Many of us try our best to use natural-based products free from potentially harmful ingredients — and this is especially true when it comes to the products we use multiple times a day, like toothpaste.
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Luckily, if you're looking for a natural toothpaste these days, you've got plenty of options. Here are our top picks, along with a guide on what to look fo when you're shopping.
First, What Is Natural Toothpaste?
As its name suggests, a natural toothpaste is made using only natural ingredients, or those occurring in nature — that means no chemicals, preservatives, artificial flavors or other potentially harmful additives.
Some natural toothpastes contain ingredients such as coconut oil, baking soda, propolis (which is a plant resin) and licorice root extract, among other ingredients, notes dentist Kate Zoumboukos, DMD, of SW Austin Dental. "You can clean your teeth without the risk of chemical side effects and with natural ingredients that still provide antibacterial effects," she says. "They're good if you have sensitive teeth because the natural ingredients are gentle and soothing to your gums."
Some natural toothpastes formulated for whitening contain ingredients like activated charcoal, which might sound strange at first, but Victoria Veytsman, DDS, cosmetic dentist and founder of Cosmetic Dental Studios with offices in New York and Beverly Hills, points out that charcoal can not only help whiten teeth but it can also provide antiviral and antifungal benefits as well.
"Natural toothpaste is good for anyone looking to minimize the level of chemicals in your body," Dr. Veytsman explains. "However, those who tend to eat high-sugar diets may want to make sure they're using one infused with fluoride to prevent tooth decay."
How We Chose
We tapped Dr. Zoumboukos and Dr. Veytsman, combed current research around these products and looked at online reviews to round up the best natural toothpastes out there.
Our picks fit the definition of natural toothpaste (no chemicals or additives) and contain active ingredients that help clean teeth and fight decay. We also tried to keep a variety of budgets in mind.
1. Best Overall: Boka Ela Mint Natural Toothpaste
Although pricey, this natural toothpaste has gotten rave reviews for its fresh flavor and powerful natural ingredients that fight plaque, help whiten and cut down on sensitivity.
Instead of fluoride, which is a chemical ingredient, it contains a natural mineral called nano-hydroxyapatite (n-Ha) that helps harden teeth and restore enamel. Research, including one July-September 2014 study in the journal Annali Di Stomatologia has shown that n-Ha is equally, if not more, effective than fluoride. Plus, it's nontoxic, naturally occurring and pleasant in the mouth.
This toothpaste is also vegan, cruelty-free and made in the U.S.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $11.99
2. Best for Sensitive Teeth: Wildist Brillimint Toothpaste
Instead of harsher ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or triclosan, which have been linked to potential health consequences, this all-natural toothpaste contains white tea antioxidants, which help strengthen teeth and ward off bacteria, as well as goji berry, an amino acid that fights inflammation. It also contains baking soda, one of the most time-honored natural ingredients for fighting plaque and whitening.
If you have sensitive teeth, you don't have to fear that after-sting you can sometimes feel with toothpastes that contain harsher ingredients.
This toothpaste is also sustainable — made from 100 percent recyclable ingredients and a BPA-free aluminum tube so you can feel good about your effect on the environment.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $8.99
3. Best Natural Whitening Toothpaste: Tom's of Maine Natural Simply White Fluoride Toothpaste
This brand of personal care products has been around since the 1970s and has always been formulated with natural ingredients. What's more, their products, including their toothpastes, have received the ADA Seal of Acceptance and meet the rigorous criteria set forth by the American Dental Association.
In addition to being free of artificial flavors, preservatives, colors and sweeteners, this whitening toothpaste is packed with naturally-derived ingredients that help whiten teeth and reduce plaque, including zinc citrate sourced from zinc, xylitol sourced from birch trees or corn and peppermint essential oil for further cleansing and fresh breath.
Another plus: Tom's of Maine donates 10 percent of their profits to various charities in the fields of education, children's health and the environment.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $16.47 for a pack of three
4. Best Natural Toothpaste With Fluoride: Hello Sensitivity Relief Fluoride Toothpaste
Most natural toothpastes do not contain fluoride, which leaves you at risk for tooth decay and ultimately helps prevent cavities, explains Dr. Veytsman. If you're someone who has cavity-prone teeth or consume a high-sugar diet, it's a good idea to seek out a natural toothpaste that contains this key ingredient as well.
Dr. Veytsman recommends Hello Sensitivity Relief Fluoride Toothpaste, which contains cavity-fighting fluoride but is also free of dyes, SLS, parabens and preservatives. "It has high-quality ingredients like aloe vera, which is naturally antibacterial, xylitol, which helps prevent tooth decay, and coconut oil, which aids in sensitivity."
Eco- and animal-friendly types will appreciate that this toothpaste brand is vegan and never tested on animals.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $5.89
5. Best Charcoal Natural Toothpaste: Schmidt’s Activated Charcoal With Wondermint
Activated charcoal might not sound like something you should be putting in your mouth, but it's actually one of the most respected natural ingredients for toothpastes. It's both antiviral and antifungal, meaning it helps cut down on harmful bacteria that could be lurking in your mouth and, while doing this, it can help freshen your breath.
Activated charcoal is also quite effective at removing surface stains and may even help with whitening.
This toothpaste is also enriched with aloe leaf juice and magnolia bark extract for further cleansing and is certified vegan and cruelty-free.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $5
6. Best Fluoride-Free Natural Toothpaste: Tom's of Maine Natural Antiplaque & Whitening Fluoride-Free Peppermint Toothpaste
Free of just about every potentially harmful ingredient you could possibly find in a toothpaste, Tom's of Maine still doesn't skimp when it comes to the ingredients that help keep your teeth strong and clean — all while remaining fluoride-free.
This toothpaste contains zinc citrate and xylitol as active ingredients to help remove surface stains and provide antibacterial benefits to keep your mouth clean.
The brand meets the highest standards of public transparency and environmental performance, scoring a B Corp certification and providing a full and complete list of every ingredient on its website as well as other retailers' sites.
Buy it: Walmart.com; Price: $4.74
What to Look for in a Natural Toothpaste
When it comes to shopping for a natural toothpaste, here are a few key things to keep in mind, according to dentists:
1. Check the Label for Harmful Ingredients
Currently, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) does not define the term "natural toothpaste," which leaves consumers to define what "natural" means to them.
"One common finding when describing natural toothpastes is that the toothpaste contains ingredients free of artificial flavors, ingredients, preservatives, sweeteners and colors," Dr. Zoumboukos says.
She recommends reading through the ingredients list on a product to make sure no potentially harmful ingredients — including sulfates, diethanolamine (DEA), artificial ingredients, triclosan, titanium dioxide or carrageenan — show up.
2. Make Sure There’s an Active Ingredient
Even though it's natural, it should still contain an active ingredient that helps remove bacteria, prevent plaque buildup and freshen your breath.
"Coconut oil helps stop plaque buildup and rid the mouth of bacteria, xylitol also helps to reduce plaque buildup and baking soda neutralizes acids and maintains proper pH and protects enamel," says Dr. Veytsman.
3. Check the Best-by Date
Without chemical preservatives, a natural toothpaste may have a shorter shelf life. That's why it's important to pay attention to the best-by date, to ensure the ingredients in your paste are still active and able to do their job.