Dental trend spotlight: DIY toothpaste

Should you make your own toothpaste?

Before toothpaste was produced commercially, many people made their own. Some do-it-yourself enthusiasts are trying to bring this tradition back. DIY toothpaste recipes are a dime a dozen online. But before you toss your tube in the trash, here’s what you should know about homemade toothpaste.

What is DIY toothpaste?

Homemade toothpastes can vary from pastes to powders. Popular ingredients include coconut oil, baking soda, sea salt, cacao nibs and essential oils. Some people add sweeteners such as xylitol or stevia.

Proponents tout the transparency of homemade toothpaste (there are no hidden ingredients), the low cost and the fact there’s no plastic packaging to throw out at the end.

Why fluoride?

Fluoride is a key mineral that helps stop cavities. It makes your enamel (the surface of your teeth) harder and more resistant to acid wear. A little fluoride goes a long way: Most toothpastes contain only 0.15% fluoride ion, or 1,500 parts per million.

Does it work? Are there any risks?

Homemade toothpaste can be effective in removing plaque, according to a 2017 study in the IOSR Journal of Dental and Medical Sciences. The study examined a homemade toothpaste made of coconut oil, baking soda and stevia.

However, DIY toothpaste lacks a key ingredient of commercial toothpaste: fluoride. The huge decline in tooth decay over the last century is, in part, thanks to this essential mineral.

For a brand of toothpaste to receive the American Dental Association’s “seal of acceptance,” it must contain fluoride. The mineral strengthens enamel and reduces the risk of cavities.

Store-bought toothpastes contain the proper amounts of fluoride to fight tooth decay, so replacing them with DIY toothpastes can cause a significant deficiency in fluoride exposure. In addition to fluoride, toothpastes may contain active ingredients that help in other ways, such as reducing tooth sensitivity, whitening teeth or fighting gingivitis and tartar buildup. Commercial toothpastes are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. You don’t get this benefit with a homemade concoction.

What's more, DIY toothpaste recipes sometimes contain ingredients that can be harmful for your mouth, such as lemon juice, essential oils and hydrogen peroxide.

Our verdict: Play it safe with store-bought toothpaste. Look for labels that include the ADA seal of approval, and choose larger tubes to reduce waste.