For most of us, toothpaste is an essential part of our daily oral hygiene routine. For instance, one study found that in 2018, over 54 million Americans used Colgate toothpaste 3 or more times on an average day!
The use of fluoride toothpaste in tooth-brushing has many benefits. For example, one major benefit that fluoride toothpaste brings is a reduction in the rate of tooth decay. However, many kinds of toothpaste also contain an ingredient that you may find surprising: sugar, or some other form of sweetener.
At Barron Family Dental, we want to keep our patients and their families informed and up to date on the best way to care for their teeth. Many of our patients may wonder: why do many toothpaste brands use sugar in their products? Are there sugar-free toothpaste brands out there? Should I be worried about sugar in toothpaste? The following information will answer those questions.
Why is There Sugar in Toothpaste?
The most common form of sweetener used in toothpaste is sodium saccharine. It is actually about 300 times sweeter than sugar, and is known to have carcinogenic properties! So why is it in our toothpaste?
The main reason is to help mask all the unpleasant flavors that come from the other ingredients in toothpaste. In fact, here is a sampling of other ingredients that you’ll find in a typical tube of toothpaste:
- Anti-caries (or anti-cavity) agents like sodium monofluorophosphate, sodium fluoride and stannous fluoride.
- Abrasive agents such as modified silica abrasives or enzymes. Specific examples of these could include calcium carbonate, dehydrated silica gels, and magnesium carbonate.
- Detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate, and sodium N-lauryl sarcosinate.
Of course, there are many other ingredients that can be found in toothpaste as well. However, if you think about abrasive agents and detergents, like those mentioned above, you’ll likely realize that these don’t usually come along with flavors that taste all that great. So sweeteners are added to toothpaste to make it more palatable to the general population. Some types of toothpaste are even fruit-flavored in order to appeal to younger children.
However, there are some brands of toothpaste that don’t make use of sugar or similar sweetening agents.
Which Toothpaste Brands are Sugar-Free?
There are a number of organically-driven toothpaste brands that make it a point to avoid synthetic chemicals as active ingredients in their products. Some of the toothpastes from these companies include:
- Dr. Bronner’s All-One Toothpaste. This is a vegan, non-GMO option that uses organic coconut flour and coconut oil as a mild abrasive agent.
- Weleda: Natural Salt Toothpaste. This toothpaste features a combination of baking soda and salt as its main ingredient, along with some natural herbs and spices like myrrh and organic ratanhia.
- Himalaya Neem and Pomegranate Toothpaste. This toothpaste is 100% fluoride and saccharin free. Instead, it utilizes a natural sweetener called Xylitol that promotes healthy gums, and helps to prevent plaque.
- Tom’s of Maine Antiplaque and Whitening Fluoride-Free Toothpaste. This formula also contains Xylitol as a natural sweetener. Zinc citrate is used to control tartar, and silica is employed for its whitening effect. This toothpaste avoids artificial flavors or sweetening agents, and only uses naturally flavored oils.
These are just some of the many sugar-free toothpastes that are currently available on the market. However, the major toothpaste companies like Colgate and Crest do not offer sugar-free options to their customers. So the question is: should you be worried about the fact that there are sweetening agents included in just about every product from the major brands of toothpaste?
Should You Be Concerned About Sugar in Toothpaste?
Opinions vary regarding the presence of sugar and other artificial sweetening agents in toothpaste.
The American Dental Association (ADA) makes it clear on their website that: “Flavoring agents that cause or contribute to tooth decay (e.g., sugar) may not be contained in any ADA-Accepted toothpaste.” Foods that contribute to tooth decay are known as cariogenic foods. What are the defining characteristics of these cariogenic elements?
Cariogenic foods have 5 basic properties, per the ADA:
- They have a highly fermentable carbohydrate content
- They have a sticky consistency
- They easily break into small pieces in the mouth
- They reduce the pH in the mouth to levels under 5.5
- They are highly processed food products
While sweetening agents like sodium saccharin are much more potent than regular sugar, they do not match the criteria to be considered as cariogenic foods. Therefore they are technically not “sugar.”
On the other hand, while common sweetening agents in toothpaste may not directly contribute to tooth decay, many experts are concerned about other side effects that they could cause. For example, Aspartame, a common toothpaste sweetening agent, is a potential neurotoxin, and could contribute to depression, dizziness, and impaired vision. Its constituent chemicals are known to be carcinogenic in nature.
Additionally, ingestion of small amounts of artificial sweetening agents over time may begin confusing your body by stimulating cravings for more food. It is even possible, though not probable, that sweetening agents could indirectly contribute to serious conditions such as diabetes.
In general, however, such negative effects would be the exception rather than the rule. For most of us, the main takeaway from previously conducted research is that the sweetening agents in our toothpaste will not cause tooth decay, or have verifiable negative consequences for our oral health.
Reach Out to Your Dentist for More Information
While seeing a sweetening agent on the list of ingredients for your toothpaste may be surprising, in most cases, there is no reason to be overly concerned about its inclusion. However, if you do have concerns regarding the use of sugar-like sweeteners in major toothpaste brands, or are worried about the brands that your local dentist uses, reach out to your dentist for more information about possible effects, and alternative options for tooth-brushing.
At Barron Family Dental, we work hard to educate our customers, and ensure that they feel comfortable with their treatment plan when they come to visit us. If you’d like to learn more about the toothpaste products we use in our office, reach out to us today. We’d be happy to answer all of your questions.