Ingredients in Your Oral Care Products May Hurt More than Help

Day to day oral care really shouldn’t be rocket science: You brush, floss and rinse twice a day. Seems simple, right? It is to a degree, but it’s important to be aware of what ingredients you are putting in your mouth when you brush your pearly whites. Here are some recent articles that discuss which ingredients to avoid in your oral care products and why.

Many oral care products (especially children’s) such as mouthwash, toothpaste and gum often contain dyes to give them an attractive and bright appearance. There’s nothing wrong with a product wanted to be appealing to eye, right? Well, there might be. According to one article the HealthDay News reports the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will gather a panel of healthcare experts to discuss whether to not these dyes are linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Almost 10 percent of US children from age 4 to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD according to the Centers to Disease Control and Prevention – that’s roughly 5.4 million youngsters in America alone. The link to ADHD and food dyes has yet to be confirmed, but many health experts already suspect a connection. David Schaub, a psychiatric researcher, professor at Columbia University and FDA panel member told HealthDay News that this pending meeting is “a big step forward” in discussing this issue. While the jury is still out, it’s probably best to stay clear of oral care products that contain dyes to avoid the potential risk of excess dye absorption.

Some people may brush, floss and rinse twice a day but shortly after the deed is done, feel that their bad breath comes back. With good intentions, these same people may purchase and use alcohol-based mouthwashes with mint or cinnamon flavors to cure bad breath. As one article states, while these mouthwashes may mute halitosis for a little while, over time they may actually contribute and cause bad breath. Robin Seymour, as restorative dentist told the UK Daily Mail that some mouthwashes may contain as much as 13 percent of alcohol (by volume). The alcohol in mixed with other natural compounds such as menthol to target oral odor and plaque. While this sounds good in theory, Seymour stated that alcohol dries out the palate and tongue, leaving the anaerobic bacteria that cause bad breath to thrive. With time, the cycle of using an alcohol-based mouthwash, drying out the mouth and having the bacteria multiply may actually make the bad breath bacterial strains more resilient and will allow the microorganisms to thrive in the dry mouth environment. Seymour commented that over time, these types of mouthwashes may stain teeth a pale brown.  Seymour also noted a study that was published in the Dental Journal of Australia that links alcohol-rich mouthwashes to an increased risk of oral cancer.

Continuing on research about alcohol-based mouthwash, the UK’s Daily Mail published an article about halitosis named “How Mouthwash Can Give you Bad Breath and Stain Your Teeth”. In the article, one of the studies mentioned was from the Australian Dental Society – also noted above by Robin Seymour. One article calls out the section in which alcohol in mouthwash is discussed. “Alcohol based mouthwash has also been linked to an increase risk in oral cancer. Scientists in a study published in The Dental Journal of Australia in 2009 reported that the alcohol in mouthwash allowed cancer causing substances to permeate the lining of the mouth more easily. Some ingredients in toothpaste such as the foaming agent sodium lauryl sulfate can interact with the fluoride in mouthwash and deactivate it so that it loses its effect.” This excerpt not only talks about alcohol, but also sodium lauryl sulfates (SLS). This means that mouthwash with alcohol not only dries out the mouth and has links to oral cancer, but if you’re also using toothpaste with SLS in it, it may also wash away other beneficial ingredients such as fluoride.

What exactly is SLS? It’s a surfactant which is a form of foaming or wetting agent found in many toothpastes. According to one article past studies have linked the use of SLS to the irritation of gums, undersides of lips and inner walls of the cheeks – basically any skin that the toothpaste may come in contact with. Fariba Younai DDS, a clinical professor of oral biology at the University of California, Los Angeles recently shared her research regarding SLS. Younai reports that SLS can increase the chances of chronic aphthous ulcers (cold sores) for people with compromised immune systems. What does Younai suggest? Avoid products with SLS all together. The professor suggested several brands of toothpaste that are SLS-free. If you suffer from canker or cold sores, definitely look into using toothpastes that don’t contain SLS.

While there is tons of research going on, the bottom line is to be aware of what you put in your mouth. According to the articles above, natural oral care products are the best bet. Avoid alcohol, SLS and dyes in your oral care products. After all, you’re making an effort to have good oral hygiene so make sure that the products you are using aren’t hindering rather than helping that.

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