Written by Grove Collaborative

Guide to natural toothpaste: Why you should make the switch

Last Updated: October 1, 2020


Protect your smile by ditching the toxic chemicals and switching to a natural toothpaste that offers a healthier clean.

Here at Grove Collaborative, we’re big believers in the power of natural products — both for ourselves and for the planet. But we know making the switch can be daunting, especially if you’re accustomed to conventional products and are new to the world of natural, eco-friendly alternatives. That’s why we’ve created Beginner’s Guides to Natural. Each week, we’ll give you a primer on the ins and outs of transitioning to a natural version of a common household item, plus a few of our favorite brands for making the switch. Let’s get to swapping!

Hopefully, brushing your teeth is part of your daily routine (twice ... right?), and if so, it probably involves a tube of toothpaste. But do you know what you're actually squeezing out of that tube? Questionable ingredients may lurk in your mass-marketed toothpaste — and make it into your mouth and body each time you give your chompers a scrub. We'll give you the lowdown on the benefits of making the switch to natural toothpaste, plus some of our favorite brands for making the transition a squeeze breeze.


Is natural toothpaste as effective as traditional toothpaste?

Did you know that it’s your toothbrush that cleans your teeth, not your toothpaste? It's the manual act of brushing (and flossing) your teeth with a toothbrush (and floss) that removes the plaque and food that leads to tooth decay and gum disease. The toothpaste just helps things along with flavor and fluoride.

In most cases, making the switch to natural toothpaste will provide you with the same level of effectiveness without exposing you to all the nasty bits found in many conventional toothpaste brands.

Harmful ingredients in conventional toothpaste

The whole point of toothpaste is to promote a healthy smile, but do you know what's in your toothpaste? Unfortunately, many of the major toothpaste brands add an array of questionable ingredients to their formulas. Here are some of the worst offenders — before you brush your teeth again, flip over your tube, and see if any of these harmful substances are listed:

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)

This ingredient, which makes toothpaste foam up, commonly causes mouth ulcers and canker sores, and it’s associated with stomach problems and cancer. Worst of all? The foam doesn't actually do anything to clean your teeth.

Triclosan

The FDA has banned the use of triclosan in soap, but it's allowed on the ingredients list of toothpaste. Triclosan is typically used as a pesticide, but in toothpaste, it's used to fight plaque and gingivitis. Triclosan has been linked to cancer, heart disease, bone deformation, and endocrine problems.

Parabens

This class of common preservative is linked to cancer, developmental problems, and reproductive issues. The most common parabens are methylparaben, ethylparaben, isobutylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, isopropylparaben, and benzylparaben.

Propylene glycol

This mineral oil is put in toothpaste to help smooth out its texture, but it doesn't clean the teeth. It has been linked to cancer, reproductive problems, and skin irritation.

What’s the deal with fluoride?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral you'll find in water sources worldwide, such as rivers, oceans, and lakes. It has long been used in toothpaste and mouthwash products because it helps to strengthen tooth enamel and help prevent decay. Some people claim that fluoride can cause or contribute to bone cancer, arthritis, and other health problems, but the research is mixed. However, the FDA does require a warning label on toothpastes that contain fluoride.

Too Much Fluoride

Using too much fluoride toothpaste — more than a pea-sized amount — could cause fluorosis, which leaves dark or light spots on the teeth.

Too Little Fluoride

Fluoride helps prevent demineralization, or the weakening of tooth enamel. Not using any fluoride could speed up demineralization and lead to tooth decay.

Grove Tip

Check your status

Many cities add fluoride to the drinking water. If your city has fluoridated water, you may not need additional fluoride in your toothpaste, depending on your tooth decay risk. You can check the fluoridation status of your water supply if your state participates in the Centers for Disease Control’s My Water’s Fluoride program.

What’s in natural toothpaste?

So if you're ditching the harmful ingredients in conventional toothpastes, what should you look for in the natural alternatives? Check out some of the ingredients you'll find in natural toothpaste — and why those ingredients will help leave you with a clean mouth and a sparkling smile.

  • Spearmint & Peppermint Oil: Eliminates bacteria and promotes a healthy mouth.
  • Green Tea Extract: Fights bacteria and bad breath.
  • Papaya Plant Extract: Aids in teeth whitening.
  • Zinc Oxide & Citric Acid: Fights tartar.
  • Hydrated Silica: Polishes and cleans your teeth.
  • Vegetable Glycerin:Soothes and moisturizes your mouth.
  • Stevia Extract: Natural sweetener.
  • Tea Tree Oil: Fights bacteria and freshens breath.

Natural toothpastes come in all stripes, from fluoride-free toothpaste and whitening toothpaste to natural toothpaste for sensitive teeth. So pick your potion, and give a tube a try for clean teeth, healthy gums, fresh breath, and a beautiful smile.

Sustainability Tip

Switch to recyclable tubes or tube-less tabs

More than a billion toothpaste tubes end up in landfills every year, and the plastic in these tubes can take up to 700 years to dissolve. When making the switch to a natural toothpaste, also consider lowering your environmental impact by opting for a recyclable tube or toothpaste tabs like hello's new charcoal ones, which come in a refillable canister.

The best natural toothpaste brands

Ready to explore the world of natural, sustainable, and eco-friendly toothpaste? These are some of our favorite natural toothpaste brands, as tested (and approved!) by the Grove Collaborative editorial team.

hello

hello first burst onto the scene with a simple concept: naturally friendly toothpaste, free from artificial sweeteners or flavors. Since then, the brand — recognizable for its cheerfully colored, stand-up toothpaste tubes — has expanded into both fluoride and fluoride-free versions, kid-friendly flavors like strawberry and apple, and a cult-favorite line of activated charcoal toothpaste for whitening (don’t be surprised by the black color!), packaged in boxes made from 100-percent recycled paper printed with soy-based ink. hello uses natural antimicrobials such as coconut oil, tea tree oil, and hemp seed oil to fight bacteria, with mint farm-grown in Washington’s Yakima Valley for fresh, pleasant-smelling breath. Plus, the brand encourages you to skype with founder Craig Dubitsky (no really!).

We particularly love: The brand’s latest innovation? Plastic-free toothpaste tabs that come in a refillable container instead of a traditional tube. Simply pop out a tablet, chew, then brush, spit, and rinse like you normally would. Still great for your teeth, but even better for the environment.

Dr. Bronner’s

If you know Dr. Bronner’s, you probably know the brand for its all-in-one approach to personal care and cleaning, with products like its pure castile liquid soaps formulated to serve 18 different needs with a straightforward ingredient list. Its toothpaste is no exception, with just two flavor options (cinnamon and peppermint) and a formula free from fluoride or sulfates — plus common allergens like nuts and gluten — designed to deliver a teeth cleaning with minimal fuss (or foaming), all packaged in a 100-percent recyclable tube and packaging.

We particularly love: Brand founder Emanuel Bronner started Dr. Bronner’s with an emphasis on protecting the environment and unity across religious and ethnic divides more than 150 years ago. The family-run company continues to champion this message, with all profits not needed for business dedicated to progressive causes and charities.

Tom’s of Maine

One of the OGs of the natural toothpaste scene, Tom’s of Maine made the transition to natural toothpaste less daunting for a generation of early adopters, introducing the first toothpaste to the U.S. market in 1975 and eventually debuting a first-of-its-kind recyclable toothpaste tube. Tom’s continues to be one of the most readily available natural brands, gamely jockeying for shelf space against its big-name, conventional counterparts. The brand’s wide-ranging line of toothpastes include options for specific needs, such as sensitive teeth, botanical-based brightening, antiplaque activity, and whitening, with both fluoride-free and fluoride-containing options.

We particularly love: Although part of the Colgate-Palmolive company since 2006, Tom’s of Maine continues to publish an annual “Goodness Report” detailing the brand’s progress towards its sustainability goals, and the brand gives 10% of its profits each year to national nonprofits and community based efforts in Maine.

Make the switch


Looking for more natural personal care how-tos and other sustainable swaps you can make at home? Grove has you covered. From timely topics such as our handwashing and hand sanitizer breakdown to evergreen primers like our simple ways to reduce your plastic use at home, our handy guides are here to answer your most pressing questions. And let us know how if you have any cleaning questions (or share your own tips using #grovehome) by following Grove Collaborative on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

If you're ready to make the transition to natural toothpaste, shop Grove Collaborative's selection of toothpaste for the perfect product for your pearly whites.

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