Antibacterial Toothpaste: Harmful, Helpful, or Harmless?

Antibacterial Toothpaste: Harmful, Helpful, or Harmless?
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Is triclosan in Colgate Total toothpaste safe in regards to the nitrate-reducing bacteria on our tongue and potential endocrine-disrupting effects on thyroid function and obesity?

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Why do dogs lick their wounds? In fact, they even lick our wounds, leading to a question posed nearly a half century ago in the medical literature. Might there be some kind of healing property of dog saliva? Well, it appears that there are a number of immune defense mechanisms in saliva, one of which involves nitric oxide. Licking of human skin results in production of nitric oxide from salivary nitrite, which kills skin pathogens and comes from the nitrates we eat from our diet.

How do we know we get nitric oxide from licked human skin? They had a bunch of volunteers lick their hands all over front and back. Today, we have a better way to clean wounds—called soap and water. And, we should never let our pets lick open wounds, as there are cases of serious infections reported.

The reason I bring it up is because this transformation of nitrates from our diet into nitrites in our mouth has important implications for our health. Insufficient nitric oxide production is recognized as the earliest event in the onset and progression of a number of chronic diseases, including high blood pressure and peripheral artery disease, and a number of inflammatory conditions. If you remember nitrates come from vegetables in our diets: beets and green leafy vegetables. Good bacteria on our tongue convert nitrates into nitrites which can circulate throughout the body to create nitric oxide, and any nitrates our tongue bacteria missed the first time around get pumped by our body back into our saliva to give our tongue bacteria a second chance. So, one way we can become nitric oxide production deficient is to not eat enough vegetables in the first place. So, that should be the first step, but if our tongue bacteria die off, the cycle is broken, no matter how many vegetables we eat.

That’s why we shouldn’t use antiseptic mouthwash. If you remember me profiling this important study, perhaps the largest public health initiative in the Western world has focused on improvement of diet, particularly in those with a high risk of cardiovascular disease, our number one killer. The most protective food for our heart may be green leafy vegetables because, like beets, they have lots of nitrates. And so, if you drink some beet juice, you can get a remarkable drop in blood pressure within just hours, but only if you swallow.

The nitric oxide pathway can be interrupted if you use an antibacterial mouthwash or by spitting and not swallowing because of the critical action of our tongue bacteria on the nitrates in our saliva. So, we have to eat our vegetables and keep our tongue bacteria happy; so, no antibacterial mouthwash, but what about antibacterial toothpaste?

There’s a toothpaste on the market that contains an antibacterial chemical called triclosan. Concern has been raised about the antibacterial mouthwashes, but what about the toothpaste? We didn’t know until this study. Here’s the nitric oxide, nitrite and nitrate levels after brushing with regular toothpaste. And here’s after triclosan toothpaste. No difference. Our good tongue bacteria live in the cracks on the surface of our tongue, and if you just brush your teeth and not your tongue, the chemical doesn’t seem to get down there. So, is triclosan toothpaste safe?

Well, it won’t make your heart miss a beet or beetjuice. The use of triclosan-toothpaste may not be associated with any increase in serious adverse cardiac events. And, though studies on rats suggest the chemical can affect thyroid function, the use of triclosan toothpaste does not seem to affect human thyroid function. A study funded by Colgate—no conflict of interest there—concluded that triclosan was both safe and effective, producing a significant reduction in gingivitis, plaque, and bleeding.  However, an independent review by the Cochrane Group suggests that while the reduction may be statistically significant, it may not be beneficial enough to yield clinical significance.  And, with regard to safety, the reason states are starting to ban the stuff is because of data like these.  Despite the lack of efficacy, the stuff is so ubiquitous that most of the U.S. population is exposed. Because the rapid rise in obesity in the U.S. parallels the introduction of the chemical, and because there are two potential mechanisms by which it might alter human weight—i.e., by mucking with our gut flora or our hormones, researchers at Stanford decided to assess the association between triclosan levels flowing through people’s bodies and how heavy they are, and indeed found an association between triclosan levels and increase in body mass index. They suggest further studies on how this chemical could be altering human growth and wellbeing.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to stevepb via Pixabay.

Why do dogs lick their wounds? In fact, they even lick our wounds, leading to a question posed nearly a half century ago in the medical literature. Might there be some kind of healing property of dog saliva? Well, it appears that there are a number of immune defense mechanisms in saliva, one of which involves nitric oxide. Licking of human skin results in production of nitric oxide from salivary nitrite, which kills skin pathogens and comes from the nitrates we eat from our diet.

How do we know we get nitric oxide from licked human skin? They had a bunch of volunteers lick their hands all over front and back. Today, we have a better way to clean wounds—called soap and water. And, we should never let our pets lick open wounds, as there are cases of serious infections reported.

The reason I bring it up is because this transformation of nitrates from our diet into nitrites in our mouth has important implications for our health. Insufficient nitric oxide production is recognized as the earliest event in the onset and progression of a number of chronic diseases, including high blood pressure and peripheral artery disease, and a number of inflammatory conditions. If you remember nitrates come from vegetables in our diets: beets and green leafy vegetables. Good bacteria on our tongue convert nitrates into nitrites which can circulate throughout the body to create nitric oxide, and any nitrates our tongue bacteria missed the first time around get pumped by our body back into our saliva to give our tongue bacteria a second chance. So, one way we can become nitric oxide production deficient is to not eat enough vegetables in the first place. So, that should be the first step, but if our tongue bacteria die off, the cycle is broken, no matter how many vegetables we eat.

That’s why we shouldn’t use antiseptic mouthwash. If you remember me profiling this important study, perhaps the largest public health initiative in the Western world has focused on improvement of diet, particularly in those with a high risk of cardiovascular disease, our number one killer. The most protective food for our heart may be green leafy vegetables because, like beets, they have lots of nitrates. And so, if you drink some beet juice, you can get a remarkable drop in blood pressure within just hours, but only if you swallow.

The nitric oxide pathway can be interrupted if you use an antibacterial mouthwash or by spitting and not swallowing because of the critical action of our tongue bacteria on the nitrates in our saliva. So, we have to eat our vegetables and keep our tongue bacteria happy; so, no antibacterial mouthwash, but what about antibacterial toothpaste?

There’s a toothpaste on the market that contains an antibacterial chemical called triclosan. Concern has been raised about the antibacterial mouthwashes, but what about the toothpaste? We didn’t know until this study. Here’s the nitric oxide, nitrite and nitrate levels after brushing with regular toothpaste. And here’s after triclosan toothpaste. No difference. Our good tongue bacteria live in the cracks on the surface of our tongue, and if you just brush your teeth and not your tongue, the chemical doesn’t seem to get down there. So, is triclosan toothpaste safe?

Well, it won’t make your heart miss a beet or beetjuice. The use of triclosan-toothpaste may not be associated with any increase in serious adverse cardiac events. And, though studies on rats suggest the chemical can affect thyroid function, the use of triclosan toothpaste does not seem to affect human thyroid function. A study funded by Colgate—no conflict of interest there—concluded that triclosan was both safe and effective, producing a significant reduction in gingivitis, plaque, and bleeding.  However, an independent review by the Cochrane Group suggests that while the reduction may be statistically significant, it may not be beneficial enough to yield clinical significance.  And, with regard to safety, the reason states are starting to ban the stuff is because of data like these.  Despite the lack of efficacy, the stuff is so ubiquitous that most of the U.S. population is exposed. Because the rapid rise in obesity in the U.S. parallels the introduction of the chemical, and because there are two potential mechanisms by which it might alter human weight—i.e., by mucking with our gut flora or our hormones, researchers at Stanford decided to assess the association between triclosan levels flowing through people’s bodies and how heavy they are, and indeed found an association between triclosan levels and increase in body mass index. They suggest further studies on how this chemical could be altering human growth and wellbeing.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to stevepb via Pixabay.

Doctor's Note

Here’s the video about mouthwash: Don’t Use Antiseptic Mouthwash. Well, then, What’s the Best Mouthwash? (click on the video and find out—spoiler alert: it’s green tea!)

I’ve got about 20 videos on the benefits of nitrate-containing vegetables for both athletic performance and cardiovascular benefits. Here’s a couple of the latest:

For more on nontoxic ways to maintain oral health, see:

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

135 responses to “Antibacterial Toothpaste: Harmful, Helpful, or Harmless?

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  1. This one leaves me a bit confused.
    I use Colgate Total, which has Triclosan in it. I used to use the Crest Complete line but I found it noticeably harmful and aggresive.
    I also brush my tongue, because I like a clean feeling mouth. So does that mean the triclosan affects my bacteria then? Or does it mean the triclosan gets absorbed?

    1. Nick Presidente, I would think that brushing your tongue with a Triclosan containing toothpaste would kill some of the bacteria responsible for converting nitrate to nitrite. In addition Triclosan would certainly kill the other beneficial bacteria that live throughout our mouths. Sure it kills pathogens too, but pathogens have an easier time recovering from antibacterial onslaught than probiotics. We need those beneficial bacteria to keep the pathogens in line as they cause cavities and periodontal disease.

      1. From the video, it showed brushing your teeth didn’t affect the bacteria, but he said if you don’t brush your tongue. He didn’t show any results from brushing your tongue.
        I would think that there is enough bacteria in the places your don’t brush it’d reseed the rest of your mouth fairly quickly.

        1. The video states that brushing your teeth doesn’t affect the bacteria that convert nitrate to nitrite. The video says nothing about the dozens of other types of beneficial bacteria in our mouths. Yes, bacteria remain after anti-microbial toothpaste/mouthwash to reseed, however THE PATHOGENIC BACTERIA RESEED MUCH FASTER AND EASIER THAN THE BENEFICIAL BACTERIA, and you end up with more pathogens and fewer probiotics.

            1. You’ll find scientific evidence in the book “Oral Probiotics” by Casey Adams, Ph.D. (pp115-116). Taking antibiotics wipes out bad and good bacteria in our intestines and the pathogens are the first to return, same happens in our mouths with anti-microbial products. Sure eating WFPB helps the good bacteria come back but it is no panacea. Dr. Adams recommends plant based diets AND not using antimicrobials.

                  1. No, it’s reasonable to request scientific evidence from someone on this site when they are insistent about being as right as Greger or MORE SO (using caps to express themselves). Greger gives citations as well as some idea about what they mean to him.

                    The least I’d expect from someone insistent about having the truth from a private and questionable source (i.e. a lay press book by a naturopath) is that they could drill down far enough to some of the relevant scientific citations within so that they are on the table where everyone can see them. Asking for this also benefits everyone on the site, through the enhanced ability to see and consider the evidence for the claim.

                    But for the degree of certitude Julie was expressing, it’s not unreasonable to ask for more, either, such as an ability to understand some of the strengths and weaknesses of the research one is introducing, and to anticipate and discuss some of the most reasonable lines of criticism.

                    If you make an insistent knowledge claim on a scientific topic that is not clearly part of any scientific consensus, it’s quite reasonable for others to expect that you can back the claim up and in the process show that you have a reasonably good grasp of the justifying evidence on your terms.

                    1. You were demanding that information, and not in a nice way. And you demanded she work for you in a very specific way. Hey you, do all my work for me, right now!

                    2. That can be appropriate if you are insistent about being absolutely right in a very specific way, and you labor on in a way that doesn’t anticipate the degree of support required to be proportionate to the insistent certitude. The people who claim to have the knowledge should have done the work, making at least a sketch of the most important scientific research pretty easy. If you want a claim to knowledge, you have to do some work for it.

                      Your critique of me now is about as mean as my one demand, if not meaner.

                    3. Try Google? Don’t expect others to do your work.

                      People will suggest certain things…you need to do the searching….

                      I have anecdotal evidence that oral probiotics reduce ear/throat/gum issues (minor infections)….so do you do your own research and think about applying the info….or ignore the info to your own harm?

                    4. I’m not ignoring the info, I’m asking a person who basically says that she’s definitely more informed to help us move beyond weak methods like anecdote and rumor.

                      In fact what sometimes follows when people present scientific sources is that they haven’t even read them, in spite of their certitude. If your standards require reading the sources that people provide and considering their argument carefully, then you will likely wind up doing more work in investigating the claimant’s position in these cases than the claimant has ever done.

                      Scientists point each other to the specific scientific literature that they have in mind for supporting their claims. It’s integral to intellectually honest, rigorous discussions of science. This is a science-based site, so asking people to bring their sources into the open or otherwise explain the body of evidence that they are using is not a wildly unreasonable thing to do.

                      And again, it benefits everyone. If the more informed share their sources, massive numbers of less informed people can search the literature more efficiently.

                    5. Why don’t you buy the book, do the work, and make a webpage with many references to benefit everyone. If you don’t like the suggestion, then stop complaining about other people not doing it for you.

                    6. Why doesn’t Julia make a website? Why doesn’t she just open up the book that she already bought and give the key references that back her certainty? This isn’t a massive amount of work.

                      I’m not complaining about people not doing work for me. I’m complaining about claims to ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY or something to that effect that aren’t backed by demonstrable work.

                    7. Hi Fred, just thought I’d throw this at you for your consideration. I used to spend a fortune on high-quality probiotics until my nutritionist said she preferred I eat natural probiotics, basically fermented foods — high quality sauerkraut (I buy Bubba’s), old fashioned pickled cucumbers, kefir, yogurt… You start out slowly, then increase the amounts. I noticed an immediate improvement over VSL3 & other probiotics.

                  2. John, sorry but I think you are out of bounds here. Let the person he asks decide to answer or not. I don’t want to be rude but think you sound like one of the posters we so often see on social media. My opinion because I don’t like to see comments like yours on Dr. Greger’s site.

                    1. I thought it was cool John jumped into the thread and pointed out that just because you present information and opinions doesn’t mean you suddenly become somebody’s research assistant/go-fer.

      2. I have seen references to “pathogenic bacteria”. Is it certain that the bacteria that cause gingivitis are different than the ones that supply nitrites? Can someone speak with authority on this question?

        I gave up Triclosan toothpaste several months ago and adopted a more positive view of my oral bacteria. A lingering concern is that I have a more acidic oral environment now, with possible consequences for my tooth enamel. If it turns out that there is a tradeoff between dental health and general health, I will certainly lean in the direction of general health, but does anyone know if such a tradeoff exists?

        1. There is a difference between calcium fluoride and sodium fluoride. One helps your teeth and is found naturally in ground water. The latter is an industrial byproduct that screws up your gut.

          1. Fluoride may help teeth somewhat but its toxic nature messes up the hormonal balance by calcifying the pineal gland over time and liver and health issues you referred to. Whether calcium or sodium fluoride – it is the resultant F ions that are very reactive wreak havoc in your body. Therefore it is definite net negative to take in any form.

            1. How come was it put in the water supply in countless US cities without a referendum? What’s the economic motivation behind the fluoridation of the city water supply?
              There has got to be more to this story than protection against cavities.

              1. The cities got sold the idea that fluoridation helps against cavities and also makes people less aggressive and more docile – that is good enough reason when you want to keep large populations in check. Have you been offered a referendum before introducing GMO foods and “pink slime” into the food supply? The governments are bought and paid for a long time ago.

  2. I can witness that no chemical is needed for oral hygiene other than a vegan diet (no refined food at all) and a toothbrush.
    For almost 15 years I do not use a tooth paste and the only issue I can report is brown pigmentation that I think comes from my totally vegan diet and eating much fruit which I wold say make micro erosions of the tooth enamel. My dentist is not at all alarmed with pigmentation, and on my very rare visits (once in 2-3 years) he doesn’t do anything except sometimes changing my mercury fillings 30 years old from my youth.
    Over the years I experimented with pastes that are sold in microbiotic shops but didn’t find it attractive and they all change the taste in my mouth which I don’t like. I also tried using baking soda but it was too aggressive. Maybe I should say that for the first 20 years of my life I was a sheer omnivor like all my ancestors, and also a junkeater which my ancestor were not, and I changed my diet when I was 20 and now I’m 46. Also I have a wife and three kids and my family does not use toothpaste either.

    1. Acidic fruit has definitely caused tooth erosion in my case. Hopefully this has slowed down given my current practice of rinsing pretty consistently with H20. As I advance into my 60s, I am very aware of the limited supply of enamel in my mouth.

      1. Many health doctors, including Dr. Greger, urge us to rinse our mouths out after eating/drinking acidic items like fruit, or wait before brushing to not remove our enamel.

    2. Just a heads up, Be careful about replacing those silver fillings. They are quite harmless by now. The only time you had to worry about mercury is when you first got them in. Removing your fillings for just aesthetics is not a good ideas because you could greatly create more problems for your dental health, pain and expense. I was advised and informed this by my oral surgeon only too late. Any dentist would be more than happy for your business and not deter or inform you against doing the procedure.
      One of the problems is extracting the old fillings, to do this dentist remove more than just the silver, making the initinial hole larger and deeper. This weakens the tooth and creates a situation where the root of the teeth can become damaged, nicked by digging at it. Which could lead too probably infection of the root, pain, abses followed by expensive root canal or removal of the tooth entirely. Don’t make the mistakes that I have, keep your original fillings as long there isn’t any problems with them. Be careful with dentist!

      1. Those fillings don’t last forever. They start to chip, crack & pull back. Then you’ve opened a channel for bacteria. I had all mine removed & replaced with enamel. To me, the look of silver in someone’s mouth is antiquated & unsightly. I had no negative reaction to the silver being removed & it was quite a few years ago.

      2. “keep your original fillings as long there isn’t any problems with them.”

        More to the point, if you are in a cavity type situation than a previously harmless amalgam filling can become harmful. If there is acidic erosion you should replace enough to “fix the cavity” and make sure you leave a good seal. This is not the same thing as digging out every last piece to make sure you have no mercury in your mouth. I would say communication with your dentist is essential.

  3. When I decided to become a vegetarian for health back in the 70’s, I went to live in a 3HO Ashram for 6 months to work in the kitchen and learn to be vegetarian (I figured the East Indians would know how to do it right). They had lots of new to me ideas about health and yoga, and one thing they taught was to brush your tongue top and bottom, and the insides of your mouth, cheeks etc when you brush your teeth. It feels good because your mouth gets really clean. I don’t use the antibacterial toothpaste, just a Crest flouride brand right now anyway. But maybe I shouldn’t brush my tongue anymore?

  4. That’s just great. That’s the toothpaste I’ve been using since I purchased Costco quantities of the stuff I don’t know how long ago, and now I find out about it now that I’m almost finished with the last tube. I should have looked it up on the EWG database who gave it a score of 4, ( http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/product/465108/Colgate_Total_Anticavity_Fluoride_%26_Antigingivitis_Toothpaste,_Advanced_Whitening_(2012_formulation)/ )

    Cogate’s regular fluoride toothpaste fairs better on their rating system with a 2, I have plenty of that on hand, ( http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/product/221225/Colgate_Fluoride_Toothpaste_Regular/ )

    I also have some Tom’s of Maine Children’s Natural Fluoride Toothpaste, Silly Strawberry on hand which also clocks in at 2. I was expecting better from them ( http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/product/469128/Tom's_of_Maine_Children's_Natural_Fluoride_Toothpaste,_Silly_Strawberry/ )

    And here are a listing of toothpastes in EWG’s database: ( http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/browse.php?category=toothpaste&order=webscore_DESC&&showmore=products&start=560 )

    1. That is a great site to pick out less harmful products! Some of the natural products are pretty ineffective, so definitely need to be careful there as well.

    2. I switched from Trader Joe’s peppermint toothpaste to Honest Toothpaste mint wanting to avoid fluoride. Couldn’t find Trader Joe’s in the data base but Honest scores at 3. So thanks to the link for the data base, will have to investigate further.

    3. I never bought Tom’s from the get-go. Had a friend who was vegan and into healthy living who kind of helped me along. He told me about how some companies simply market their stuff as being more healthful when it really isn’t. He used the example of Tom’s listing the source of the ingredients instead of the actual ingredients. Everything at some point came from a natural source. That Tom’s lists coconut extract instead of sodium lauryl sulfate is creepy. I’ve never bought anything from the company since learning that trick. And the funny part is they also sell a toothpaste for kids, which actually says its SLS-free on the package — and is twice the price for half-the size of their regular tube. And their regular tube is 2-3 times the price of a regular tube of toothpaste, despite having the same ingredients — just with a nicer-sounding ingredient list.

      1. I used Tom’s for a long time, mainly because they were selling their product in recyclable aluminum tubes. When they switched over to plastic, I dropped them and now just use baking soda.

      2. I remember that quite a few years ago Tom’s sold out to one of the biggies, so the products probably changed as well. I bought Tom’s once, when it was still a small company, but felt it didn’t do a very good job.

    4. I try to avoid “Costco” quantities of anything. :) It’s not even a space issue, my house is big enough to store 3,000 rolls of toilet paper and 80 pounds of laundry detergent :) (or whatever those mountain-sized quantities are), the problem is there is hardly anything sold at Costco that isn’t wrapped in plastic.

      I was using Tom’s toothpaste until the company switched from aluminum (recyclable) to plastic tubes. So I started using baking soda. The Lush Toothy Tabs, though, are packaged in cardboard, so that’s an option, too.

      1. True enough, lots of plastic and cardboard. It’s funny you should bring that bit up. My neighbor loves me because I so rarely have need to roll out my garbage or recycling bins out on collection day, that there is plenty of excess capacity for him to use. I purchase most of my foodstuffs from the bulk bins or produce departments, and most of my waste goes into the composing bin which sits adjacent to my fig tree. I am really falling down on the job when it comes to filling up some land fill somewhere.

        1. I don’t even understand why people need plastic garbage bags if they are composting. Presumably all the wet stuff is going into the compost bin, which leaves the recyclable stuff like cardboard. I’m not a gardener but S.F. has mandatory composting, so I just let the green bin guys take it every Tuesday morning. I have a gardener who comes and works on my drought resistant plants every couple of weeks in my “yard” (yard is stretching it a bit, it’s more like a slope). . He just told me he wants to grow roses in my front yard. I said knock yourself out, do whatever you want, but he needs to take care of them! He could put a freaking wheat field out there for all I care. Its probably a no-go if he wants to plant a rain forest, though, since the Water Department will dog my ass because of the drought! :p

          1. My neighbor, who grows beautiful, lush, huge roses says the most important thing is to give them LOTS of water. Most people also douse them liberally with poisons, but your gardener may grow them organically. It would be worth asking if you don’t want poison sprays used.

            1. Thanks for the input. If my water bill goes high enough, I’ll get a smack-down from the Water Department. The rash of storms we’ve had can’t undo five years of drought. Presumably my gardener understands this about roses or maybe has some irrigation plan or something. I have no idea. :( But I let him do what he wants. If the Water Department starts ragging on me, I’ll let him know. He’s basically the mayor of the yard, he puts in whatever he wants and gives me the bill.

                1. He’s such a great guy, I saw him working on the yard across the street when I bought my house and walked over and asked if he could do my yard, and he’s been with me ever since. My yard is a steep slope so it’s probably more difficult, our side of the street is a steep hill down to the roadway. He and his guys leveled the ground in rows and put in drought resistant plants, which have been in ever since. (I didn’t want a lawn because it’s too bourgeois and the slope isn’t conducive to lawn anyway.) :p Roses would be great, I know nothing about them or the water required, but he’ll figure it out if it’s possible.

  5. I’ve seen articles on the damaging effects of triclosan on liver function, fibrosis and cancer in mice. The conclusion, as I understand it, was that in high exposure (dosage) low value uses, such as in liquid hand soaps, triclosan should be avoided. In high value low exposure (smaller amounts) uses such as tooth paste, use of triclosan is ok. Does anyone have any further information about that?

      1. Julie,
        Thanks for the reference. Knowing what other risks triclosan carries (possible endocrine disruption), why would we want to use triclosan in any product? I had a “personal ban” on triclosan. This new (to me) information just reinforces that.

  6. Very interesting. I stopped using fluorinated toothpaste more than a decade ago. Since they are the ones that typically contain all the other chemical ‘enhancements’ (anti-bacterials, whitening agents, etc), I’ve unwittingly avoided triclosan. However, I am concerned since the issue appears not to be the chemical in particular, but its antiseptic properties. Among the ‘natural’ toothpastes I regularly use are aloe and tea tree oil concoctions (Kiss my Face and Jason brands). Tea tree oil has antiseptic properties — and I brush my tongue every morning after brushing. Although I do so after cleaning the toothpaste residue from my brush, the residue in my mouth would still be brushed into my tongue. Anyone have any further info on this? I imagine these types of ‘natural’ toothpastes are popular among many health conscious consumers, and the type and brand(s) of toothpaste I mentioned are often sold alongside mainstream brands in most big box stores.

    1. Great idea! I make my own toothpaste-green tea/Macha powder, baking soda, xylitol, coconut oil. Now I think I’ll try tea tree oil and aloe too.

      1. John, you’re a man after my own heart! I’m always making stuff like that. I’ve made my own deodorant for years and it works better than anything I’ve used before – and it doesn’t have irritating baking soda or need to be applied more than once a week.

  7. This is getting upsetting to try to understand. I use Listerine mouthwash morning and night after I brush my teeth. Should that be part of this discussion?

    1. A dental hygienist told me that she believes that alcohol based mouthwashes can bring on mouth cancer. I knew one woman, a friend of mine and younger than me, who used Listerine full strength four–five times a day. She died of mouth cancer much too young. Alcohol is a known carcinogen. Standard mouthwash, when you feel the burn, is 30% alcohol, or 60 proof. I knew of a hopeless alcoholic that died from drinking Scope from the bottle over a period of time. The doctors who performed her autopsy said that her liver was the consistency of balsa wood.

    1. Eating wfpb, which helps keep the contents of your entire digestive tract moving right along and improves your microbiome with its’ prebiotic fiber, is a huge step in that direction. Without animal foods in the diet everything comes out smelling better! Well, there are those bean farts – the exception that proves the rule, so to speak…

        1. Most bad breath problmes come in fact from the digestive system not the mouth itself like in plumbing the bad odors doesnt come from the sink.

        2. Julot, below, said it so much better than I did. Sorry for the confusion.

          Yes, I brush my tongue. It just seems to complete the job.

          I use Trader Joe’s Natural no Fluoride Antiplaque Toothpaste with Fennel, Propolis, and Myrrh. The ingredient list doesn’t sound too terrible and it does the job. For awhile I used my own homemade tooth soap, but it didn’t seem satisfactory after awhile.

  8. My dentist recommended that I use alcohol free mouthwash to fight my gum disease. I’ve been doing that for a few years. I do have an excess 40 pounds I can’t seem to get rid of–might this be behind that?.

    1. No.

      Insure you are eating WFPB minimally processed foods only (you can download the Daily Dozen app to keep you on track) and getting 45-60 minutes of moderate exercise every day.

        1. balconesfalk: You can find a link to the app on this page:
          http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/12/31/free-app-for-android-and-iphone-and-top-10-videos-of-2015/
          .
          I’ll add that understanding the concept of calorie density is key to losing weight. The app is great, but allows for a large range of calorie densities at least in some areas. There are some videos on NutritionFacts which cover calorie density. It’s also covered briefly in the book, How Not To Die. But for a really thorough (and fun and entertaining) understanding of the concept, the following free talk from one of the Forks Over Knives experts is a must-see:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAdqLB6bTuQ
          .
          To round out the information from the talk, check out this great information from well-known and respected Jeff Novick, RD:
          http://www.jeffnovick.com/RD/Articles/Entries/2012/5/20_A_Common_Sense_Approach_To_Sound_Nutrition.html
          .
          PCRM (Physician’s Committee For Responsible Medicine) has a free program (also recommended in Dr. Greger’s book) that gives a ton of practical help, called 21 Day Kickstart. This program is not necessary. You could start with the app. But if you want more guidance, the Kickstart provides grocery lists, meal plans, cooking videos, inspirational videos and e-mails, and a forum moderated by an RD who can answer questions. If you are interested, click the green button on the following page to get registered:
          http://www.pcrm.org/kickstartHome
          .
          Good luck!

          1. Thank you so much, Thea. I have Dr. Greger’s book and the audio version so I can learn while driving. I appreciate the links, too.
            Fifteen years ago I lost one hundred pounds and wrote a book about it, “The Skinny on Weight Loss: One Woman’s True Journey to Fat and Back.” Basically I wrote that if you eat to the size you want to be, average, and eat that many calories you will slowly and gradually get to that size again. It took me five years. There is a lot of wisdom in it but I got some things all wrong, so I have jokingly talked about recalling it and doing a rewrite. I only sold two hundred copies.
            Best,
            Frances

  9. I drink ALL smoothies through a straw to reduce tooth contact. What does this mean for all the green nitrate-rich smoothies I suck down daily? They don’t touch my tongue much at all…

    1. No problem–remember Dr. Greger says “Any nitrates our tongue bacteria missed the first time around get pumped by our body back into our saliva to give our tongue bacteria a second chance.”

  10. Been brushing only with water for years, no more problems than before but i have also been eating a whole plant based diet which is very important~

    Is there any serious studies that show a significant benefit of using any toothpaste compared to soft water brushing? I dont think so~

    1. Toothpaste just tends to remove stains better than water, because of the abrasives added. Otherwise water brushing should be fine. I use toothpaste because the brush alone feels irritating on my gums; the toothpaste seems to act as a buffer.

      1. Yeah thats why you need a softer brush when you only use water like me.
        My teeth are pretty much normally white, not too much and not yellowish.

  11. I don’t know if this has much, if anything, to do with healthy mouth bacteria but reading it years ago prompted me to ditch hand sanitizers and anything else I could find with triclosan in it. “… Environment Canada categorized triclosan as potentially toxic to aquatic organisms, bioaccumulative, and persistent. In other words, it doesn’t easily degrade and can build up in the environment after it has been rinsed down the shower drain. In the environment, triclosan also reacts to form dioxins, which bioaccumulate and are toxic. The extensive use of triclosan in consumer products may contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The Canadian Medical Association has called for a ban on antibacterial consumer products, such as those containing triclosan.” (from http://davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/chemicals-in-your-cosmetics—triclosan/)

  12. Reading through previous comments it seems most people brush the tongue after brushing the teeth and are worried any toothpaste left in the mouth will cause a problem. How about brushing the tounge with just a wet toothbrush before actually brushing the teeth or even at a different time altogether. I can’t see myself not brushing the tongue at all as you’d eventually get bad breath :(

    1. Yeah, I think tongue brushing or scraping is a very important part of oral hygiene. Just use water, mild toothpaste or unscented mild soap (like Kiss My Face olive oil soap, unscented).

    2. I was also wondering about tongue brushing and scraping, it really makes my mouth feel much cleaner, but now I am concerned I am killing good oral flora by destroying their habitat on my tongue :)

  13. I have a stupid question…not trying to be gross I know it is ingrained in all of us, but aside from the unpleasant sensation we’ve learned to dispense with, why do we brush teeth anyway, do primitive cultures practice it? One would think if these things were necessary for hygiene, we’d have some kind of built in adaptation for it? So has it ever been shown to be truly beneficial besides for our sensibilities? I always wondered about soap and shampoo too because my grandma said in the “old country” (Poland) a bath and shampoo meant jumping into the lake or river, never any soap, and they didn’t stink. They only used soap for washing clothes. She said it wasn’t until she came here in her 20’s that she learned about our “custom” and then she always had dry itchy skin and greasy hair! LOL It just made me wonder.

    1. Good question. Our ancestors had a diet with much more fiber and indigestible plant parts than us plus sand and dirt, all contributing to cleaning of the teeth. Nevertheless archaeological findings shows that they did indeed have bad teeth.

      1. Makes sense, I’ve seen pics of human teeth actually worn down from eating fibrous, bordering on woody, foods…mechanical and nutritional attributes would come into play. It just seems to me that when we have to “resort” to extraneous hygiene other than what we are equipped with by nature, than we must be doing something wrong…whether that is actually true. or a societal perception is another matter I guess, we’ve become so “domesticated” (advertising brainwashed?) it’s hard to say!

    2. They may not have practiced it but their life expectancy was much lower than nowadays so the relative lack of oral hygiene combined with natural food tided them over with moderate/bearable damage to death. You can’t expect good oral health for 80+ years doing what they did.

  14. So what could we use as a good natural alternative to using toothpaste?
    We know Green tea is effective as a mouth wash but what about brushing one’s teeth?
    It will be great to see it on Nutritionfacts.org , i.e a credible source.

  15. What if you’ve already used antiseptic mouthwash in the past? Does normal flora repopulate after that assault, or will I forever be missing out on NO?

  16. In his video “What’s the Best Mouthwash?”, Dr. Greger suggests using a green tea/amla powder mixture to wipe out cavity forming bacteria and prevent plaque. This seems to contradict his advice in this video about the dangers of using an antibacterial mouthwash. Won’t the green tea/amla concoction possibly create the same conditions which could lead to insufficient nitric oxide production?

  17. herrhedgehog

    2 minutes ago

    In his video “What’s the Best Mouthwash?”, Dr. Greger suggests using a
    green tea/amla powder mixture to wipe out cavity forming bacteria and
    prevent plaque. This seems to contradict his advice in this video about
    the dangers of using an antibacterial mouthwash. Won’t the green
    tea/amla concoction possibly create the same conditions which could lead
    to insufficient nitric oxide production?

    1. No, I don’t think so. This is because the plants – amla and tea – do not kill the bacteria indiscriminately. The specifically attack those bacteria that cause plaque and leave the other bacteria alone. They may even enhance the action of those bacteria that are beneficial.

      1. Thanks. Do you know of a source that could give me a little more in depth info on this particular topic? Interested in the mechanism of discrimination. I’ve grown fond of my amla.

  18. Dr. Greger, please get your tech team on this. The “Antibacterial Toothpaste: Harmful, Helpful, or harmless” video will not play on a Dell PC with Windows 7 today either today or yesterday. The other videos are no problem. Also this unplayable video easily plays on my iPhone Six Plus without difficulty.

    1. I’m using a Dell PC with Windows 7 and the video plays fine on my computer. I’m also using Google Chrome as the Web Browser. Maybe check your browser and/or browser settings. That can make a big difference in what works on a website and what doesn’t.

  19. The best way to brush your teeth is to use himalayan salt. Just fill a glass with water and add salt til it no more dissolves but after stirring leaves some crystals in the bottom. Then keep your toothbrush there. Take it out, brush and clean it thoroughly. Then put it back. Thus you avoid not just the triclosan but the sweeteners, the fluoride, and so on. Sharks never use toothpaste.

  20. After I swish with amla there’s a sandy residue left in my mouth that I feel like I need to swish away with plain water. Would doing so negate the benefits of swishing with the amla?

  21. Every dentist recommends brushing your teeth daily. But is there any scientific “Proof” that brushing is beneficial ? It makes no sense to me. Rub a piece of plastic (man-made) against your teeth (with chemicals) several times a day benefits toothpaste manufacturers greatly just like smoking benefits cigarette manufactures. There is also a huge conflict of interest with dentists who make money from cavities. It’s not a natural thing to do. I think its a useless masochistic time-money wasting tradition (like smoking or eating fried chicken & bacon to make others rich at the expense of the foolish consumer).

  22. I make my own mouthwash with tea tree and peppermint essential oils, both of which have antibacterial properties. Would this have the same affect? Should I stop using? Thanks!

  23. I have been using an herbal mouthwash for years that I just love that has tea tree as an ingredient (Jason Healthy Mouth with cinnamon, clove, tea tree oil…). Tea tree is an antibacterial. Maybe I should change to one of their other flavors – like Orange Cinnamint? Any research about swishing with tea tree oil on the tongue?

  24. I read that comfrey can help regenerate bonefractures and even cavities in teeth. I checked some studies and apparently it has been found that comfrey promotes increased bone density. Aparrently comfrey can be toxic for the liver, but in case of a mouthwash the amount digested would be negligible. Would such a mouthwash be a good supplement for dental health?

  25. Hello,
    i´m from germany so please forgive me my bad english! But i need your help! The problem that i have is hypothyroidism. i´m also taking medications for 11 years. they are called l-thyroxin in germany. Is it possible to get rid of these pills, because it sickens me that i have to put these chemicals into my body! I also have side effects because of them. Can you please help my out?
    KInd regards
    Jenn

    1. Nadya Inoubli: I don’t have an answer to your exact question. Just in case you are interested in skipping the whole commercial deodorant thing, you might research making your own coconut oil based deodorant. I’ve been playing with it for a while now and having great success. I just got through a hot summer and my home made deodorant worked great. This way I don’t have to worry about triclosan or aluminum or whatever.
      .
      Just sharing. You can find various recipes by searching on line.

      1. Thea, thank you for sharing. I asked about triclosan in deodorants because I have experimented with coconut oil deodorants and many of them left white marks on my armpits and clothes, some of them I had to use many times a day, etc. Not to mention the fact that coconut oil, Shea butter and essential oils are quite expensive where I live and that even an inappropriate use of these ingredients could end up having detrimental effects, or so I’ve read.

        I found an aloe vera based natural deodorant and the only “unnatural” ingredient it had was triclosan; that is why I asked about it. I understand the use of it in deodorants but it doesn’t seem like there’s enough research to support any claims, as far as deodorants are concerned of course.

        Thanks again for your answer!

        1. Nadya Inoubli: Interesting! The one I make has only coconut oil, corn starch and baking soda, and I’ve never heard of health problems putting these things on one’s skin. (Well, too much baking soda can cause a rash, but you can lower or cut out the baking soda.) But all of that is irrelevant for you if you had to apply it many times a day and it left white marks. Isn’t it interesting how different people’s bodies react differently to the same thing.
          I hope someone else jumps in and you get your answer. Good luck!

    1. Hi Vanessa – We strongly recommend you seek an in-person evaluation with your own doctors. It’s very difficult for us to give specific and personal medical advice over the internet. Please search here if you are looking for plant-based medical providers in your area: Plant-Based Doctors

      Wishing you all the best!

      1. I feel I need to say something here and I don’t know what exactly.

        I don’t think that what you did is fair nor that you should do this again. Or at least, if I was asking for professional medical advice, I wouldn’t like you to send me to an “alternative medicine” site, full of holistic, acupuncture, Ayurveda, Naturopathic, Chiropractor and other pseudoscience practitioners.
        I assume Vanessa has an issue and health problems are no joke. Humans invented a science to deal with these problems, and it is medicine. “Alternative medicine” fans should know they can end up paying a very high price, we all know a supposedly very smart guy for which the “alternative medicine” “worked” only in the sense that it created a job vacancy for the post of CEO of Apple.

        Dr Greger did, and is still doing a great public service raising awareness about our diet problems, but he also did a public disservice. This idea that there is a global conspiracy hiding from us some simple and cheap solutions for our health problems just can’t be true. Of course the CEO of Montesanto and CEO of Pfizer may have some financial interests that may not align with mine, but they are 2 persons. The vast majority of people are good. Ok, maybe the consensus in wrong in some regards (and even it is true, I’d rather think this is because they just did a mistake in their research, not because an entire profession, an entire body of scientists are ill-intentioned), but until they figure it out, all we have is the mainstream medicine. Yes, a better diet and a healthier lifestyle in the past would have been preferable, but if now we have a problem, I don’t to hear about “alternative medicine” and mambo-jambo, illusion selling approaches.

        This all started with telling people added sugar is not ok, and it ended up with sending people to see an Ayurveda guru. This is not a nice story, this is not a happy end, this is not ok, really!

        1. Hi George – I’m sorry you feel this way, but I’m not sure I follow. Proper health care requires an in-person evaluation by a health professional. The NutritionFacts.org medical moderators are all qualified health professionals, however it is impossible for us to diagnose/give specific medical advice over the internet. We are here to provide general guidance and our advice is informational only. The website I provided above (www.plantbaseddoctors.org) is a community resource to help people find local practitioners that support a plant-based lifestyle. Yes, there might be some “alternative medicine” practitioners listed on the site, however there are also a number of MDs, Nurse Practitioners, Registered Dietitians, behavioral medicine specialists, etc listed as well – including Dr. Greger himself. I feel very comfortable passing this resource along to the users of our community, like Vanessa, to help them find plant-based health care practitioners in their area that are able to provide proper health care to help meet their individual needs based on past medical history and current medical conditions.

          1. Katie, I think it’s pretty clear my problem wasn’t that you told Vanessa to see someone in-person, the problem was where you sent her to find someone. Why sending her to a place where there are people with a medical education, but also charlatans? You don’t know where Vanessa is from, what if she’s from St Cloud, Wisconsin, and the only person available on plantbaseddoctors.org from St Cloud is a “naturopathic doctor”? Vanessa will end up in a very nasty place, isn’t she? If she’s lucky enough to benefit from a placebo effect – fine, otherwise – this will end badly for her. It is very, very disappointing for me that dr G is promoting himself on that website.

            1. Hi George – Please let me know if you have another resource that you think would be more helpful. I’m open to new ideas and would be happy to pass along other appropriate resources to our users.

              1. I don’t know details about how to US health care system works, but if someone has a problem with her eye, she needs to see an ophthalmologist, if she has cancer, she needs an oncologist. Under no circumstances (maybe expecting for entertainment purposes) anyone should go to an acupuncturist, homeopath or chiropractor.

  26. Why put any chemical in your mouth. Its advised not to eat toothpaste. So why use it at all. I have used a tooth essential oil for the past 2 years and my teeth have never been or felt cleaner. I love it so much that clients of mine started asking about and wanting it too. Its a blend of essential oils that kills bacteria, and freshens the breath and leaves the teeth as clean as a whistle. Not sure if I am allowed to give my website but let me know if you are interested in the details. No more chemicals is my motto. :)

    1. lol that’s just your anecdotal evidence, how do you know it “kills bacteria”? And just because your teeth “feel cleaner” doesn’t mean they are. There are chemicals in apples so you’re wrong about that.

  27. The link between triclosan and bmi is a casual observation and has no scientific basis. I find it sad that this information was even mentioned.

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