Do Natural Toothpastes Actually Work?

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There are two types of people—those who would rather have their tube of Aquafresh pried out of their tenacious grip, and those who swear by the natural toothpaste category. More and more natural toothpastes keep emerging onto the market, some infused with coconut oil for some of that oil-pulling goodness (Is it good? Is it bad? Who knows!), and although many seem to sing their praises, we were always a little suspect. Does it actually work as well as the formulas we've grown up using?

We asked Dr. Marc Lowenberg of New York City's Lowenberg, Lituchy, and Kantor dental practice to find out once and for all.

"The first and most important thing is that, if you're brushing your teeth properly and removing all of the plaque, the type of toothpaste you use shouldn't matter," he tells us. "Toothpaste does nothing to prevent gum disease and cavities because what actually causes that is the conglomeration of bacteria that sits on your teeth, known as plaque. Toothpaste, in my opinion, is used because it makes your breath taste better, and regardless of the one you use, you're not doing yourself any favors if you're not effectively removing all the plaque."

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So why does our mouth feel way cleaner when we use Colgate or Crest over a natural brand? According to Dr. Lowenberg, that's how we've been conditioned to think. Because most of us have likely grown up using what he calls a commercial toothpaste, we psychologically feel like our teeth are cleaner than they are after using a natural formula. "Anything that doesn't have that zing when you brush your teeth feels like it isn't doing its job, but it is," he adds.

That being said, unless you subscribe to a totally-natural lifestyle, there isn't really an advantage to one over another, provided that you're correctly removing plaque with your toothbrush, floss, and/or Waterpik. Dr. Lowenberg himself actually mixes his own toothpaste with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, and technically, that's a natural formula. "Baking soda has a low abrasive quality to it, but it's abrasive enough that it removes surface stains," he explains. "The hydrogen peroxide is the basis of what we now know as a whitening procedure, because it breaks down into hydrogen and oxygen molecules, and oxygen molecules are what cause your teeth to get whiter. It can't actually change the color unless it sits for about 15 to 20 minutes, but it's effective at removing stains on the surface, and in my opinion, it's as good as buying a natural toothpaste."

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