The Best Natural Toothpastes to Protect Your Teeth and Freshen Your Breath
When you choose healthy foods, you likely want to feel good about every ingredient you put in your mouth. So, the same principle should apply when it comes to brushing your teeth. That's where natural toothpaste comes in, featuring familiar ingredients and without potentially harmful chemicals.
What is "natural" toothpaste, really?
When choosing a natural toothpaste brand, you'll find many that say they're fluoride-free. That's because high amounts of the mineral can be toxic. (Which is why you shouldn't swallow your toothpaste or mouthwash!) Studies show that children under six might be more prone to this toxicity, which is why it's smart to go fluoride-free for your children.
But fluoride does occur naturally in the environment (it's even in your water), and many dentists still say it's the number-one way to avoid cavities and decay. In fact, only toothpaste with fluoride can get a stamp of approval from the American Dental Association (ADA).
"Fluoride particles get incorporated into the tooth structure and make it more resistant to erosion from PH changes in the mouth," says Inna Chern, D.D.S., a New York City-based dentist. (And research backs up these benefits to your teeth.) When looking at the ingredient list on your toothpaste, Chern mentions you might see fluoride listed specifically as sodium fluoride, sodium monofluorophosphate, or stannous fluoride. "Most natural toothpaste has a fluoride-free formulation as well as a fluoride version," so you can make the right choice for you. (And, again, fluoride is totally fine as long as you're not swallowing your toothpaste every time you brush your teeth, folks.)
Instead of fluoride, many natural toothpaste companies have turned to another main ingredient for fighting cavities and protecting enamel: hydroxyapatite. While the ADA says we still need more research on hydroxyapatite, some promising studies show that it may help defend enamel even more than fluoride. "I think hydroxyapatite is a great ingredient and it is the key molecule that makes up our natural tooth structure," says Chern. "Toothpaste containing the particle can help to re-mineralize tooth structure and make it more resistant to acid erosion and cavities." (Related: Why You Should Remineralize Your Teeth—and Exactly How to Do It, According to Dentists)
Unlike with fluoride, you don't have to worry about swallowing toothpaste with hydroxyapatite. That's one reason natural toothpaste brand RiseWell included it in their formula. "We wanted to create something that works just as well as conventional toothpaste, but is safe enough to eat," says Kori Estrada, co-founder of RiseWell. That means you could actually leave the paste on your teeth if you forget to rinse or accidentally swallow it, making it a great option for kids.
An ingredient you won't find in many natural toothpastes: sodium lauryl sulfate or SLS. (You'll likely see "SLS-free" on labels.) This is a "detergent" (yes, as in a cleaning agent) that can cause mouth irritation and canker sores, says Chern. If you're prone to either of these, she recommends you skip any product that has it. Many natural product labels will also say they come sans dyes, preservatives, or artificial ingredients.
One other popular ingredient among natural toothpaste brands—but not so much a favorite among dentists—is charcoal. "The charcoal is supposed to whiten teeth, but it does so by scrubbing teeth with larger particle size molecules, which can result in sensitivity to temperatures and pain," says Chern. She suggests that those with gum sensitivities definitely stay away from charcoal. (And, BTW, Chern's not the only dentist with reservations about activated charcoal toothpaste.)
For a list of the best natural toothpaste products that protect your teeth via safe ingredients, check out this list of seven top choices.
1. Best Fluoride-Free Natural Toothpaste: RiseWell Natural Hydroxyapatite Toothpaste
The main ingredient responsible for maintaining the strength of your teeth is all in the name of this toothpaste: hydroxyapatite, a naturally-occurring mineral that makes up the majority of your enamel. As noted above, hydroxyapatite makes toothpaste safer to swallow (vs. those with fluoride) while still keeping your teeth healthy. "The problem with many oral care products is they take out the fluoride and you're not left with many effective ingredients to protect your enamel," says Estrada. (Related: Should You Switch to a Prebiotic or Probiotic Toothpaste?)
With this four-ounce tube, you also get a paraben-, sulfate-, SLS- and cruelty-free paste that won't irritate your gums thanks to zero harsh foaming agents. The minty flavor also comes from essential oils. For a taste that'll please the kids, the brand makes a cake batter flavor.
2. Best Natural Toothpaste with Flavor Options: Tom's of Maine Whole Care Toothpaste Gel
If you want a toothpaste that still has fluoride, but lacks artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and is not tested on animals—then Tom's is for you. The fluoride in this paste (you'll find sodium monofluorophosphate on the ingredient list) will help keep your teeth from eroding, explains Chern. Calcium carbonate, another ingredient, also helps remove plaque and food debris, she adds.
As for freshening your breath, you get a mint flavor derived from leaves and oils. Choose from peppermint, spearmint, wintermint, or even cinnamon and cloves to find your favorite taste. (Added bonus: It's also one of the best whitening toothpaste, according to dentists.)
3. Best Natural Toothpaste for Stronger Teeth: Burt's Bees Enamel Care Fluoride Toothpaste
This toothpaste from Burt's Bees checks all the boxes when it comes to teeth protection. It uses fluoride to prevent tooth decay while eliminating any unnatural ingredient from the formula. That means you won't find artificial flavors, sweeteners, dyes, preservatives, or potentially irritating SLS. Even better for the environment: It comes in a recyclable tube and carton so you can feel extra good about your buy.
4. Best Natural Toothpaste for Gum Care: Kopari Coconut Toothpaste
You might have seen people practice oil pulling for whiter teeth and healthy gums—swooshing around coconut oil in their mouths for minutes. (Research says it has potential.) Well, you get a little bit of that benefit with this coconut oil-based toothpaste. For more tooth protection, this fluoride-free toothpaste uses hydroxyapatite as the main defender of your enamel. The added peppermint oil also leaves a refreshing aftertaste and of course, like the rest of the products on this list, it's free of agents like parabens and sulfates. Plus, it's vegan-friendly. (If you're a fan of coconut oil then you're going to love this coconut oil-infused floss.)
5. Best Natural Toothpaste for Whitening: Hello Naturally Whitening Fluoride Toothpaste
The calcium blend in this toothpaste means it helps with the sparkly white look you're likely aiming to achieve for your smile. (Psst...these teeth whitening kits can also help!) Meanwhile, ingredients like peppermint and tea tree oil leave your breath tasting and smelling fresh, and the coconut oil keeps your mouth moisturized. To top off the teeth protection, this one also contains fluoride.
As for what you won't find on the ingredient list: peroxide, dye, SLS, parabens, triclosan, preservatives, or even gluten. It's also vegan-friendly, so it's never tested on animals.
6. Best Natural Toothpaste for Kids: Jack 'N Jill Natural Toothpaste
Your children will love this brand, as it has tasty flavors like bubblegum, berries & cream, raspberry, and strawberry. Because it doesn't contain fluoride, you also don't have to worry about the kiddos swallowing it (which could happen with these flavors). In fact, you'll find just a short list of ingredients on the label.
This Jack 'N Jill brand also offers cruelty-free and vegan-friendly products, all in recyclable packaging.
7. Best Natural Toothpaste for Helping the Planet: The Humble Co. Toothpaste
Skip the dyes and preservatives and brush with paste that uses sodium fluoride as the main ingredient. It comes in exciting flavors, too, like fresh mint, strawberry mint, coconut & salt, and cinnamon.
Beyond how good it makes your teeth feel, Humble Co. also offers initiatives to help save the Earth and the people on it. Through the Humble Smile Foundation, the company aims to spread oral healthcare education, research, and advocacy to underserved areas abroad. You can also recycle each product in the Humble line, including this tube of toothpaste and the 100% biodegradable toothbrush (Buy It, $5, target.com) made strictly of bamboo. (Related: 'I Tried Creating Zero Waste for One Week to See How Hard Being Sustainable Really Is')