing the decay.
Some people are concerned about the effect of fluoride on their health. The American Dental Association has noted that there is no connection between the fluoride found in toothpaste and brain development.
Whether you decide to use an all natural toothpaste that contains fluoride, one without fluoride or a conventional toothpaste is entirely up to you. Being an informed consumer and knowing what's in each type of toothpaste is what matters. If you have any further questions about natural toothpastes and the benefits or drawbacks of fluoride, feel free to ask your dentist at your next appointment.