Microbeads in Toothpaste: The Plastic Surprise

Black and white drawing of dental exam-Microbeads in toothpaste can cause dental problems. 1919, "dental exam", by johnny_automatic, openclipart.org
Black and white drawing of dental exam-Microbeads in toothpaste can cause dental problems. 1919, "dental exam", by johnny_automatic, openclipart.org

While researching information for my upcoming post on plastics in our oceans, I came across a couple of toothpaste recipes that I'd like to share. Why would you want to make your own toothpaste, and what does that have to do with plastic? Microbeads in toothpaste are more common than people realize and contain plastics. Last updated March 23, 2017

Microbeads in toothpaste—say what?

Sierra Magazine published a compelling article on ingredients in toothpastes. Some toothpastes, unfortunately, contain microbeads. These are tiny plastic beads used in the cosmetic industry, which have turned up not only in our oceans, but also in aquatic life.

Common names for these beads include polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, polymethyl methacrylate, and nylon. Most natural brands are free of microbeads, and several states in the US are already in the process of banning them. Because you might not live in one of these states, please do check the label on your toothpaste.

Many brands have already begun phasing out microbeads, but the Crest line is one of the last brands that still contains them. Important update: Crest plans to complete the process of phasing out microbeads by March 2016.

Cropped blue and white drawing of cat with big smile and big sharp teeth tinted in blue, Crazy Cool Cat in Blue, by wesd440, openclipart.ort.
Cropped blue and white drawing of cat with big smile and big sharp teeth tinted in blue, Crazy Cool Cat in Blue, by wesd440, openclipart.ort.

Microbeads in toothpaste—down the drain and gingivitis

Besides ending up in our oceans, rivers, and streams via our sinks and drains, microbeads may contribute to gingivitis by getting caught in the pockets just underneath the gum line.

Advantages of DIY toothpaste

Advantages to making your own toothpaste are the ability to use glass and other reusable containers, keeping toothpaste tubes out of our landfills, and the option of avoiding other harmful chemicals mentioned in the above magazine article and here.

Two recipes

Check out these two recipes, both from Sierra Magazine. The first one, originally published on the care2 website, contains baking soda, sea salt, essential oils, and water. The second recipe uses the same ingredients with the addition of coconut oil.

Because I'm biased toward a toothpaste recipe that can remain in a powdered form, I like the idea of using baking soda, sea salt, and essential oils. Omitting the addition of water and coconut oil reduces the possibility of contamination through fingers or other family members' toothbrushes. However, some dentists feel that coconut oil is beneficial to oral health, so I think some experimenting is in order.

DIY toothpaste

Combine baking soda and a sprinkling of finely ground sea salt in a glass jar with a metal lid, using at least twice as much baking soda as salt. The sea salt is really optional, so only use as much as your taste buds permit. Add essential oil of peppermint or spearmint to taste, being careful not to add too much. How much essential oil to use depends upon the quantity of toothpaste. Both of the recipes above used 3-5 drops of essential oil per tablespoon of  toothpaste. Honestly, we like plain baking soda, so I wouldn't add too much essential oil. Other oils to try are thyme, rosemary, sweet orange, or cinnamon bark. Pour a small amount of dry toothpaste into the palm of your hand. Dip a moistened toothbrush into this mixture, and brush your teeth.

Coconut oil option

Coconut oil could be kept in a separate glass container and mixed with the tooth powder in your palm as needed. Some household members might not be too keen on the coconut oil idea, so this method provides options.

It's doubtful young children will appreciate this toothpaste, though, so I need to do more research on their behalf. And many physicians don't recommend all essential oils for young children, so please do your own research. For a safe conventional toothpaste for children (and adults), check out the EWG skin deep database here.

Dentist's website

Here's an additional link to Dr. Mark Burhenne's website, which has even more information on ingredients in both store brands and DIY toothpaste.

Conclusion

Avoiding microbeads in toothpaste doesn't have to be hard. You can find microbead-free brands in stores, or make your own toothpowder/toothpaste. I'll be experimenting with this recipe over the next couple of weeks, along with purchasing a glass container for my DIY tooth powder. Hopefully, I'll find one that has holes and a closable lid. I'll let you know.

But now, I would like to hear from you. Have you tried making toothpaste? Please let me know how it turned out in the comment section below.

Until next time, keep brushing those teeth! And let's all be thankful we don't have as many teeth as the featured cat above.

Laura