You may think by eating three healthy balanced meals and exercising regularly, you're doing everything you possibly can to protect your health, but have you stopped to think about what's in your toothpaste and mouthwash? Renowned dentist Dr. Harold Katz, who many of seen on programs such as the "The View" and CBS "Early Show" to name a few, joined me recently to discuss what's lurking in your toothpaste, what problems these harmful ingredients in your oral care products can cause and what you can do to avoid them at all costs!
Renowned Dentist Dr. Harold Katz. Image courtesy of TheraBreath.com
Candace Rose: Many of us do our best to eat as healthy as possible, but most of us have no idea what's in our toothpaste. Why do you think this is something that so many of us overlook?
Dr. Harold Katz: "Well, toothpaste has sort of been portrayed as something that everyone uses and pay no attention to it- it's just one of those ordinary things. And the way the commercials are put together it's like everything's so fresh and clean. Americans just get into a habit of not reading ingredients- whether it's in mouthwash, toothpaste, soap or medications, or even in foods that we eat. I think it's about time that people start to read the ingredients- put on your reading glasses and take a look, and take out a dictionary because I think a lot of these companies are trying to obfuscate the facts by using technical terms and using the smaller print as possible just to fool the public. It's bothersome and worse than that."
Candace Rose: What are some of the harmful ingredients we should be avoiding when purchasing toothpaste and what types of problems can they cause?
Dr. Harold Katz: "Well, the one ingredient that's been bothering me for a number of years and it's in almost all toothpastes is something called sodium lauryl sulfate- that's a fancy term for soap. If you read the ingredients in your shampoo, it's the same ingredient. It's a detergent, it's put into soap to make it foam up, but it's put into toothpaste in order to act as a surfactant. That's a technical term in order to make ingredients blend together better. Now there are other surfactants out there that cost a little bit more and that are more healthy for your mouth. But sodium lauryl sulfate is a very cheap surfactant. It's a byproduct of soap manufacturing or fact decomposition and it's put into toothpaste because it also has another marketing benefit- it creates a lot of foam (a lot of suds). And marketing people thought 'hey this is a great way for the consumer to think that something is happening'. If you see foam inside your mouth, you're going to think this is really cleaning, because people associate foam and suds with a cleaning effect. Unfortunately sodium lauryl sulfate is very harsh on the inside lining of your mouth. The inside lining is called your 'oral mucosa'. It's a very sensitive area and in people who are especially sensitive, such as diabetics or people who have a dry mouth, or children- that sodium lauryl sulfate actually creates microscopic pits and fissures. It literally eats away the inner lining of your mouth, and what people get are something called canker sores. People always wonder 'why do I get canker sores, and other people don't? Well, if you're very sensitive to acids or all sorts of other spicy foods, and you use a lot of toothpaste, you're going to get more canker sores. A lot of studies, particularly in Scandinavian Norway and Sweden have shown that sodium lauryl sulfate is very tightly linked to canker sores."
Candace Rose: Is it true that triclosan is in some toothpastes?
Dr. Harold Katz: "Yes. One of the big manufacturers- Colgate came up with the concept of putting triclosan into toothpaste a couple years ago. Triclosan is literally an antibiotic, it kills bacteria; you have to be very careful with antibiotics. Besides being a dentist, I also have a degree in bacteriology; and any time you're killing some bacteria, you're also killing other bacteria at the same time, other microbes. And what you end up doing is creating a strain of bacteria that are very hard to kill because bacteria are very clever. They're very smart and they figure out ways how to alter their DNA, so they come back much stronger the much generation, and so on and so on. Now what's been happening with triclosan- there's two things: the bacteria becoming resistant to triclosan, but secondly the triclosan as it gets into the water system is creating havoc. You can't get rid of it, it just lasts forever and it also links with chlorine in our water systems to create chloroform, which is cancer causing. I travel to Europe quite frequently and this has been an ongoing problem particularly in Denmark and in England. Denmark, I think has banned triclosan; and now Canada just last week is looking to ban triclosan as well. The problem is it's a big manufacturer that uses it and it's going to be very tough here in the U.S. I think it's a terrible ingredient to put into toothpaste. It's not necessary, you don't need an antibiotic in your toothpaste, especially with children because they're going to get resistance very early on and it's going to be very hard to get rid of those bacteria once they become adults. Again, read the ingredients; you don't need a triclosan in your toothpaste, it's not necessary. Now, there's also triclosan in soaps; a lot of the plastic materials have triclosan in it, the ones that say antibacterial plastics. It's almost everywhere now, so it gets a little scary where they're using antibiotics in things that don't need antibiotics. And just sort of a side note here- when it comes to washing your hands during cold and flu season, there's nothing better than just hot water and soap. You don't need an antibiotic to wash your hands, you're not doing brain surgery; hot soapy water does the trick just as well."
Dr. Harold Katz – Image courtesy of TheraBreath.com
Candace Rose: What are some ingredients we should be looking for in toothpaste?
Dr. Harold Katz: "Well, toothpaste is made to keep your teeth clean, so you want to make sure that there's silica in there which is a mild abrasive to get rid of some of the stains on your teeth. Now fluoride works, fluoride helps to prevent tooth decay. Now when it comes to fluoride though, it is a touchy subject because there's fluoride in drinking water, there's fluoride in toothpaste, there's fluoride in mouthwash, there's fluoride supplements that dentists give, there's fluoride treatments; so when it comes to fluoride the parents should be very aware with their children how much fluoride they're getting. If they're using a fluoride toothpaste, they don't need fluoridated water. One type of fluoride is sufficient. You don't want to over-fluoridate the teeth- you'll get a condition called fluorosis. So the parents should be very aware if they're using fluoride toothpaste they don't need excess fluoride elsewhere. But fluoride does work.
But a natural compound that has anti-decaying properties is xylitol, and a lot of studies now in Europe are showing that xylitol works almost as well as fluoride- that's x-y-l-i-t-o-l, it starts with an x and not with a z. It comes from the bark of the white birch tree, and it has antidecay properties and it also tastes really good. We use it in our TheraBreath toothpastes and mouthwashes, and our gum and our mints and it works very well- so that's a good thing to look for. Aloe vera is very good in toothpaste, it helps to heal damaged gum tissue. It's been used in Europe as well; it's been used in Asia for a number of years for people that have bleeding gums.
And oxygenating products are very important, oxygen is the natural enemy of anaerobic bacteria. Now, anaerobic bacteria are the root cause of many oral problems- bad breath, for one is caused by anaerobic sulfur producing bacteria; and gum disease is caused by anaerobic bacteria as well. So by introducing oxygen is the very interesting to sort of nip all these problems at the very beginning without getting into surgeries and things later on in life."
Candace Rose: Is it true that baking soda is good for whitening your teeth?
Dr. Harold Katz: "Well, baking soda is a very good product. It does a couple of things besides helping to whiten the teeth. Now it won't bleach them- you won't look like Tom Cruise if you use baking soda. But it does something very interesting- it will clean the teeth very well and it will not destroy tooth enamel. People are nervous that 'I'm going to put baking soda on my teeth and it's going to scratch my tooth enamel'; it will not. It's fairly soft on the range of harshness, but what it really is good for- every once in a while sprinkle some baking soda on the bristles of your toothbrush and gently brush your tongue and gums as well. It works as an antacid, and the reason that's important is almost every one of the commercial mouthwashes are extremely acidic and they're acidic because of all the garbage that they put in them- all the alcohol, all the artificial colors and flavors that are put in there to give it that very strong taste. They all use acids in them. If I were to take a PH meter which measures the acid level of mouthwash, most of the very popular mouthwashes have the same acid level as a bottle of coke or orange juice and it could actually wear off your tooth enamel if kept in your mouth for a long period of time. A study was actually done in the Journal of Periodontology that showed that the acid levels in some mouthwashes would actually cause sensitivity if kept in the mouth too long. So using some baking soda every once in a while will work as an antacid and will be very helpful."
Candace Rose: You're the founder of TheraBreath, can you tell us a little bit about your product?
Dr. Harold Katz: "Well, I created TheraBreath almost 20 years ago. My own daughter had a problem with bad breath when she was a teenager. She came home from school crying that her friends were offering her gum and mints, and couldn't figure out how could a 13 year old have bad breath? The reality is it's very possible for anyone to have bad breath. Her problem had to do with the fact that she was on the girls basketball team and after a game or after practice her mouth became dry, and dry mouth is the trigger to bad breath. Using the strong tasting mouthwashes didn't help. I actually have an instrument in our clinic we called a halometer that measures bad breath by the concentration of sulfur in one's breath. And by using that in our clinic we actually developed the formula called TheraBreath which uses a patented oxygenating compounds and other natural ingredients. There's nothing artificial (no artificial colors or flavors). The oxygen that hacks those sulfur producing bacteria keeps the mouth fresh. We actually had a study done this past January that shows using the mouthwash will keep the breath fresh for at least 12 hours, and for some people up to 24 hours just with one use. So it does work for a very long time. We actually developed a toothpaste that goes with it, which has aloe vera and xylitol in it. We now have something called mouth wetting lozenges for people that have a dry mouth. And the products are available at Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aids all over the country. We're very happy that people have access to it and we have a wonderful website where people can purchase it as well, which is TheraBreath.com. We get requests from all over the world, not only the U.S.; we have people in Sri Lanka who have ordered today. Nobody wants to have bad breath, we are definitely here to help and provide information about all sorts of oral care as well."
TheraBreath logo. Image courtesy of TheraBreath.com
Dr. Katz analyzing someone's breath on the halometer. Image courtesy of TheraBreath.com
Candace Rose: Are TheraBreath products gluten free?
Dr. Harold Katz: "Yeah, they are gluten free. They are kosher, they are vegan and as I mentioned we try to keep things as natural as possible. We have a new version of the toothpaste coming out later in the summer which contains licorice root extract, which tastes fantastic; so it will not have any detergents at all. Again, we're always sort of at the forefront. We even have a probiotic treatment for bad breath and disease, which is available at Walgreens- it's a freeze-dried probiotic specifically for oral care which contains two types of probiotics, which prevent bacteria from creating bad breath, and sore throats, and ear infections as well. We sort of like to paint ourselves as being at the forefront of all this research because we see so many people that have bad breath and other oral problems that we like to tinker around and try to make sure people don't have these problems in the future."