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Is Homemade Toothpaste A Good Way To Prevent Waste?

baking soda on a toothbrush

Key takeaways

Some people promote DIY toothpaste as an alternative to buying a tube off the shelves.

But as a dentist I don’t recommend this.

DIY toothpastes are not supported for looking after your dental health. 

There is a lack of testing that means you do not know how safe the ingredients are that you are putting on your teeth. 

Homemade toothpastes also lack the fluoride required to protect your teeth against tooth decay.

Some of the ingredients used in homemade toothpastes have the potential to cause harm to your dental and general health.

Reasons people may want to make their own paste vary, from environmental reasons, to avoiding certain ingredients.

I understand some people want to avoid certain ingredients, and if I don’t cover your reason here please leave a comment below!

As a dentist I always recommend buying a tried and tested product. This way you know what you are using on your teeth and gums is safe.

Why do people want to make their own toothpaste?

First of all, I think it’s best to examine some of the reasons people think making their own toothpaste is a better alternative to those options available to buy. Some of the most common reasons I hear are listed below, along with an explanation of why this might not be true and what the alternatives might be available.

ReasonRealityWhat is the alternative?
Homemade toothpaste is more environmentally friendly because it saves waste and reduces the plastic packaging used.On the surface, this could be true. But many homemade pastes require lots of different ingredients. All these need to be delivered to you, requiring multiple packets! Also the ingredients may become unusable before they are fully used, increasing the amount of waste produced.See our environmentally-friendly toothpaste article and our information about recyclable toothpaste packaging and other zero waste options. Consider toothpaste tablets that come in alternative packaging.
Homemade toothpaste saves money.You need to pay for all the ingredients required to make the toothpaste which can be significantly more than the cheapest commercially made toothpastes.Opt for own brand toothpastes in the shops which can be less than half the price of leading brands.
Making my own toothpaste lets me control the ingredients used/ I don’t trust industrial ingredients.There is fake news spread around the safety of ingredients used in toothpaste. The reality is that they are considered medicines and so must meet rigorous standards.Identify what ingredients you want to avoid and why. See our A-Z of toothpaste ingredients for information about what each ingredient does. You may want to opt for an SLS free or natural toothpaste instead of a conventional paste.
I want to have fluoride free toothpaste.Fluoride is the key ingredient that helps to protect teeth against tooth decay. See our article about fluoride vs non fluoride toothpaste for more information about this.Opt for a toothpaste which contains an alternative remineralising agent such as hydroxyapatite.

Is homemade toothpaste more environmentally friendly?

There is no evidence to support the fact that homemade toothpaste is environmentally friendly. 

Yes, there is no use of non recyclable laminate tubes.

But there are a large number of ingredients in most DIY toothpaste recipes. Unless these are bought without packaging, you can still end up with a fair amount of packaging. 

Some ingredients might also go to waste if they go off before they can be fully used.

DIY toothpastes also lack the fluoride required to protect against dental decay. Ultimately, if you avoid fluoride and develop cavities, you will end up using far more plastic having treatment than which would have been used for regular toothpaste!

Reasons why dentists do not recommend homemade toothpaste

A 2021 study in the British Dental Journal  looked at some of the problems associated with homemade toothpastes. They summarise some of the issues. The main reasons a dentist would not recommend a homemade toothpaste are:

1. Homemade toothpastes do not contain fluoride

This is one of the main reasons people may choose to make their own toothpaste. But dentists would not recommend avoiding fluoride due to the overwhelming evidence of the benefits for protection against tooth decay. If you have any fillings or damage to your teeth, or are not exposed to fluoride in other ways (e.g. fluoridated drinking water) it is best to expose your teeth to fluoride in toothpaste.

2. It is not possible to test the abrasivity of the toothpaste

The mixtures often contain imprecise measurements of impure ingredients. It is impossible to know how abrasive these homemade toothpastes are. Some level of abrasiveness is required to help with the cleaning level. But overly abrasive toothpastes can remove the outermost layer of the tooth (the enamel), causing irreversible damage and tooth sensitivity. Commercially available toothpastes are tested and must be underneath a recommended safe limit.

3. The ingredients may accidentally cause harm or damage

Many people associate the term natural with being safe. But this simply isn’t true. It is perfectly possible for natural ingredients to cause harm, for example:

IngredientProposed benefitPotential issues
White clay (kaolin clay)Abrasive agent – removes stains and polishes tooth surfaceCould contain lead
CharcoalAbrasive agent – removes stains and polishes tooth surfaceCan cause irreversible wear of tooth surface
Mentha essential oil Antiseptic/antimicrobialUnknown how effective it is in preventing contamination of homemade paste
Lemon juiceTasteHigh levels of acidity can damage the tooth surface

Any of the ingredients used may be contaminated without the person using it knowing. The possible bacteria or fungi are then brushed directly onto the teeth and gums where they could cause problems. Depending on the recipe, certain plants can even release toxins and cause poisoning.

Natural ways to improve your dental health

If you are looking for the best way to look after your teeth and gums naturally, I would recommend you continue to use a toothpaste with fluoride to protect against dental decay.

If you want to know the best options for a toothpaste with minimal ingredients, but which still protects against decay, you can find our recommendations here.

The best way to look after your teeth and gums is to ensure you have the correct brushing technique, so that plaque is fully removed.

Also ensure that your diet does not contain too much sugar (this includes “natural” sources like honey) or acid (fruit juices for example).

Is oil pulling good for your teeth? 

Coconut oil and toothbrush

Oil pulling is popular in some parts of the world. 

Advocates of oil pulling recommend swishing natural oil around your mouth for 15-20 minutes 3 or 4 times a week.

They recommend this for everything from plaque removal to tooth whitening.

There are many types of oil that could be used but pure coconut oil is mentioned most frequently. It has a pleasant taste and the pure form is readily available from most supermarkets.

The theory is that the oil draws toxins from the body.

There may be some small changes to the oral environment so that it becomes detrimental for bacteria. 

But there are no clinical studies to prove this works. A 2016 Review Paper titled “Effect of oil pulling in promoting oro dental hygiene” revealed that oil pulling has little effect on plaque scores, but does note that evidence is limited. 

In any case, oil pulling is not a replacement for toothbrushing and toothpaste for protecting your teeth and gums.

About Dr. Gemma Wheeler, BDS (Hons)

Gemma qualified from Cardiff University School of Dentistry in 2015. She went on to complete her Foundation Training and a further two years in the Armed Forces, primarily based around Wiltshire. She now works in a private practice in Plymouth.

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