Purchasing a crisp new tube of toothpaste can be such a good feeling. Before you make a decision on which toothpaste to buy and get to brushing your teeth, though, you should know the ingredients to look for, and which to avoid.
A good toothpaste should have ingredients that deliver several key benefits in one formula, including plaque build-up and cavity prevention, gentle abrasion, whitening, sensitivity protection, freshening breath, and great taste.
However, it can be difficult to determine the purpose and function of toothpaste ingredients, and even more difficult to know which should be avoided all together.
To help you make a smart decision when choosing your next tube of toothpaste, here's a rundown on the toothpaste ingredients you should look for, and the ones to stay away from.
Which Ingredients Do You Want in Your Toothpaste?
First, let’s talk about good toothpaste ingredients. Here is a list of a few absolutely necessary ingredients to look for in your toothpaste, as well as their benefits.
Our teeth need strong enamel, and sodium fluoride is the most effective and science-backed ingredient available to help prevent painful cavities and strengthen your tooth enamel for strong, healthy teeth.
Toothpaste without fluoride isn't necessarily a deal-breaker (fluoride-free hydroxyapatite toothpaste can still remineralize enamel), but remember that sodium fluoride is the only ingredient of its kind that can cling to your teeth, blocking bacteria and plaque from settling onto your enamel. (Read more about the benefits of fluoride.)
We dare go a bit further and say that, if you have dental strength concerns or are experiencing signs of tooth decay, you may want to schedule an exam and cleaning with your dentist where a fluoride treatment can be administered, for an extra enamel boost.
Hydrated Silica + Pentasodium Triphosphate
These delicate silicates work together to polish unwanted surface staining from your teeth, brightening them daily back to a beautiful natural white. Meanwhile pentasodium triphosphate gently removes plaque build-up. The result is a clean, glistening smile.
Gentle abrasives like hydrated silica are a great alternative to whitening your teeth with harsh bleaches and peroxides. While you may see quick results from these harsher methods, they can compromise the integrity of your teeth. It is best to whiten with a daily toothpaste that will brighten your smile without sacrificing strength.
A combination of vitamins like Vitamin A (as Retinyl Palmitate), Vitamin C (as Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate), and Vitamin E (as Tocopherol) will work together to fight free radicals, strengthen your gums, promote collagen production, and maintain good bacteria levels for a healthier mouth. These antioxidants are a-ok!
Potassium nitrate helps prevent painful sensitivity by blocking the nerves of your teeth from exposure to discomfort. It usually takes a week of usage before results are seen and felt, but you can be certain each time you brush that your teeth are becoming healthier and stronger.
Extracts like Aloe Vera, Lavender, Wintergreen, and Peppermint are always welcome in our toothpaste. Aside from their natural breath freshening properties, healing blends of botanicals like these can help soothe inflammation, reduce pain, and hydrate your gums.
Here is one of our all time favorite toothpastes, which just so happens to contain vital ingredients, and none of the yucky stuff you don't want.
Toothpaste Ingredients You Need to Avoid
Speaking of the yucky stuff, let’s talk about toothpaste ingredients to avoid and the reasons why.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
Sodium lauryl sulfate, also frequently called SLS, is a foaming agent found in many toothpastes available for purchase. While SLS may be marketed as an all natural ingredient, due to being derived from coconut oil, this agent becomes toxin contaminated during its manufacturing process.
Some of the main concerns with using SLS in toothpaste, besides being tested on animals and all that toxin talk we just did, are possible irritation of the mouth and gums, the possibility of your mouth drying out from use, the appearance of canker sores, a reduction in taste receptors, and dry skin. These possible side effects aren’t worth it for a little foam, if you ask us.
PEGS is another term given to polyethylene glycol, a type of synthetic polymer which is often used as a humectant in toothpaste. While the initial reason that polyethylene glycol was introduced into toothpaste makes sense, the benefit does not nearly outweigh the risks. polyethylene glycol is used to stabilize the consistency of solutions. In the case of toothpaste, polyethylene glycol works to keep it from running off of your toothbrush into a sink puddle. Indeed, a paste seems better for brushing than a puddle.
However, polyethylene glycol has been linked to endocrine disruption, and is the first ingredient found in antifreeze. We don't want our toothpaste to freeze, but we also don't want to ingest antifreeze, so we’ll leave that one out, thanks.
Parabens are a relatively common ingredient to find in cosmetics, and you may also find them as part of your toothpaste. Operating as a preservative, parabens are chemicals that can act like estrogen in the body, as well as potentially causing cancer. Furthermore, developmental, and reproductive issues may arise in users of parabens.
When browsing the health and beauty aisles at your favorite store, you may notice shampoo and conditioner bottles boasting their lack of parabens. If there is no need for parabens in your shampoo, it’s a good sign that it should be left out of your toothpaste as well.
Carrageenan is an ingredient that is derived from red seaweed. Sounds natural, right? The truth is, while carrageenan is used to thicken toothpaste, it can also cause inflammation of the gastrointestinal region, possibly resulting in ulcers or even colon cancer. If you’re vegan or cruelty-free, you should know that these findings came about from testing on laboratory animals. Furthermore, insulin resistance and glucose intolerance have occured in mice after exposure to carrageenan.
The purpose of including triclosan in toothpaste, as well as other personal care products, is to reduce the chance of bacterial contamination. Once again, this sounds like a good intention, right? It is not so great when you consider that triclosan has been linked to hormonal imbalance stemming from thyroid production as well as a resistance to antibiotics. Sorry folks, triclosan is also tested on animals, (animals that, by the way, developed tumors from exposure).
Alcohol in toothpaste is drying. That may not sound like a big deal, but a dry mouth is a susceptible mouth, vulnerable to bacteria that wants to stick around on your teeth and turn into plaque build-up. Alcohol-free toothpaste is recommended to make sure that your mouth is able to produce the necessary amount of saliva that your mouth needs to naturally rinse unwanted invaders from your teeth and gums. Alcohol promotes decay, so it’s best to keep it away.
Sugar in toothpaste is an all around bad idea. Sure. sweet tasting toothpaste may lure children and adults alike into a more frequent bruising habit, but is it worth it? Sugar is one of your teeth’s greatest enemies, so you can imagine that brushing it onto your teeth is a bad idea.
There are other options for flavoring toothpaste without the use of sugar. Check out this sugar-free and dare we say delicious toothpaste from Twice. Keep your sweet tooth safe while you brush the bacteria away.
Gluten is not an issue for everyone, but if you are gluten intolerant, you want to make sure that you are brushing with a product that is good for you and gluten-free. The problem is that not all toothpaste ingredient lists make it easy to spot ingredients containing gluten. Your best bet is to talk to your dentist or find a product you can trust by a company that is open about what goes into their toothpaste.
This is just one of the reasons we love Twice. They clearly list all the goodies you can find in their toothpaste on each product page, as well as cluing you in on the stuff you don’t.
How to Find the Right Toothpaste
Some toothpaste companies don’t list their ingredients on the tube, so once you’ve thrown away (or hopefully recycled) the box, you are in the dark about what you’re brushing with.
Thankfully, companies like ours are upfront about all the effective ingredients that go into each carefully formulated tube of Twice toothpaste, and which unnecessary ingredients have been left out for good. You may have just found a new best friend for your toothbrush!
Check out our full selection of Oral Wellness products to grab a new flavorful favorite, and you’ll see a clear list of what you can expect to find in your toothpaste, mouthwash, or other Twice product.
This page was written or reviewed for accuracy by the Twice Team. Learn more about us.