Designer toothpaste anyone?

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Brushing and flossing your teeth are probably two chores you wish you could get away without a second thought. Let’s face it, brushing is as glamorous as washing dishes. The sooner you do it, the more time you will have time for fun things like Instagram or Netflix. But the slow entry of designer wellness brands into oral care seems to be literally putting a bite to the minty chore in our bathrooms.

Designer toothpastes are not new. While brands like Marvis have been around since 1958, new brands are entering the fray such as Twice which comes in 2 flavours, one for the morning and one for the evening, Aesop with sea buckthorn, cardamom, and wasabi riffs, both of which are sold at $17 per tube. At the upper end of the spectrum is Theodent which retails at $125 for its high concentrate tube containing cocoa beans and a fluoride alternative called rennou, claimed by a team of New Orleans researchers to cause microscopic unit crystals of the tooth enamel to grow larger, resulting in stronger teeth.

The global toothpaste market was valued at a whopping $26 billion in 2018 and it is expected to hit $36 billion by 2024. Even a miniscule share of this market would make many wellness companies jump in to offer designer options to Instagram fans. Kendall Jenner has been promoting a US dental company called Moon since 2019 and her followers would ditch their plain Colgate or Oral B products to keep up with the Kardashians or Jenners to be precise.

Even your friendly bathroom brand like Colgate has been moving gingerly into the designer toothpaste market with the acquisition of a natural toothpaste brand called Hello and has also launched a “Smile for Good” range featuring 99.7% natural ingredients and recyclable tubes. A Melbourne based Gem toothpaste is marketed as non-toxic and designed for Instagram shareability.

Are they better?

While these toothpastes are marketed as all-natural with “no nasties” and creative flavours, squeezed into sleek, luxury-feel packaging for the bathroom Instagram selfie, do they offer oral care benefits for your teeth? Many dentists are not convinced about the health benefits of the new brands.

Many of the companies except for Colgate and Marvis, offer fluoride-free toothpastes. The Australian Dental Association recommends Australians to use toothpaste with fluoride. Fluoride is widely considered the cornerstone of tooth decay prevention and the best way to remineralise and strengthen teeth. However, the lack of fluoride in designer toothpastes is a concern because fluoride is the main active ingredient people should consider when buying toothpaste.

Decades of scientific research has shown that fluoride is completely safe in the small doses used in toothpaste, but anti-fluoride groups claim that it can affect the bones and brain and cause dental fluorosis. Many scientists counter this by saying fluoride is harmful only when ingested in large amounts which is why small children are discouraged to swallow toothpaste when brushing.

Australian creators of fluoride-free toothpastes, a few of them like Lovebyt, ROCC and Gem, say they are catering to consumer demand and using fluoride is a personal choice. Gem currently uses a fluoride alternative called hydroxyapatite and cites research on its website, but some dentists claim hydroxyapatite is not proven in long-term studies.

Natural toothpastes also contain ingredients that are placebos but do not have any health benefits for oral care. Also, some chemicals in mainstream toothpaste have raised concerns in the past, such as antimicrobial triclosan, which was phased out after animal studies found it may disrupt hormones, and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a foaming agent that certain patients find irritating.

According to ADA, the Therapeutic Goods Administration is responsible for regulating toothpastes which make specific health claims, such as preventing tooth decay. Hence natural toothpastes are classified as cosmetics and marketed for those who do not want a boring brand captured in their bathroom Instagram profile.

Like designer toothpaste, flossing also is going designer. One company called Cocofloss has launched dental floss in mint, coconut, strawberry and cara cara orange, in a packages that looks more like candy than something healthy. Probably is good for the kids anyway!

The dos and don’ts of choosing a toothpaste

  • Ensure the toothpaste you buy has fluoride. If you do not want fluoride for some reason, consult your dentist before buying one
  • Choose low fluoride children’s toothpaste for kids aged 18 months to 6 years
  • It is advisable to consider your oral care requirements than how good it looks
  • For individuals with sensitivities, flavour-free and low-foaming toothpastes are available
  • Check to see if any new product you want to buy has the Australian Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval

If in doubt, talk to your dentist about what oral care products are best for you. At the end of the day, you need to consider that a product you are using twice a day is safe and will offer health benefits than look good on your Instagram profile.

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