As consumers, how are we supposed to determine if an oral hygiene product’s ingredients are safe to use from a whole-body perspective?
Every week we are blessed to receive emails from people worldwide who ask for our thoughts on various ingredients in oral hygiene products. We have fun researching all of the crazy stuff that’s used in the market.
In this article, we’ll share the process that we use when researching specific oral hygiene ingredients. We hope this adds to your informational toolkit and helps you to make wiser, more informed decisions.
First, let’s debunk a commonly held belief that can undermine our ability to properly evaluate the safety of an oral hygiene product’s ingredients.
Debunking the #1 oral health myth…
We consider the statement, ‘what goes in the mouth, stays in the mouth’ to be the #1 cultural myth concerning oral hygiene products.
While it seems like common sense that we can put something into our mouth, spit it out, and it won’t go into the rest of the system, it’s not true.
It’s a myth.
We first introduced this myth in our free video tutorial series, the 5 Steps to a Healthy Mouth.
As we discuss in our article, ‘How to Tell if Your Oral Hygiene Products are Holistic or Not‘, when we put something into our mouth, it is absorbed into the bloodstream through the cheek and gum tissue.
Sure, it’s true that we don’t absorb as much of an ingredient through the oral tissues as we would if we’d swallowed it. But the fact remains that at least some of whatever we put into our mouths is going to get absorbed into the bloodstream and enter the rest of the body.
With this new awareness in place, let’s take a look at a few questions you can ask to help determine if a product ingredient is safe to use in the mouth.
How to determine if an oral hygiene product ingredient is safe
When we research a given ingredient, we like to sift through the marketing clutter by walking through the following thought process:
- What’s the impact of this ingredient in the mouth? What do both sides say about the risks and benefits?
- What’s the impact of this ingredient ‘downstream’? How does this ingredient interact with the rest of the body?
- What is this ingredient trying to accomplish? Is there another ingredient that could be used to achieve a similar benefit without the potential risks?
Before we review some practical examples of this process, let’s introduce a commonly-applied scientific principle that we find very helpful…
The precautionary principle
The ‘precautionary principle’ is a term used to illustrate the importance of applying ‘informed prudence’ toward a new or unfamiliar process or technology. In other words, if we’re not sure of the effects of a new product or process, we should take action to err on the side of caution or steer clear of it altogether.
Unless there is consensus among the scientific community on a given subject, the precautionary principle suggests that it’s best to wait and study it more rather than jump in and regret it later.
For example, overall, the precautionary principle was not applied when genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were introduced into the earth biome. However, some authorities have since referenced the precautionary principle as they prevented GMO foods from being imported into their countries.
How does this apply to oral hygiene products?
We like to pass all new ingredients through our ‘precautionary principle filter’ to make sure that we aren’t agreeing to become guinea pigs for new ingredients that may cause harm.
It’s not a perfect filter. We commonly have to ‘rank’ the relative importance of some research. We also have to read between the lines to try to figure out whether some research was funded by organizations that have an interest in slanting the data.
However, when it comes to questionable ingredients, keeping the precautionary principle in mind helps us to lean toward, ‘wait and see’.
So with these pieces in place, let’s take a look at a couple of common oral hygiene product ingredients.
Why not start with perhaps the most inflammatory ingredient?
What’s the impact of fluoride in the mouth? What do both sides say regarding the risks and benefits?
Supporters say that fluoride is included in many formulas to make tooth enamel harder (and therefore, more resistant to decay). Many clinical trials show this.
However, those who aren’t in favor of fluoride will point out that the tooth structure created by introducing fluoride isn’t the same as that of a natural tooth.
They will also note that when speaking about teeth, harder may not always be better, and they’ll point toward a potential correlation between fluoride use and an increased risk of fracturing the tooth.
What’s the impact of fluoride ‘downstream’?
Fluoride is known to disrupt every enzyme in the human body. There is no known use of fluoride in mammalian species.
What’s fluoride trying to accomplish? Are there other ingredients that can help without the potential risks?
Fluoride is used as an anti-cavity agent. Thankfully, there are other ingredients that can function as an anti-cavity agent and that don’t have the recognized risks of fluoride.
Given this, looking through the ‘precautionary principle filter’, we used no fluoride in any of our OraWellness product formulas. From our point of view, the risks of fluoride exposure outweigh the benefits.
If you’d like to take a deeper look at why we don’t appreciate fluoride, here’s an article we wrote many years ago titled, ‘Fluoride is Good for You‘. It was published by our friend, Sean Croxton of Underground Wellness. Warning: it’s written in a satirical format. 🙂
Also, here’s a link to our article, ‘Is Fluoride Safe to Use?“
Now let’s examine what may be a ‘healthy’ alternative to fluoride.
What’s the impact of xylitol in the mouth? What do both sides say about the impact in the mouth?
A staggering number of studies show that xylitol inhibits decay and supports surface remineralization. Some studies focus on how xylitol helps balance the oral flora by deactivating strep mutans, the main ‘thug bug’ implicated with tooth decay.
Others show how xylitol is drawn into areas of decay and encourages remineralization of underlying tooth tissue. ‘In the mouth’, the research strongly points to benefits.
What’s the impact of xylitol ‘downstream’?
Here is where we find research on both sides of the discussion. On the risk side, some research suggests problems with the production of xylitol.
Others point at studies that show that consuming large quantities of xylitol can cause gas and bloating in the GI tract.
But what’s really going on here in the gut microbiome?
Some experts suggest that xylitol is a prebiotic (food for healthy bacteria in the gut) and that the initial GI stress from xylitol goes away after regular use. Perhaps most notably, studies show that regular use of xylitol causes a change in the gut bacteria, leaning away from disease-causing microbes and toward a healthier balance of gut bacteria.
What’s xylitol trying to accomplish? Do other ingredients exist that offer the same benefits without the potential risks?
Xylitol and fluoride offer similar benefits. Xylitol helps reduce the risk of new decay by supporting a healthier balance of oral flora and helping to remineralize already-existing decayed tissue.
If we apply the ‘precautionary principle filter’, we find that the risks are nonexistent for use in the mouth. Also, given the super small quantities that are being absorbed, any potential risks ‘downstream’ are marginal.
However, while we’re on board with using xylitol for oral hygiene products, we’re still hesitant on using xylitol as a sugar replacement in recipes and consuming larger quantities of it.
If you’d like to read a more thorough review of the risks and benefits of xylitol, here’s a link to our article titled, ‘Is Xylitol Safe to Brush With?‘.
OraWellness Product Solutions
If you’re looking for some oral hygiene products to help support your oral health without causing negative effects ‘downstream’ in the rest of the body, feel free to check out our two toothpaste alternatives, the HealThy Mouth Blend and Shine Remineralizing Tooth Whitening Powder.
For more information on our blend, we invite you to read our articles, ‘What’s in the HealThy Mouth Blend? (and why is it so effective?)‘ and, ‘Are essential oils safe to use in the mouth?‘.
Also, here’s link to a video and page that explain how Shine works, and here’s an article that shares some tips for using the HealThy Mouth Blend and Shine together.
If you’d like additional support to help remineralize your teeth, you can also download our FREE resource guide, “How to Remineralize Your Teeth”.
And of course, you could always create your own oral hygiene products so you can control each ingredient. Here’s a link to our article, ‘How to make a DIY remineralizing tooth powder (that really works)‘.
We hope you find benefit from this simple process for performing a holistic analysis of oral hygiene product ingredients.
Please feel free to share your research on any ingredients you’ve investigated. Which ingredients do you consider safe? Which are questionable or even downright nasty to you?
Please comment below to share your thoughts and any analysis you do. That way, we can all continue to learn from one another.
5 Steps to a Healthy Mouth [[free video tutorial series]]
How to Tell if Your Oral Hygiene Products are Holistic or Not [article]
Is Xylitol Safe to Brush With? [article]
How to Balance Your Oral Flora [article]
Is Fluoride Safe to Use? [article]
HealThy Mouth Blend [product solution]
What’s in the HealThy Mouth Blend? (and why is it so effective?) [article]
Are essential oils safe to use in the mouth? [article]
Shine Remineralizing Tooth Whitening Powder [product solution]
How Does Shine Work? [video resource]
Can I use the HealThy Mouth Blend and Shine together? [article]
How to Stop Tooth Decay and Remineralize Your Teeth [free ebook]
How to make a DIY remineralizing tooth powder (that really works) [article]
Fluoride is GOOD for you (warning, satire) [article]