We invited Bam to answer in the easiest way possible to Boo’s common questions on how to avoid microplastics. Hopefully, it will also cast a light on your doubts about microplastics in your toothpaste. Ultimately, you’ll be able to opt for a more healthy and environmental-friendly toothpaste.
Boo: How can I avoid microplastics in my toothpaste?
Bam: I remind you that your teeth are precious organs and what happens in your mouth affects the whole body. I’m not a scientist, nor a dentist, but I gathered a short-list based onseveral reviews.
To avoid microplastics you must read the packaging info and watch out for words starting with poly:
Polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP)
- Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
- Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)
- Polylactic acid (PLA)
- Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA)
Boo: Ugly names indeed. If we can’t eat them we shouldn’t put them in our mouth, right?
BAM: Quite right, Boo. If you read the ingredients in your food you should also read them in the toothpaste tube. And there’s no need to freak out. You just need to be well informed.
Boo: What are microplastics after all?
Bam: Microplastics are tiny plastic particles (smaller than 5mm), hardly visible to the naked eye. They are everywhere and are hard to avoid. Obviously, they are not biodegradable, and they are practically impossible to remove from the marine environment after release.
And bearing in mind that humans are at the top of the food chain, it’s likely that we end up ingesting microplastics at some point.
Boo: Besides toothpaste, what other products contain microplastics?
Bam: Studies reveal that more than 500 microplastics ingredients are widely used in cosmetics and personal care products. That’s a lot of plastic!
Be aware that some hazardous ingredients are intentionally added to body scrubs, sun lotions, lipsticks and toothpaste among many others.
Save this tip: if the product glitters, you can be sure that it contains microplastic particles. Besides being dangerous, most of these are also superfluous. They indicate toxicity to human health and aquatic life.
Boo: What are microbeads?
Bam: That’s a good question, Boo. Microbeads are a subcategory of microplastics. They are nanoplastics, even smaller than two millimetres. Can you imagine?
Boo: Please, tell me what products contain microbeads?
Bam: Microbeads are mostly found in exfoliating products such as face wash or toothpaste. Unlike other microplastics, microbeads are intentionally manufactured to be small bits of plastic.
But the good news is that countries have taken action towards the ban on microbeads. That means you can browse the personal care aisle with confidence.
Boo: What is toothpaste made of?
Bam: The conventional toothpaste has 20-40% of water, and the ingredients are grouped under inactive and active. Be aware that 98% of the toothpaste is made of inactive ingredients, which don’t provide any therapeutic benefit.
Boo: Really?! So, what’s the purpose of the active and inactive ingredients in the toothpaste?
Bam: Active ingredients are present to improve your oral hygiene. They help fight cavities, reduce your risk of gum disease and strengthen your teeth. Inactive ingredients give the toothpaste its taste and texture, making it more appealing :)
Boo: Wow. So, some chemicals are not necessarily negative. And others are just superfluous.
Can you specify the active and inactive ingredients?
Bam: Sure. I’ll also add the positive effects of active ingredients and the purpose of inactive ingredients. You can build your colourful chart as a reminder :)
- Sodium Fluoride – helps prevent tooth decay and strengthens the enamel.
- Chlorhexidine - Disinfectant and antiseptic
- Potassium nitrate – Reduces oral discomfort
- Stannous fluoride – Reduces gingivitis.
As for inactive ingredients, they are grouped into six major components with various purposes:
Abrasives - for better scrubbing of the teeth.
For example - Calcium Carbonate, Dehydrated Silica Gels, Phosphate Salts
Detergents - to provide the foam during use.
For example - Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
Humectants - to prevent the toothpaste from drying out.
For example - Glycerol, Polyethylene Glycol
Flavourings- to sweeten or add flavour to the toothpaste.
For example - Sorbitol, Saccharin, Xylitol, Aspartame
Preservatives – to stabilise the toothpaste formula and protect from dangerous germs.
For example - Parabens, Mineral Colloids, Seaweed Colloids, Synthetic Cellulose
Boo: Amazing Bam! You are my favourite walking library.
I can’t help asking - is it safe to use fluoride?
Bam: This is indeed a controversial ingredient, and open debate is ongoing.
Calcium fluoride is a mineral naturally found in water sources. It has proven caries protection benefits and its typical use is safe. Children like you should brush teeth with supervision in order not to swallow toothpaste ;)
But be aware that other forms like Sodium Fluoride and Stannous Fluoride are possibly harmful, due to the combination with a metal substance.
Boo: I got the message, Bam. You’ll be next to me while I brush my teeth :)
Bam: The takeaway here is that toothpaste alone plays a small role in your daily oral care. You also need thorough brushing and flossing with your very best bamboo toothbrush. :) And obviously, we should all see a dentist regularly.
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