Toothpastes containing substances and chemicals harmful for health
Nirapad News : Could your toothpaste be harming your health? That’s the very real concern of a growing group of dentists who believe that far from being an essential part of our daily regimes, many commercial toothpastes contain substances detrimental to our health.
These chemicals have been linked to possible oral and breast cancers, neural and cardiac ailments, as well as mouth irritations, gum damage and environmental pollution.
Dr Toby Talbot is an expert in restorative dentistry and a member of the Royal College Of Surgeons. After more than 35 years in the profession, he believes the products we find on supermarket shelves are often grounded in industrial chemistry rather than medicine.
‘The public are smart, but they need to see past the marketing and be well-informed about what they are buying,’ he says. ‘Some products use a slogan indicating that they are “the leading products used by dentists”, but that’s because they send free products to every dentist in the country.’
Here are the ingredients that most concern Dr Talbot…
DETERGENT THAT CAUSES MOUTH ULCERS
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), causes Dr Talbot much concern. ‘It’s in 85 per cent of toothpastes and is used as a wetting agent (something that allows the paste to spread more easily) that helps the peppermint oil used for flavouring mix with the water contained in the product. Without SLS, these elements would separate in the tube.
‘The problem with SLS is that it opens up the gaps between the mucosal — skin — cells in the mouth, which allows toxins or carcinogens to get in [these can come from all manner of sources including tobacco smoke].
‘Oral mucosa is one of the most delicate tissues in our body and SLS is effectively a detergent,’ says Dr Talbot. This harsh detergent can cause irritation and abrasions or breaches in the skin inside of the mouth, which cause chronic mouth ulcers. ‘If I see a patient suffering with recurrent mouth ulcers, one of the first things I do is prescribe the use of a non-SLS toothpaste,’ he says.
THE CHEMICAL TRICLOSAN WHICH HAS BEEN REMOVED IN THE US
Last year, the company behind Colgate toothpaste removed products containing triclosan — a chemical used to prevent gum disease — from the shelves in the U.S. after the public became aware that a chemical within it was linked to cell cancer growth.
While Colgate insists triclosan is safe in small doses, subsequent findings have also shown toothpaste is an effective vehicle for triclosan to get into the body.
‘Triclosan is used in toothpastes by industrial chemists to stop the formation of bacteria,’ says Dr Talbot. ‘There was an outcry about products containing this ingredient in the U.S last year. It is still present in UK versions, though.
Some animal model studies have shown triclosan has an effect on hormone activity and potential for carcinogenic activity.’
Responding to the controversy, Patricia Verduin, head of Colgate-Palmolive research and development, said: ‘Recent claims that triclosan in Colgate Total can lead to cancer are absolutely untrue. Global regulators have reviewed the issue of carcinogenicity and have concluded that triclosan in consumer products does not pose a human cancer risk.’
WHITENING AGENTS CAN ATTACK YOUR GUMS
‘Whitening uses peroxides and hydrogen peroxide to bleach the teeth,’ says Dr Talbot. ‘They are known to be toxic and irritant to all soft tissues. ‘They damage the mucous membranes in the mouth and can only cause harm to the surface cells of your gums.’
And at the levels and concentrations that are available from over-the-counter products, they often cannot whiten the teeth effectively.
THE TINY BITS OF PLASTIC IN YOUR TOOTHPASTE
‘Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic in some toothpastes that are so small you can’t see them even with a microscope,’ says Dr Talbot. ‘They act as an abrasive to remove stains from your teeth.
‘But they also run through our water treatment centres, get into our water systems and are now finding their way into the food chain. These beads are found inside oysters, mussels, lobsters and fish in the North Sea, the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic. Their effect is similar to that of plastic carrier bags that find their way into the sea and clog up the eco-system.’
Despite all these potentially hazardous chemicals, Dr Talbot doesn’t advocate binning our toothpastes — mostly because the fluoride they contain has transformed the state of our teeth.
‘A little addition of fluoride has made significant inroads to improve dental health and help reduce tooth decay,’ he says.
And his sentiments are echoed in the advice from the British Dental Association (BDA). ‘Use a toothpaste you are comfortable with from a reputable brand that contains fluoride,’ says Damien Walmsley, scientific adviser for the BDA. ‘We know fluoride works well. But once you get into the other ingredients contained within the products, you’re into finer scientific points.
‘Toothpaste companies are very cagey about letting you know what’s in them. It’s almost a trade secret. You may know that Colgate has triclosan in its products, but you won’t know the concentrations, which makes it tricky to analyse.’
This lack of transparency makes it difficult for dentists — let alone consumers — to assess toothpastes.
Dr Uchenna Okoye, clinical director of London Smiling and official dentist of Channel 4’s Ten Years Younger, takes issue with Dr Talbot’s criticism of bleaching agents, saying: ‘You need to know what strength of bleaching gels we are talking about. If the concentration is too high, it will cause problems.’
And, while she agrees with his views on triclosan, she has fewer concerns about SLS.
‘There’s absolutely no credible research so far that shows SLS is linked to mouth cancers, but it is known and has been shown to be linked to mouth ulcers in some people,’ she says.