Understanding Toothpaste Ingredients
A comprehensive understanding of the ingredients that make up the products you expose your body to is key to a healthy and informed lifestyle, and toothpaste is no exception to this rule – especially since manufacturers have been known to hide the presence of potentially harmful compounds in their products even when they pose serious health risks. Thus, reading up on toothpaste ingredients is a good idea if you want to make sure that the products you use are safe and appropriate for use.
In order to promote a more transparent standard in the oral products industry, this page contains a listing and detailed rundown of all of the ingredients in Parla-Pro toothpaste.
What is Tooth Enamel?
Properly understanding what most of these ingredients do requires understanding what teeth are actually composed of, and tooth enamel takes center stage in that regard. It makes up the outermost layer of the teeth, the hard, white surface that provides protection against abrasions and most physical damage.
As people age, the enamel in their teeth becomes more porous, which makes it vulnerable to chipping and breakage. When this happens, teeth are exposed to irritation from acidic foods and drinks, which causes a chemical reaction that can weaken their strength. This leads to cavities and tooth decay, as bacteria begin to eat away at the tooth structure. Most ingredients in oral products like toothpaste, floss, or mouthwash fight this process by either protecting tooth enamel or making the mouth less hospitable to bacteria.
List of toothpaste ingredients in PÄRLA Pro
Fluoride is a mineral that helps prevent cavities, and found naturally in water, soil, foods, rocks, plants and many types of fish. Some nations – such as the United States – also infuse their public water supply with fluoride through a process called water fluoridation in an effort to improve the oral health of the citizenry. Most toothpastes contain fluoride for this same reason – because it helps strengthen tooth enamel.
Hydroxyapatite is a naturally occurring mineral, and one of the key compounds in tooth enamel. It is included in toothpastes because it remineralizes, strengthens, and smoothes out enamel.
Potassium citrate is another ingredient that is very common among most toothpastes. It plays a key role in preventing dental erosion by neutralizing acidic foods. Its basic nature proves doubly useful as a carefully measured amount of potassium citrate can also help neutralize other toothpaste ingredients that – though beneficial – can otherwise be too acidic as well.
Also known as Tocopheryl Acetate, this nutrient is an antioxidant, meaning that it helps protect your teeth against free radicals, which are volatile molecules that can cause damage and premature aging to your teeth and gums. It also helps heal gum inflammation and serves as a minor pain reliever.
Vitamin B12 is another antioxidant that helps keep the body's nerve and immune system healthy and functioning. It’s also one of those nutrients that some people are often lacking, particularly the elderly and followers of certain specialty diets.
Sorbitol is a sugar substitute that comes from berries, plums and other fruits. It acts as an artificial sweetener in many sugarless gums and foods, such as candy, canned fruit, ice cream and chewing gum, and does the same job in toothpastes. It is also used as a humectant and thickener. Unlike proper sugar, this substitute does not promote tooth decay because bacteria cannot metabolize it.
Calcium carbonate is an abrasive ingredient in toothpaste. It helps remove plaque, stains and tartar, but can also be used to whiten teeth. It is explicitly a safe ingredient for daily brushing and has been approved by the FDA for this exact purpose.
Kaolin can serve in a similar capacity as calcium carbonate – a mild abrasive that is used to remove stains and plaque buildup on teeth – but you can also think of it as a polishing agent for your teeth.
Sodium bicarbonate, more commonly known as baking soda, helps to remove plaque. It’s another mild abrasive that works to gently polish the surfaces of teeth and helps remove stains. Baking soda also neutralizes acids in your mouth, which can help make your mouth which, as mentioned earlier, can also help preserve tooth health.
Sodium methyl cocoyl taurate
Most popular toothpaste products, like those sold by Colgate, actually use sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) instead, but sodium methyl cocoyl taurate is a less aggressive alternative that is safer to use on teeth than SLS. It is a foaming and cleansing agent owing to the negative charge on one of the molecule’s ends.
Hydrated silica is a more common ingredient in toothpaste. It is an abrasive that helps break up tartar and plaque on teeth, and also serves the additional purpose of helping to whiten teeth.
Acacia gum is a tree resin that can often be found in gum and certain other foods for its ability to extend shelf life. It’s also an easy, plant-based way to thicken toothpaste and, according to some studies, also helps prevent tooth decay by inhibiting the growth of bacteria that cause cavities.
This is a natural antimicrobial produced by yeast that helps fight bacterial growth on teeth.
Sodium monofluorophosphate is a salt known for its ability to fluoridate (adding fluoride to) teeth, which, as was established further up, helps to protect tooth enamel and prevent dental cavities.
Magnesium stearate is an additive used in toothpaste to improve texture and consistency, specifically by making all the other ingredients interact with each other a bit more smoothly and preventing them from sticking together. It’s commonly used as a lubricant in food, supplements, and pharmaceuticals, including in many of the gel capsules drugs and supplements often come in – so it’s perfectly safe to use.
Mentha arvensis leaf oil
Mentha arvensis leaf oil is an essential oil extracted from the leaves of Mentha arvensis, the peppermint plant. Though mentha arvensis has a number of beneficial qualities including antibacterial properties, its main use in toothpaste is to provide a fresh and minty flavor.
Menthol is an organic compound either made synthetically or obtained from corn mint, peppermint, or other mint oils. It adds a stronger mint flavor to toothpaste and helps freshen breath.
This is another natural, plant-based sweetener that is extracted from the stevia plant and helps adjust the flavor of toothpaste without compromising oral health.
Mentha piperita oil
Mentha piperita oil is the third ingredient derived from the peppermint plant. It's most commonly recognized as a breath freshener, but where toothpaste is concerned, its primary purpose seems to be helping mask the taste of some of the less tasty and more practical ingredients by giving toothpaste its distinct, cool peppermint flavor.
What Toothpaste Ingredients Should You Avoid?
While these are all healthy ingredients to look for, there are also some that actively threaten your oral health in spite of what their frequent inclusion in oral products might suggest. It’s important to be informed about these as well.
Chiefly among these is the aforementioned SLS – studies have shown that SLS has interactions with oral fluoride deposits that decrease their effectiveness to protect tooth enamel. SLS can be found not only on anything you put on your toothbrush, but also in some popular mouthwash products.
Though less common, a chemical called perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS) that has been used in some types of oral floss, has been linked to medical issues including heart disease and cancer, which is problematic because flossing usually results in the absorption of the chemicals that line your floss.