Originally posted 2010; Updated Feb. 2016.
Q. I don't care if anyone sees this question, I just didn't know where to ask it. I just recently started to become even more aware of my toothpaste ingredients when I was reading up on oil pulling. Before this I was using a natural brand of flouridated toothpaste. I have recently been using all natural soap and I have found a toothpaste that is flouride and glycerine free. The reason for this is because I read that glycerine can coat the teeth and prevent remineralization and flouride is bad too. My teeth have actually never felt cleaner and I've only been doing it for a few days, I just have this fear that by not using flouride my teeth are going to get cavities. I know it may not be true, but I feel that way because the media tells you to feel that way. I just wanted to know your thought on the subject and maybe some reassurance that I'm doing the right thing. I hope all that made sense. Thanks!
Have you ever thought about developing a REAL all natural toothpaste? I have tried to find an ALL natural one but I have not had any luck. What's your take on fluoride and xylitol ?
A. Thanks for your questions about toothpaste!
Regarding glycerin in toothpaste: While there are a lot of websites that say that glycerin coats teeth and leads to decay/sensitivity, etc, there is absolutely no research or basis in chemistry or biology to back this up. It all started with a rumor that one dentist running a website started. Glycerin is highly soluble in water, so if it were left on your teeth from a toothpaste, it would easily dissolve in your saliva. Additionally, the surfactants and abrasives present in the toothpaste formula, plus the brushing mechanism would remove any glycerin. Finally, glycerin is its own preservative and bacteria can't grow in it; if anything glycerin would help protect teeth due to its bacteriostatic action.
Unlike other ions like sodium, calcium, fluoride is not a nutrient that your body needs. Your body only sees it as a toxin. It can have a protective effect on teeth, however, the side effects of fluoride are numerous and too much fluoride can actually damage your teeth (called fluorosis.) Fluoride levels can actually make your hair fall out. (See this article.)
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that has a significant amount of research behind it regarding safety and efficacy in slowing tooth decay. Here are a few studies:
Xylitol has been found to improve bone health: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24336061
Xylitol has been found to be safe for the liver: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23916161
Xylitol has been found to have antidiabetic effects: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22832597
and to help improve insulin resistance: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22460760
I'll be writing more about it over on our sister site, GroundedOrganic.com
One word of caution with xylitol--if you have dogs make sure that they don't get a hold of anything that contains it. While it is safe for humans, in dogs it can create unsafe spikes and drops in their blood sugar and can be lethal depending on the dose, size of dog, and their individual blood sugar responses.