Toothpastes, gels and mouthwashes have plenty of inactive ingredients in them. You can find them right there on the label. Often, these substances are there for a reason. Some of them thicken the paste, while others make it minty or cinnamony. But in cheap brands, there are a few ingredients - like dyes - that don't accomplish either, or eliminate bad breath. Instead, they simply irritate the mouth, or worse.
According to a CBS News report, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently investigating the effects of dyes on pediatric cognition. In particular, the agency is looking into claims that these colorants have an impact on the prevalence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
If you're concerned about this condition, you're not alone. In the past decade, the figures for ADHD have consistently gone up and up and up.
Currently, about one in 10 children is diagnosed with the disorder. That amounts to 5.4 million kids between ages 4 and 17, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Daniel Bober told CBS that some colorants do seem to alter a child's cognition, though currently it is unclear how.
"We know that certain chemicals that are synthetic, whether they're dyes or whether they're things in the environment, can sometimes cause behavioral symptoms," he explained to the news source. "And a lot of the research shows recently that these food dyes may be exacerbating or producing ADHD symptoms."
The news outlet noted that yellow dyes have been linked to zinc depletion, which might open the gates to hyperactivity. Red dyes, on the other hand, are sometimes associated with tantrums and other behavioral problems.
That is not to say that the dyes in inferior toothpastes definitely shorten attention spans - but, until the current FDA investigation wraps up, is it really worth risking?
In the meantime, it's best to stick to a dye-free specialty toothpaste, one that avoids red and yellow dyes (as well as FD&C Blue No. 2, which is used to color blue jeans). Dyes, irritants and allergens don't do anything to treat bad breath, so who needs 'em?