Several months ago I ran across a post on the blog Goofy Momma. Allison shared information about glycerin in toothpaste and how glycerin coats the teeth and keeps them from remineralizing. I had never heard of any negatives for glycerin and actually hadn't realized that it's in nearly every toothpaste, natural or not. I always overlooked it when reading toothpaste labels and yes I ALWAYS read toothpaste labels. I will not buy a toothpaste that has fluoride or if at all possible sodium laurel sulfate in it. I'll share why in another post on another day.When it comes to our health, there is a whole lot of contradictory information. For every "fact" that exist you can almost always find information that contradicts it. Taking a closer look at glycerin and it's affect on teeth, this is defiantly one of those topics that includes a lot of contradictory information. In the end you will have to use your own judgement and research to decide what is best for your family and you. When searching how glycerin affects the teeth, there are plenty of sites which include information on how glycerin can block the teeth's ability to remineralize. The belief is glycerin leaves a thin coat on the teeth, keeping the teeth from having the natural ability to remineralize, which happens from the saliva in the mouth. I have read in numerous places that it can take anywhere from 20 - 30 times of brushing without glycerin to remove it from the teeth. It seems that the bases for this information comes from the research of Dr. Gerald Judd.
However, there is also plenty of information that would refute that glycerin can be harmful to the teeth. I have spent several hours trying to find more scientific research on the subject, but to not much avail. Here is one piece of information from PubMed.com: (http://1.usa.gov/fQO94o)
"This study evaluated the effects of 10% carbamide peroxide, carbopol and glycerin and their associations on microhardness over time on enamel and dentin. Eight treatment agents were evaluated: a commercial bleaching agent containing 10% carbamide peroxide (Opalescence 10% Ultradent), 10% carbamide peroxide, carbopol, glycerin, 10% carbamide peroxide + carbopol, 10% carbamide peroxide + glycerin, carbopol + glycerin and 10% carbamide peroxide + carbopol + glycerin. Three hundred and twenty human dental fragments, 80 sound enamel fragments (SE), 80 demineralized enamel fragments (DE), 80 sound dentin fragments (SD) and 80 demineralized dentin (DD) fragments, were exposed to the treatment agents (n=10). These agents were applied onto the surface of the fragments eight hours a day for 42 days. After eight hours, they were washed from the dental fragment surfaces after five back-and-forth movements with a soft bristle toothbrush under distilled and deionized running water. During the remaining time (16 hours per day), the fragments were kept in individual vials in artificial saliva. After the 42-day treatment period, the specimens were kept individually in artificial saliva for 14 days. Knoop microhardness measurements were performed at baseline, after eight hours, and 7, 14, 21, 28, 35 and 42 days, and 7 and 14 days post-treatment (corresponding to 49 and 56 days after the initial treatment agent applications). The non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis analysis showed significant differences among the agents at each time interval, except at baseline for sound and demineralized enamel and dentin. For SE, SD and DD, there was a decrease in microhardness values during treatment with all agents. There was a tendency towards lower microhardness values after treatment with carbopol and its associations for sound tissues. DD showed low microhardness values during and after treatment with CP and its associations. For DE, there was an increase in microhardness values during treatment with all agents and in the post-treatment phase. The baseline microhardness values were not recovered during the 14-day post-treatment phase. Opalescence 10%, carbamide peroxide, carbopol, glycerin and their associations may change the microhardness of sound and demineralized dental tissues, even in the presence of artificial saliva."Take from this what you can. In the end what I read is that glycerin does affect dental tissue in some way, but sadly they don't expand on this in the abstract.
To help you make the best decision for whether or not you will want to use glycerin, below is more information on the product itself.
What is glycerin?
It's a sweet, colorless, thick liquid. It dissolves in water and alcohol, but not in oil. However, many things will dissolve in glycerin that wouldn't do so as easily in water and alcohol, which makes it a good solvent.
Also, "glycerin is highly 'hygroscopic' which means that it absorbs water from the air. Example: if you left a bottle of pure glycerin exposed to air in your kitchen, it would take moisture from the air and eventually, it would become 80 per glycerin and 20 percent water. Because of this hygroscopic quality, pure, 100 percent glycerin placed on the tongue may raise a blister, since it is dehydrating. Diluted with water, however, it will soften your skin." (Pioner Thinking, What is Glycerin? by Kaila Westerman)
How is it made?Originally glycerin came to us from the candle making industry. However, post 1889 a more viable way was established to remove glycerin from soap making, where it was a natural byproduct of the process.
"The process of removing the glycerin from the soap is fairly complicated (and of course, there are a lot of variations on the theme). In the most simplest terms: you make soap out of fats and lye. The fats already contain glycerin as part of their chemical makeup (both animal and vegetable fats contain from 7% - 13% glycerine). When the fats and lye interact, soap is formed, and the glycerin is left out as a "byproduct". But, while it's chemically separate, it's still blended into the soap mix."
"While a cold process soapmaker would simply pour into the molds at this stage, a commercial soapmaker will add salt. The salt causes the soap to curdle and float to the top. After skimming off the soap, they are left with glycerin (and lots of "impurities" like partially dissolved soap, extra salt, etc.). They then separate the glycerin out by distilling it. Finally, they de-colorize the glycerin by filtering it through charcoal, or by using some other bleaching method." (Pioner Thinking, What is Glycerin? by Kaila Westerman)Until recently, soap making has continued to yield the most glycerin. In the last decade though glycerin has also been coming to us as a waste product of the biofuel making process.
"Recent interest in biodiesel fuel from renewable sources of vegetable oil, waste cooking oil and beef tallow has created a market glut of glycerin. Biodiesel is prepared by adding methanol to the oil/fat source. The fatty acid portion of the molecule is esterified to biodiesel, and glycerin is produced as a byproduct. Crude glycerin is distilled and purified to a possible 99.5 percent purity with ion exchange resins. Research today is focused on using lipids from algae or bacteria to produce biodiesel and glycerin." (Live Strong, Types of Glycerin)Besides natural occurring glycerin, synthetic glycerin is made and used in many of the products we use.
"When petroleum is distilled, propylene comes off as a top fraction. Glycerin is made by adding chlorine to the molecule and then hydrolyzing the trichloropropane produced. Synthetic glycerin is used in exacting applications in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals because of its 99.7 percent purity. According to the Glycerin Market Analysis Report, prescription and over-the-counter drugs were initially formulated with synthetic glycerin and received FDA approval as such. To change to natural glycerin would entail new FDA approval processes." (Live Strong, Types of Glycerin)
What will you find it in?There are hundreds, if not thousands of ways glycerin is used. I was actually shocked to see how many places glycerin is used in today's society. It's in processed food, soap, lotions, cosmetics, household cleaners, paint, pharmaceuticals, anti-freeze, mouthwash, shampoo, cough syrup and even in the form of nitroglycerin to make dynamite (this requires extra processing) to name just a few things.
Why is it in toothpaste?
The primary reasons glycerin is included in most toothpaste formulas is to improve their overall texture (glycerin gives toothpaste the smooth creamy texture we are familiar with), it helps keep toothpaste from drying out and it adds sweetness.
My ConclusionFrom all that I've read, I am not going to write that glycerin is bad for us in general, although at this point I personally wouldn't eat it, but I still question whether it's good for the teeth. I have started using my homemade toothpaste (recipe below) and have been amazed at how much cleaner my teeth are, actually I've been more amazed at how much cleaner my 3 year old's teeth are. For as much as I brushed his teeth, he would continually have a little yellow scum on the top top of his teeth near his gum line. Now with the new homemade toothpaste, his teeth are white and much cleaner. There has been no irritation along his gums and overall his teeth look great. One other great benefit of using the homemade toothpaste is it's much, much cheaper. "All-natural" toothpaste costs between $5-$8 a tube at our co-op. To me, that's extremely expensive, especially if you are trying to cut your budget, which we are. The ingredients I use in my homemade version are all ones I always have on hand.
I should mention that for several months prior to making this toothpaste I was using straight up baking soda with water and that's it. I think this works too, although some argue it's a bit too abrasive for the teeth. Straight up baking soda isn't particularly appealing in texture or flavor and I knew it would be very difficult to get my son to use it, so that's one of the main reasons I opted to make a homemade toothpaste instead of simply using baking soda and water to clean our teeth.
My toothpaste recipeThere are plenty of different homemade toothpaste recipes. After looking through a handful, I made mine from a combination of ingredients that I believed would not only clean the teeth well, but that my son would also find acceptable. To encourage him to switch from the toothpaste he was accustomed to I had him make the toothpaste with me. He was much more excited to try it this way and overall hasn't had any complaints about it. Since he's still pretty young, I love that all but the peroxide are ingredients I use regularly in my cooking, so if he's swallows a bit of the toothpaste there's no worries he could get sick or have a side affect. (Have you ever read the warning labels on toothpaste before and how important it is that children don't swallow it?)
One final note, let me share why I chose the ingredients I did. The baking soda is a natural cleaner and gently removes grime off the teeth. The coconut oil gives the toothpaste its creaminess and overall is simply excellent for our health. The peroxide is a disinfectant, although if your toothpaste isn't used quickly enough it would likely loose some or all of it's effectiveness. I also used the peroxide to thin the paste. The stevia and peppermint extract are for flavor.
For about 1/2 cup of toothpaste
1/4 cup baking soda
1/8 cup coconut oil
1/8 cup hydrogen peroxide
1/4 tsp. stevia
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
Getting StartedMix everything in a bowl and store in a glass jar or other suitable container. If toothpaste begins to dry out, stir in a bit more peroxide.
Also, it's always a good idea to be cleaning your toothbrush on a regular basis. I'm trying to get in the habit of pouring a little bit of peroxide on my toothbrush before I use it each time. Why we don't clean our toothbrush, but we do clean everything else in our home, really makes no sense. Last time I checked I wouldn't use the same fork and spoon over and over for several months without washing them. Yuck and germ city, especially if there's been any illnesses in the home.
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