Plenty of news headlines overblow what might otherwise be considered a minor issue, but not this one: "Common toothpaste additive triclosan to be deemed toxic to environment." That was the leading text in an article in the Montreal Gazette, which explained that this common additive can turn even the best toothpaste into a nasty chemical bath for your mouth.
If you have bad breath - and really, who doesn't from time to time? - then it's only natural to consider using an average toothpaste. Your breath smells; you brush your teeth; the scent goes away. Right?
Well, not exactly. For one thing, triclosan, which is an antibacterial agent, doesn't do all that much for halitosis. This isn't because triclosan doesn't work, but because the compound must be included in toothpastes in very low amounts.
Why? Because it may be toxic. And because it's a pesticide.
That's right. Non-specialty toothpastes contain low levels of a chemical that is occasionally used to kill insects. As you might expect, U.S. and Canadian public health authorities are considering restricting the use of triclosan.
The Gazette noted that the compound may alter hormone regulation, though researchers are still investigating how this is so. Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Agency lists triclosan as safe for human use, but it has reopened investigations into the chemical's potential health hazards.
Results from these studies are expected to be released in late 2012.
So, in the meantime, how are we to distinguish mediocre brands from the best toothpastes? Clearly, one easy solution is to simply check the ingredients list to see if it includes triclosan. If your toothpaste does, you may want to consider replacing it with a specialty brand, one that avoids harsh chemicals and allergens.
If you think that triclosan is the only irritant that can be found in a cheap tube of toothpaste, you've got another thing coming. Just take a peek at your toothpaste label. Does it say FD&C Blue No. 2? Many do. If so, then you've been brushing your teeth with the same indigo dye used to color blue jeans.
Yikes. Obviously, the best toothpastes don't use any dyes, since its color isn't important. What matters is how well and how safely a product eliminates bad breath.