Adventures in Eco Toothpaste, Or, How Not to Gag When You Brush

blue toothpaste

As you probably already know, it’s not easy being green in the world of personal hygiene. And navigating the world of green toothpaste is a little like trying to find a designer handbag at a thrift store – lots of dodging of formidable land mines (aka shopaholics) who are determined to find that $50 Kate Spade, even if it means blowing up a few people along the way.

Why is it so hard? Well, there’s the mystery that is fluoride and fluoride-free. The anti-fluoride camp thinks fluoride is poison, while the pro-fluoride team thinks it’s the wall between your mouth going medieval. Then you go SLS-free. (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – the component that makes your toothpaste foam up.) It’s enough to make you want to rush out into the yard and start cleaning your teeth with twigs a la the Middle Ages.

But we can help you through the wilderness that is tooth care. Let’s start with fluoride. Did you know? Fluoride is poisonous! Since 1997,  the FDA has required that all fluoride toothpaste carry warning labels.

Don’t believe me? Check out your toothpaste. Mine reads “If more than used for brushing is accidentally swallowed, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away.” What’s worse, since my dentist recently accused me of vigorously brushing away my gums, I am forced to rub a more powerful (possibly nuclear) toothpaste directly on my teeth. This reads, “DO NOT SWALLOW. As with all medications, keep out of reach of infants and children.”

What does the pro-fluoride side have to say about this? For one, fluoride helps prevent and even reverse the early stages of tooth decay. Fluoride blocks the acid produced by the natural bacteria in plaque from dissolving our tooth enamel.

If you choose to forgo fluoride, we have options for you. If you want to keep your toes dipped in the fluoride pool, we’ve got those, too. Some toothpastes below are also free of questionable SLS. But what the following products do have in common is that they all contain natural and/or organic ingredients and they all get moderate to low ratings from the Skin Deep cosmetics safety database.

natural dentist

The Best of the Green: The Natural Dentist Fluoride-Free Toothpaste
We really dug this toothpaste. It gives you a mouth full of minty cooling, and it tastes great with a peppermint sage tinge to it. Not to mention, the minty taste lasts. As stated, it is fluoride free. It contains no artificial ingredients and is SLS free. It has natural aloe vera gels, Xylitol (a sweetener and plague remover,) Echinacea, and more.

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The Close Runner Up: Weleda Plant Gel Toothpaste

This product has an interesting minty, almost candy-like taste to it. It’s also pleasantly foamy for a natural toothpaste. It claims to have “an invigorating taste of lively mint and citrus fruits” that will refresh you. And, well, it does! The toothpaste contains natural essential oils such as chamomile and is fluoride and SLS free. Weleda sources its ingredients from biodynamic farming and practices fair trade corporate policies.

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The Best Gateway into Green: Clean and Gentle SLS and Fluoride Free Toothpaste by Tom’s of Maine
Tom’s of Maine is the old standby for green toothpaste. Many of us were brushing away with it years before we’d given thought to a carbon footprint. And like the Grandma of Industry it is, performance is pretty old school. It has a minty taste that foams up and reminds you more of the Crest/Colgate experiences. (Which makes sense because Tom’s of Maine is owned by Colgate.) However, it does have a bit of a chalky aftertaste. It is free of fluoride and SLS. It contains Xylitol and “the foaming properties of glycyrrhizin or purified licorice root.”

kiss-my-face-tartar-control-toothpaste

Aloe Vera Oral Care – Tartar Control Toothpaste by Kiss My Face
Unfortunately, this toothpaste did not fare as well as the others. One tester laments that it left his mouth clean “but tastes like brushing with Ricola lozenges.” Another says “it was too slimy and didn’t give the after-brush clean zing.” It is certified organic, and free of fluoride and sodium lauryl sulfate. It contains xylitol, silica, and olive leaf extracts.

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The Old Green Stand By: Estrella Toothpaste
This toothpaste is interesting. Frankly, the taste is mostly chalky with a tea tree oil kick. Sound strange? Try it and you will see exactly what I mean. But it is fairly healthy in terms of toothpastes. Estrella contains no harsh chemical ingredients like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. It also contains the mysterious Herbal Brite complex, which is apparently aloe vera, green tea, and yerba mate.

aucrop

The Matter of Taste: Ayurvedic Herbal Toothpaste by Auromere
This product, well known by greenies, is fluoride, SLS and gluten free. Its ingredients include fine chalk, peelu (an ancient tooth care herb) and neem. This product is Ayurvedic, which translates into “the science of life.” This is the ancient system of promoting health and rejuvenation with natural herbs and minerals that began over 3000 years ago. So you’re getting a pretty granola product.

But how does it taste? It does have a minty edge to it, but the predominating taste is licorice. If you are a fan, great. I am not, so I spent the minutes after brushing licking the roof of my mouth like a dog working through peanut butter. It is free of fluoride, gluten, bleaches, artificial sweeteners, dyes, bleaches, animal ingredients and artificial preservatives.

Image: Mauren Veras

Katherine Butler

Katherine Butler is the Beauty Editor of EcoSalon and currently resides in Los Angeles, California.