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Green Your Mouth

Posted Dec 15 2010 8:11pm

This is not what I mean by “green” your mouth. And I'm not saying your should eat broccoli or other dark green veggies which is certainly healthy for your mouth. Green leafy veggies  are one of the most concentrated sources of vital nutrients. This post is addressing ways to clean and green your mouth with toothpaste, dental floss, and mouth wash.  

When I consider whether or not a product is eco-friendly, I take into account two things - the ingredients that are in it plus the packaging that brings the product to you.  There are many ingredients in common personal hygiene products that should be used with caution. Many are unnecessary, like artificial coloring.  Others are known to be bad for both our health and the environment’s health.  We put these products into our mouth which is lined with mucous membranes that can take substances directly into the cells and blood stream.  Also we can easily swallow these substances unintentionally.  Three of the more common suspects found in toothpaste are described here, but there are many others.  

Sodium fluoride is used to introduce fluoride into your toothpaste.  Fluoridation of water or toothpaste is very controversial.  One source says it does not matter what type of toothpaste you use, just so it has fluoride because it fights plaque and cavities.  Other sources say that flouride is a very dangerous additive, even toxic.  Fluoridated toothpastes have a warning on the label saying that if a child under 6 swallows more than the amount recommended, call a poison control center. So you, the consumer, have to be informed and decide if fluoride is for you or not.

Triclosan is a substance that has seen an explosive increase in use.  It is a disinfectant that kills bacteria and fungi.  It is found in soaps (nearly half of all commercial soaps), dental hygiene products, deodorants, plastic and fabric (Microban), plus other products.  The environmental effects are a concern since our rinse water goes down the drain and ends up in local waterways.  There is evidence that when triclcosan accumulates in fresh water streams, fish and frogs have developmental problems. Also, widespread use of Triclosan can lead to the evolution of resistant microbes.  It kills only the weaker bacteria, leaving the stronger resistant bacteria to grow.  Eventually, it will be ineffective and we will have a resistanct microbe.

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate are very common in toothpaste, shampoo,detergents and liquid soaps. They are used as a sudsing agent which many people mistakenly link to cleaning power.  Originally it was used to clean greasy garage floors and cars because it is very strong.  It irritates the tissues in your mouth making the mucus membranes dry out, which in turn makes them more vulnerable to bacterial infections.  It is also linked to developmental and reproduction issues because it is an estrogen mimic. 

Other ingredients commonly found in toothpaste that you should be cautious about consuming:

-hydrated silica-food dyes-hydrogen peroxide-isopropyl alcohol -ethanol-propylene glycol-artificial sweeteners and flavors

There are many toothpastes that strive to be as healthy as possible.  You may have to go to a health food store to buy them, although Tom’s of Maine is usually found in grocery stores.  I bought three brands to test out for this blog.  Here is what I found by reading the box and by using them myself:
Burt’s Bees Natural Toothpaste - fluoride free, certified natural, no animal testing, no sulfates or petrochemicals.  It does have hydrated silica for whitening.  I did not care for the texture which is very gooey and sticky.  I could not tell what the tube is made of.  It looked like metal lined plastic. JASON Sea Fresh - no fluoride, certified organic, no animal testing.  The box is recyclable but the tube is plastic which might be recyclable, depending on where you live.  This one is my favorite because of its texture and taste. Kiss My Face - no sulfates, no artificial colors  or flavors, not tested on animals. It does have hydrated silica for whitening. Some of the ingredients are organic. I liked the taste and texture.  The tube is plastic and might be recyclable depending on where you live.

I had been avoiding Tom’s of Maine because it was bought by Colgate-Palmolive, but I found out through my reading that Tom’s has not changed although owned by a “standard” toothpaste company.  Tom’s has a great philosphy about being sustainable and natural.  Some flavors have sulfates and others do not, so read the package.  Tom’s packaging was the greenest that I found.  Their tubes are aluminum and can be recycled if you cut off the top.When I use up all this other toothpaste, I may return to Tom’s. This is certainly not a scientific or thorough test of toothpastes.  My point is that consumers should read the ingredients and pay attention to the packaging.  Be careful what you put in your mouth and think about the waste when you are done with the product.

What are you going to put your toothpaste on?  An eco-friendly toothbrush, of course!  The greenest toothbrush I have found is the Preserve toothbrush.  The handle is made of 100% recycled plastic, which is recycled Stonyfield yogurt cups.  The plastic package is wood-based plastic, the information sheet is recycled paper, and the toothbrush itself (#5) can be recycled through a special program .  The company that makes them, Recycline, is dedicated to making as small a footprint as possible.   Use simple floss.  There are too many of
these floating in the ocean already.

Eco-friendly floss
Clean in between those teeth with an eco-friendly floss.  I like Eco-Dent GentleFloss because it has the least amount of plastic packaging AND I like the floss.  GentleFloss comes in a recyclable box and it is vegan waxed (not beeswax nor mineral wax). There is some plastic wrapping on or in the box, plus the floss is on a small plastic spool.
Do you use mouthwash?  I do not, maybe I should.  My husband uses it everyday.  If you do use mouthwash, use one that does not have alcohol.  Alcohol is very drying to the membranes inside your mouth.  This makes them more vulnerable to damages and infection. I have noticed that almost every “natural” toothpaste has a matching mouthwash to accompany it, alcohol free, of course.
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