Toothpaste

So, last week, we talked about the importance of brushing your teeth. This week, we’re going to talk about how toothpaste helps in getting rid of those bacterial plaques and even, in situations where you don’t have much else to resort to, treating acne. So how does toothpaste help us in the fight against bacteria?

What’s in toothpaste? 

According to Colgate and The US National Institute of Health, there are two main components to toothpaste:

Sodium fluoride 

Fluoride is the most well-known ingredient of toothpastes. But what does it do and how does it work? Sodium fluoride inhibits the decay of tooth enamel and promotes enamel growth! In fact, it helps make your teeth stronger when it helps remineralize them. However, once you have a cavity, the fluoride cannot help rebuild the enamel.

Triclosan

Triclosan is an antibacterial agent. This component works against all sorts of bacteria and is often used in disinfectants. Even though you brush your teeth, and likely dislodge a majority of the bacteria on your teeth, Triclosan acts as a second line of attack against the microbes. This helps ensure that your teeth are sparkling without you having to worry pesky plaques forming. Thanks Triclosan, you’re the best!

Toothpaste and Acne?

Triclosan is the reason why toothpaste has the potential to work against the acne induced from bacterial growth clogging your pores – it will kill the microbes, preventing further growth! But again, it’s best to use the other treatments in a regular fashion. Toothpaste treatments are a last resort, if even a resort.

Why shouldn’t we eat toothpaste?
Fluoride, while helpful to our teeth in that it prevents cavities by making our teeth stronger, is hazardous to our bodies at high dosages. The reference daily intake of fluoride is 4mg for people over the age of 4, which isn’t that much fluoride.
In fact, we can get that much fluoride from drinking 1 liter of tap water, depending on where you live.
You see, fluoride was introduced into our water to promote dental health (Hurray for you tap-water drinkers!). But the United States Environment Protection Agency has set a maximum goal of 4mg of fluoride/L of drinking water. If a city were to violate that goal, you would be at risk after drinking a liter of water just because you’ve gone beyond your reference daily intake for fluoride.
What happens when you have too much fluoride in your system?
When you’ve ingested a large amount of toothpaste, you may develop stomach pains and intestinal problems for the day. You could also experience some of the following:
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Diarrhea

Worst case scenarios:

  • Seizures
  • Heart attacks
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Slow heart rate

But, again, you’d have to ingest a LOT of toothpaste. And if you ingest a lot of toothpaste over your lifetime, or even just a lot of fluoride, you increase your chances of bone fractures.

Ironic, right? What we thought to help us strengthen our teeth also has the potential to weaken our bones. So remember, little in this case is more. And don’t eat your toothpaste, no matter what flavor you bought.

Additional Sources: Seeley, R.R., Stevens, T.D., and Tate, P. 2008. Anatomy and Physiology (8th ed.). pp. 935. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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