Your Guide to Natural Toothpastes & 5 Ways to Whiten Teeth That Really Work

Published on March 17, 2023

By Kristen Boye BS, Natural Health

Kristen Boye

Kristen Boye is a natural health expert, writer, copywriter, and editor. Kristen was raised on an organic farm in British Columbia which inspired her life’s work. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Health, is a Certified Natural Foods Chef, co-owner of a medicinal herb farm, and is a natural foods and children’s health advocate. Kristen lives with her husband and two children on their medicinal herb farm in Western North Carolina.

Switching to natural toothpaste or teeth whiteners can be an excellent way to reduce chemical exposure and environmental impact.

However, figuring out which brands and ingredients work can take time and effort.

Over 37 million Americans use at-home teeth whitening products annually REF#933 and can create unwanted side effects if misused, such as sensitive teeth or spots.

In this article, you’ll learn what to look for in a high-quality, non-toxic, all-natural, and effective toothpaste.

We’ll also discuss some of the best ways to whiten your teeth naturally using simple household items, herbs, and non-toxic whitening products.

Why Use a Natural Toothpaste or Teeth Whitener?

Most people grew up using conventional white, blue, and red toothpaste with fluoride. 

A few natural toothpaste brands were available, but most people had never heard of them.

So, why is everyone now switching to natural toothpastes and oral care products?

Several reasons, including an increased awareness about potentially toxic synthetic chemicals in oral and personal care products, such as:

    • Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS): A synthetic foaming agent used in toothpastes and other personal care products linked to mouth sores and skin irritation.REF#934
    • Parabens: Controversial synthetic preservatives that can negatively impact the endocrine/hormonal system.REF#935 
    • Triclosan: An antibacterial agent banned in all over-the-counter personal care products, except toothpaste! Studies have shown Triclosan can have adverse effects on
      • Thyroid hormonesREF#936
      • The oral and gut microbiomeREF#937
      • The risk of allergies in childrenREF#938
      • And may contribute to the proliferation of superbugs.REF#936 REF#939
    • Fluoride: The synthetic version of natural fluoride has been linked to various health issues related to neurotoxicity, fertility, and more. We discuss this at length in the next section.REF#940
    • Artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners: These can negatively impact behavior, cognitive health, and other aspects of well-being.REF#941 REF#942 
    • Hydrogen Peroxide: A common bleaching ingredient in most teeth whitening systems. Hydrogen peroxide is non-toxic and can benefit dental health when used short-term. However, it can weaken or damage tooth enamel in excess or high concentrations.REF#943
    • Single-use plastics and plastic chemicals found in many toothpaste tubes, like BPA, BPB, and phthalates.

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s get into more detail about the most controversial ingredient in most conventional and even some natural toothpastes: fluoride.

Is Fluoride Good Or Bad? Here’s What The New Science Says

Children are told not to swallow too much toothpaste because it contains fluoride.

Despite the warning label on toothpaste tubes, the notion that fluoride is a toxic chemical is laughed off by most dental professionals and people in general.

After all, fluoride is considered the gold standard for preventing cavities and decay. So much so that it’s used in most dentists’ offices, toothpastes, and municipal water systems.

However, new scientific studies conducted in several countries have demonstrated inconvenient truths about the safety of fluoride.

In 2020, the U.S. National Toxicology Program released a 320-page review of all published studies on fluoride's potential neurotoxicity and side effects.REF#944

A neurotoxin alters the structure or function of the nervous system and can cause cognitive and neurological issues.REF#945

They concluded that “Fluoride is presumed to be a cognitive developmental hazard to humans.” 

This is concerning given the amount of fluoride most people consume daily through water, toothpaste, and other sources.

Human studies have also shown fluoride can negatively impact: 

  • Male fertility by decreasing testosterone levels.REF#946 There’s also evidence in animal studies that it can affect sperm quality and quantity.REF#947 REF#948
  • Thyroid health: A large-scale observational study published in the British Medical Journal found a link between higher levels of fluoride in drinking water and the prevalence of hypothyroidism.REF#949 This is significant because of the thyroid’s role in fertility, hormonal health, metabolism, and more.
  • Lower IQs in children: A Canadian observational study of 601 mothers and children found an association between higher levels of fluoride in the mothers’ urine during pregnancy and substantially lower IQs in their children.REF#950

Another Mexican observational study demonstrated a similar result based on fluoride levels in mothers’ urine.

This is a small sampling of the studies showing a potentially negative correlation between fluoride and human health.

More research is needed (and forthcoming). 

However, if this concerns you, it may be a good reason to talk with your dentist and/or switch to fluoride-free toothpaste.

How To Choose A Natural Toothpaste That Actually Works

Natural toothpaste often gets a bad wrap because not all brands contain ingredients proven to support oral health or help prevent cavities

That may have been the case several years ago. However, many natural, non-toxic toothpastes with ingredients proven to prevent tooth decay and support oral health are now available.

Here are 6 of the most effective natural ingredients to look for in natural toothpastes:

#1: Hydroxyapatite (HAp)

Hydroxyapatite or HAp, a form of calcium similar to what teeth are made of, has been used in Japan for decades as a fluoride alternative.

Studies have shown it is as effective as fluoride for preventing and reducing cavities and remineralizing teeth REF#952 without the risks of fluoride exposure.REF#953 It’s also a natural whitening agent.

The only potential downside to hydroxyapatite toothpastes is the price point, which tends to be higher than other natural brands.

However, considering the cost-savings of healthier teeth and fewer cavities, it may be worth the small investment.

#2: Baking Soda

Often, the best things in life are inexpensive and easy to come by. 

This is true for baking soda, which can be found in many natural toothpastes or used on its own as a brushing agent.

Research published in the Journal of the American Dental Association supports the use of baking soda in toothpaste, showing it benefits oral health by REF#954

  • Reducing pathogenic bacteria that can contribute to oral health issues 
  • Reducing plaque and plaque biofilms
  • Helping with gingivitis
  • Reduce cavities
  • And support mineralization of teeth

The same research showed baking soda’s low abrasiveness makes it safe for everyday use and effective for removing stubborn plaque without harming the teeth.

Baking soda may be listed as either “baking soda” or “sodium bicarbonate” on labels. 

You can also add a bit of baking soda to your toothpaste for added cleaning and whitening power.

#3: Xylitol

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol traditionally found in birch trees. 

These days it’s typically extracted from corn and used as a low-calorie sweetener and ingredient in many toothpastes, mouthwashes, and other oral care products.

Xylitol isn’t like other low- or no-calorie sweeteners in that it’s been shown to support various aspects of oral and overall health.

Some of its demonstrated benefits of Xylitol include: REF#955 REF#956 REF#957

  • Reducing levels of mutans streptococci (MS) bacteria in plaque and saliva and their ability to adhere to teeth and produce harmful acids in adults and children.
  • Promoting teeth mineralization by increasing salivary flow when used as chewing gum or large xylitol pastille.
  • Decreasing plaque with regular use.
  • Decreasing cavities by increasing salivary flow and pH and reducing the number of cariogenic (MS) and periodontopathic (Helicobacter pylori) bacteria. This helps reduce plaque levels, dry mouth, gingival inflammation, and erosion of teeth.

Note: Xylitol is toxic to dogs, so if you don’t trust your dog not to eat your toothpaste, choose another option from this list.

Many natural toothpaste brands contain xylitol in familiar flavors for adults and children.

#4: Neem

Neem is an Ayurvedic herb (Ayurveda is the traditional wellness practice of India) that is used as an oil, tea, or herbal supplement.

It has been shown to benefit oral health by supporting gum health and reducing plaque buildup via its positive effects on bacterial balance.REF#958

In Ayurveda, Neem oil or herbal packs/poultices have been traditionally used to support healthy gums and fight against gum disease.* 

You can find Neem as an oil or an ingredient in natural toothpastes, mouthwashes, and dental floss. It’s also a popular ingredient in Ayurvedic skin care products.

#5: Herbs such as Ratanhia, Aloe Vera, and Myrrh

Although there are plenty of herbs that have been traditionally used to support oral health, few have been studied for this purpose.

Here are three herbs that have demonstrated potential benefits for teeth, gums, and the oral microbiome (your mouth’s ecosystem):

    1. Ratanhia: An herb traditionally used by Peruvians to whiten their teeth has demonstrated some efficacy for reducing plaque and supporting gum health.REF#959
    2. Aloe Vera: This common plant has demonstrated various dental health benefits, including reducing harmful oral bacteria and yeasts that can cause cavities and gum disease.REF#960 It also has a soothing effect on gums.
    3. Myrrh: This ancient herb is considered sacred in many cultures and is used in many natural oral care products. There is some evidence it can help with wound healing in the mouth and gum inflammation and has antibacterial properties that may support gum health. REF#961 REF#962 

    Again, this is a small sampling of herbs studied for their oral health benefits.

    Herbs such as fennel/anise, peppermint, cinnamon bark, and more are also used in natural toothpastes for their breath-freshening and other potentially beneficial properties.

    #6: Salt

    Whether it’s sea salt, Himalayan salt, or plain table salt, salt’s naturally abrasive and whitening qualities make it an effective ingredient to look for in natural toothpaste.

    Other Natural Teeth Whitening Options

    Here are some other popular ways to naturally whiten your teeth, in addition to hydroxyapatite and baking soda.

    #1: Look at Your Diet for Stain Prevention

    Certain foods like coffee, black tea, soda, energy drinks, and red wine can stain your teeth or cause discoloration.REF#963 REF#964

    Either avoid these or brush immediately after to reduce staining. Chewing sugar-free gum may also help.

    #2: Hydrogen Peroxide

    Although we listed it as an ingredient of concern previously,REF#942 3% hydrogen peroxide (the type you find in the brown bottle at the drugstore) is an effective, non-toxic, at-home teeth whitener. 

    The key to using it safely is not to overuse it.

    Over-the-counter hydrogen peroxide is typically 3% peroxide and 97% water. 

    This can be poured onto your toothbrush or combined with baking soda to whiten your teeth safely and naturally.

    Check with your dentist, but this diluted version of peroxide is typically safe to use occasionally without concern of damaging teeth.

    #3: Charcoal

    Despite its popularity in natural toothpastes, there is no formal evidence charcoal helps whiten teeth.

    Some dentists even recommend against using it because it could be too abrasive.

    However, many swear by it as an effective and natural whitening option.

    If you’d like to try charcoal to whiten your teeth, look for a non-toxic toothpaste brand and use it sparingly.

    #4: LED-Powered Teeth Whiteners

    Several companies promote LED teeth whitening systems as the best way to whiten teeth naturally.

    The idea is the LED light creates a natural bleaching effect, like natural sunlight, and helps activate the teeth whitening agent (usually peroxide).

    For this reason, they are often used during professional teeth whitening procedures.

    The evidence on the efficacy of these products is mixed, but they are creating a wave of positive reviews from consumers.

    They can also be expensive but are typically less costly than professional teeth bleaching.

    #5: Oil Pulling

    The Ayurvedic practice of oil pulling (swishing coconut or sesame oil around your mouth for several minutes before brushing) has made a comeback as a natural and effective way to whiten teeth, remove stains, and support better oral health.

    But does it work?

    There is evidence that plant compounds, such as lauric acid in coconut oil and sesamolin in sesame oil, can benefit oral health and support the removal of plaque, which may promote whitening.REF#965

    There are also thousands of years of anecdotal evidence that oil pulling does help whiten teeth. However, not all Western experts are convinced.

    Oil pulling is a simple process: 

    1. Put 1-3 teaspoons of coconut or sesame oil in your mouth (do not swallow). Swish and pull through your teeth for 1-20 minutes.
    2. Spit out the oil into a trash can and brush your teeth immediately after.

    With repeated use, oil pulling is supposed to have a natural whitening effect with additional benefits for oral and overall health.

    #6: Lemon + Fine Salt

    Did you know lemons have a natural bleaching effect? 

    They also contain plant compounds that help balance bacterial levels and plenty of gum-friendly antioxidants like vitamin C.

    To use lemon to whiten your teeth, combine about a tablespoon of lemon juice with some fine sea salt to make a paste.

    Brush gently on your teeth for a few minutes and rinse.

    Note: Some dental professionals believe lemon’s acidity can harm teeth. Talk to your dentist if you have sensitive teeth or other concerns.

    Make The Switch To Natural Toothpaste & Teeth Whiteners

    Switching to a more natural and eco-friendly lifestyle can also be overwhelming to navigate.

    Fortunately, with what you’ve learned today, you have all the knowledge you need to choose a safe and effective natural toothpaste you’ll love.

    Just remember the following tips:

    • Avoid SLS, parabens, triclosan, fluoride, artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners, and high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide.
    • If you decide to forego fluoride, replace it with a proven alternative such as hydroxyapatite or xylitol.
    • If you have dogs who may eat your toothpaste, skip the xylitol toothpaste!

      Finally, Don’t Forget About Flossing!

      Conventional flosses often contain plastic chemicals, petroleum wax, and PFASs---a class of fluorinated “forever” chemicals linked to heart disease and cancer, are known endocrine disruptors, and produce additional waste from one-time use.REF#966

      Instead, look for natural dental flosses that are biodegradable and free from these harmful chemicals.

      Thanks to the growing interest in natural oral care products, you can find great options at your local grocery, drug, or big box store. However, most toothpaste brands with hydroxyapatite are only available online or in natural food stores.

      Happy brushing!


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