At the beginning of March this year, I changed to a natural toothpaste. I didn’t have much of an intelligent reason to do so, and simply did it because I had gone through the process of replacing all my other personal care products, and it was the last thing on the list that needed a natural revamp.
I waited for my trusty steed, Aquafresh Extreme Clean Whitening, to finish, and then checked out Wellness Warehouse for what they had to offer. I liked Aquafresh and have used it my entire life. When the Extreme Clean series came out, I was super excited for the super cleaning power. It foams a lot, gets into all the crevices, and leaves my mouth feeling really fresh. But also really raw. On the trip to work I would be picking at the inside of my mouth to remove slithers of skin that had basically peeled off. Gross, I know.
It was time for a change! I use a lot of EarthSap products, but I had read reviews that it didn’t have a fresh mouth feeling. I also didn’t want to take one with too many ingredients – my rule when buying anything is, the less ingredients, the better – so I didn’t take the Pure Beginnings toothpaste Wellness Warehouse stocked.
So I picked out Olgani Herbal Resfreshing Toothpaste. Its ingredients as listed on their website are:
Aqua, sea salt, Oryza sativa (rice) flour, xanthan gum, Sesamun indicum (sesame)oil*, Mentha piperata (peppermint) oil, Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil*, extracts of propolis, Camelia sinesis (green tea), Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal), Ginkgo biloba, echinacea
*ingredients from organic farming
The cashier warned me that it’s incredibly salty, and the box also says to allow 1 – 2 weeks for taste familiarisation. I tried it out, and IT IS SALTY! So salty. I was a bit despondent in the first few seconds, because I was worried my mouth wouldn’t feel fresh afterwards. I had no cause for worry. I can’t emphasise enough how salty it is, and after eating spicy or garlicky food, it feels weird to stick more salt into your mouth, but it has a nice tingly freshness after rinsing. And by tingly, I don’t mean the commercial meaning of “What fresh hell is this burning??”. Just a normal, non-threatening clean feeling. I became accustomed to using it, and although I wasn’t fond of brushing my tongue with it, my mouth felt completely sterile.
It’s really hard to find usable information on the internet concerning product ingredients. It seems like the entire internet citizenry is divided into either the “This will kill you AND YOUR CHILDREN with cancer!!”-camp, or the “There is no scientific evidence to prove that this is harmful in any way or form, so get out you hippes!!”-camp. When there is no scientific evidence, it means that they have either done a study (one, two, three? How large were the sample sizes?) and found no negative side effects, they found some side-effects, but only after prolonged or excessive exposure, or they haven’t done a study. As an academic myself, I know how skewed research is, and whilst I do trust the scientific method, I don’t trust that results are without bias. The naturalists also base their warnings on research findings, and I question those findings on the same principles.
One of the biggest points of contention is the use of fluoride, which apparently strengthens the teeth, and is added to water sources to no adverse effect. Naturalists seem to want to avoid it, blaming it for several health conditions, and I even found an article targeted at men that says it inhibits the production of testosterone. I don’t particularly try to avoid fluoride, but I also doubt how effective it truly is at strengthening, since I’ve had a piece of one of my teeth break off even before I went natural, simply because I clench my jaw when sleeping.
A lot of the ingredients shunned by naturalists are on the basis that they are potentially carcinogenic, i.e. they can cause cancerous cell growth. Examples include preservatives, flavourings, fluoride, and the evil sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), a foaming agent. What catches my attention, though, are attestations that certain ingredients and chemicals dull your sense of taste, are too abrasive for your teeth, and can cause allergic reactions (although natural ingredients can too). I also look for ingredients that have a minimal impact on our water sources and environment once it has gone down the drain.
After starting to use the Olgani toothpaste, I no longer had to deal gross peeling skin sticking to my teeth, and I definitely noticed an improved sense of taste, especially in terms of sweetness. I also had less of a craving for sugar, and I haven’t had as many migraines, but I think that is due to a combination of factors, not just changing toothpastes. My mouth actually felt cleaner, even without the foaming action, of which there is absolutely none. This means there’s nothing to disguise the mouth-goodies when you spit, so you get to see everything that was partying it up in your mouth.
I really liked Olgani, but even though you can get used to it, it’s never truly a pleasant experience. I also experienced bleeding gums every now and then, but I think that’s because there isn’t really any lubricant like SLS, so my toothbrush might just have been too abrasive. Towards the end of the tube it became extra salty and the salt pieces would stick between my teeth, which I didn’t like. Ultimately, the reason I decided to try a new one was because it’s expensive at about R70 a tube. It lasted for two months, but that is still about triple the price of normal toothpaste.
I really wanted to buy the Pure Beginnings Fresh Mint Toothpaste with Xylitol, since it falls right in my price range at around R39 a tube, I’ve realised the ingredients are simple enough, and it only has one questionable chemical, sodium lauroyl sacrosinate, which potentially becomes toxic when combined with nitrates, of which there are none anyway. A risk I was willing to take. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it at my Wellness Warehouse, and I wasn’t willing to up the price to R80 to pay for shipping additionally. Wellness Warehouse also, unfortunately, didn’t have the Olgani one I used before, so I had to choose a different one, and I’m still adamant about not using the EarthSap one.
I ended up going with Nature’s Gate Wintergreen Gel, which cost R48. Its ingredients as listed on their website are:
Glycerin, Hydrated Silica, Water (Eau), Sorbitol, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Flavor (Aroma)*, Xylitol, Quillaja Saponaria (Soap Bark) Root Extract, Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) Leaf Extract, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Fruit Extract, Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Fruit Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract, Cellulose Gum, Calcium Glycerophosphate, Bisabolol, Menthol, Benzoic Acid.
I didn’t like that it had so many ingredients, and I also don’t like hidden ingredients like “natural flavour”. I like wintergreen as an essential oil, but I can’t actually see it on the ingredient list? It’s vegan and cruelty free at least, but it’s not a South African product, and the ingredients are sourced from across the world, which means it already has a huge carbon footprint before it’s even used. It contains some questionable ingredients, like sorbitol, an artificial sweetener; hydrated silica, which apparently wears away tooth enamel; and benzoic acid, a preservative which is found naturally in some foods, but can also be toxic in high concentrations.
So far it’s a lot more comfortable to use than Olgani’s super salty toothpaste, although it requires some Hulk-hands squeezing to get the really thick paste out of the tube. It has a pleasant taste, not too sweet, and contains calcium glycerophosphate, a new supplement on the block that can strengthen teeth and also occurs naturally in our bones. My teeth feel shinier and whiter, but it may be my imagination. It’s not very good at cleaning my coffee-stained tongue, though. I don’t think I’ll buy it again, mostly because of it not being local.
Here is a summary of my experiences:
Olgani Herbal Refreshing Toothpaste
- Produced locally
- Ingredients from organic farming
- Uncomplicated ingredients list
- Mouth feels really clean
- Improved food experience
- Minimal environmental impact
- Super Salty
- No foam
- Bleeding gums
- Gritty towards the end
Nature’s Gate Wintergreen Gel
- Comfortable mouth taste
- Shiny teeth
- Cruelty free
- Cheaper (but not cheap)
- Produced overseas
- Unknown ingredient sources
- Hidden ingredients
- Questionable ingredients
- Not good at cleaning tongue
- Higher environmental impact (due to overseas production)
I’ll finish using the Wintergreen Gel, and then wait until I buy a huge haul from the Faithful to Nature website and get the Pure Beginnings toothpaste so that the shipping doesn’t add so much to the price.
Here’s to hoping I eventually find something I really like!