Most days, you probably don’t give your toothpaste a second thought. But maybe it’s time to start paying closer attention to some of the more questionable ingredients in your average toothpaste—artificial sweeteners, flavors, and colors, irritating foaming agents such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), and artificial preservatives like BHT, to name a few. (Read up on the 4 toothpaste ingredients you should avoid at all costs.) Plus, if you’re trying to live more organically, switching out your toothpaste is an easy step that requires almost no effort.
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But first, a note of fluoride: Many natural toothpastes don’t include fluoride, a mineral typically used in toothpaste to prevent cavities and tooth decay. In the last few decades, fluoride has become highly controversial because some scientific research has shown a correlation between ingesting high amounts of the mineral and diminished IQ in children in China and hypothyroidism. However, the controversy over fluoride is really about whether or not it should be added to public water supplies, not toothpaste. Fluoride only becomes a potential threat when you ingest high amounts of it, and the tiny amount that you may end up swallowing in your toothpaste is not considered hazardous. (Municipalities began adding fluoride to the public water supply after World War II when researchers noticed that people who lived in areas with high levels of naturally-occurring fluoride in the groundwater had fewer cases of tooth decay.) Using fluoride topically, such as in toothpaste or mouthwash, is safe and has been proven beneficial through more than 50 years worth of research.