In my personal search for the best chemical-free products, toothpaste was actually a big challenge. I found that I reacted to most that I tried.

It wasn’t for a lack of brands, both large and small, developing chemical free pastes, but because it is put into the mouth and swallowed, meaning the absorption rate is high.

As one of the most important hygiene items, choosing a toothpaste also includes the questions of whether you want one with fluoride or whitening agents.  

Luckily there are wonderful natural options that have fluoride and/or natural whitening agents, and I encourage you to start there. After some time, you may want to consider researching both of these so you can make your own choice about whether these are healthy for your family. 

Ancient Egyptians first developed a dental cream as far back as 3000-5000 B.C. and it was comprised of powdered ashes from oxen hooves, myrrh, egg shells, pumice and water. And while it probably tasted terrible, it likely provided a somewhat minimal level of tooth cleaning, at least in a “scraping away the bad stuff” sense. Around 500 B.C. or so, China and India were using a powder paste as well. The Chinese were particularly forward-thinking in adding flavoring (Ginseng, herbal mints and salt). It must have tasted a lot better than the early Egyptian version! 

These crude powders and pastes continued in different forms and had soap added in the early 1800s. In 1873, Colgate started mass production of an actual paste sold in jars, still with abrasive ingredients that damaged enamel. Flouride was introduced in 1914 and with the First World War, producing a lead and tin shortage (the packaging choice until then) plastic tubes were developed. Abrasion was reduced at this time and more synthetic ingredients and sweeteners were added.

One chemical ingredient still used today that I would highly encourage you to research and remove is SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate). It has been found to cause a plethora of health issues and as it is a foaming agent, is truly not necessary in toothpaste.  

Today we now have a plethora of wonderful choices when it comes to natural tooth care and a stroll down the aisle at Sprouts or Whole Foods will present you with tons of options to suit your individual needs. Activated charcoal is a more recent addition to the whitening trend and although a bit messy, does wonders in that area. Free tip: you can also just buy activated charcoal capsules and dip your toothbrush and toothpaste into it!

Personally, when I first started trying “tooth soap” I was hooked, as it is a gentle but powerful cleaning agent as well.  

Happy Brushing! 

— Sara Lemons Vaules is the founder of Lemon and Light, which offers consulting, products and strategies for moving with ease into an organic, chemical-free lifestyle.