Sugar-Free Toothpaste: The Hidden Truth

Is there sugar in my toothpaste? This is a question many of us have never thought to ask. But in a world where sugar is added to practically everything, it may just be the question we need to ask!

What is in toothpaste?

The first formula for toothpaste was recorded by Egyptians in 4 AD. They used a mixture of rock salt, flowers, mint, and pepper to create a powder to clean their teeth. In 1873, Colgate introduced the first commercially available toothpaste. This toothpaste was sold by the jar. Today, we have many more toothpaste options to choose from. Most toothpastes, regardless of the brand, have several ingredients in common. Let’s see what they are and how they benefit us.

Detergents/surfactants- “Foamy stuff” in toothpaste
- Used to help break down and loosen plaque and debris on the surface of your teeth
- Keep the flavoring agents mixed into the toothpaste mixture
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), Cocamidopropyl betaine, Poloxamer
Abrasives- Help control stains
- Polish the enamel
- Also increase the viscosity, or thickness, of the toothpaste
Hydrated silica, Alumina, Calcium carbonate
Humectants- Help toothpaste retain moisture by trapping water in toothpaste mixture
- Some humectants double as flavorings as well
Sorbitol, Propylene glycol, Propylene glycol
Flavorings- Improve the taste of toothpaste
- Mask the bitter or metallic tastes of other ingredients
Menthol, Peppermint, Spearmint, Green tea
Buffers- Maintain a constant pH in toothpaste. pH is most important when fluoride is present. Trisodium phosphate, Sodium hydroxide, Sodium citrate
Binders- Keep toothpaste mixtures from separating
- Without binders, toothpaste would need to be stirred before use
Xantham gum, Carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) carbomers, Carrageenan, Magnesium aluminum silicate
Appearance enhancers and dyes- Make it more visually appealing
- Can make toothpaste sparkly (usually kid's toothpaste)
- Gives toothpaste an opaque appearance
Mica, Titanium dioxide
Fluorides- Help strengthen the enamel of your teeth
- Prevent cavities
Sodium fluoride, Stannous fluoride, Monofluorophosphate

Sugar-free toothpaste

While toothpaste definitely has a sweet flavor, it is not sugar you are tasting. Almost all toothpastes commercially available today are sugar free, but what does that mean? The American Dental Association does not approve sugar in the traditional form for toothpaste. Sugar increases the risk of cavities, so brushing two to three times a day with a toothpaste that contains sugar would be a bad idea. This is why sugar substitutes are used in toothpaste.

What sweeteners are used in toothpaste?

Sweeteners are added to toothpaste to improve the taste and mask the unpleasant taste of other ingredients. The American Dental Association required any sweeteners in toothpaste to be non-cariogenic. This means they do not cause cavities to form in teeth. The most common sweeteners are xylitol, sorbitol, and sodium saccharin.

Xylitol and sorbitol

Xylitol and sorbitol are both sugar alcohols. However, they contain no sugar or alcohol. Studies also show these sugar alcohols have cariostatic, or cavity prevention, qualities. These are often used in products other than toothpaste, like gum and candy. In some people, sugar alcohols may cause gastrointestinal disturbances like:

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Cramping

Sodium saccharin

Sodium saccharin is a non-nutritive sweetener that is used in toothpaste, as well as many other foods, drinks, and lip balms. Saccharin is non-cariogenic too. But unlike sugar alcohols, saccharin is not considered cariostatic. Sodium saccharin is commonly known as the sweetener Sweet N’ Low. Some people may be sensitive to saccharin, especially those who with sulfonamide allergies. Common reactions to saccharin in toothpaste include:

  • Burning sensation
  • Swelling
  • Rash on the lips or mouth

If any side effects from sweeteners do occur, consider switching to a toothpaste with a different sweetener or a natural toothpaste.

What toothpaste is the best for diabetes?

There really are no toothpaste specifically developed for diabetic use. The sweeteners commonly used in toothpaste are considered safe for people living with diabetes. These sweeteners do not affect the blood sugar levels. So even if a person has uncontrolled diabetes, the toothpaste they use should not affect their disease. However, when blood sugar is not controlled, the risk of developing cavities and gum diseases can increase. Therefore, controlling a person’s blood sugar is vital to maintaining good oral health.

Tips for choosing the right toothpaste

Choosing a toothpaste can be overwhelming. So many ingredients. Cavity protection. Sensitivity. Plaque and gingivitis fighting. The list goes on and on with claims to “the best” toothpaste. Unfortunately, there is not one toothpaste that fits the needs of every person. But this can also be good news since there are so many toothpastes to choose from. While much of it comes down to personal preference, here are a few things to consider when searching for the toothpaste that best fits you.

Choose a toothpaste with fluoride

In 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) added fluoride toothpaste to its Model List of Essential Medicines, along with other fluoridated products. Fluoride is a mineral that naturally occurs in plants, soil, and even some water supplies. Many studies show that fluoride can help strengthen the enamel of your teeth and prevent cavities from forming. Fluoride was first added to toothpaste in 1956. Now fluoride is commonly found in most major toothpaste brands. Currently, there is 50+ fluoride toothpaste approved by the American Dental Association. Therefore, consider choosing toothpaste with fluoride to help protect your teeth from cavities.

Look for the ADA seal

The American Dental Association (ADA) seal means the product was tested and approved for things like toxicity, effectiveness, quality, and safety. Product benefits must have scientific evidence to prove the claims. However, the ADA seal is not required for oral care products. Many products without the seal can provide effective benefits. This seal simply offers some assurance on the product you are buying.

Consider your specific needs

Many of the ingredients in toothpaste can alleviate common tooth issues. Some active ingredients help with whitening, sensitivity, dry mouth, and other common issues. First, determine what your needs are. Then choose a product that addresses that need.

Ulcers and sodium lauryl sulfate

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is one of the most common detergents used in toothpaste. SLS has been found to increase the risk of developing aphthous ulcers, or canker sores, in some people. Therefore, if you are prone to developing sores in your mouth, choose a toothpaste without SLS listed in the ingredients.

Sensitivity and whitening toothpaste

Whitening toothpaste can increase sensitivity in many people. Whitening toothpaste contains more abrasive ingredients to help break down stains and polish teeth. These can make teeth more sensitive to hot and cold. Therefore, avoid whitening toothpaste if you have sensitive teeth.

Charcoal toothpaste

Activated charcoal toothpaste have become a huge new trend. The claims of whitening and detoxifying are huge. Charcoal tends to be more abrasive than regular toothpaste. This can weaken the enamel and cause premature enamel erosion. Therefore, if you want to whiten your teeth safely, consult your dental provider for better recommendations.

Organic chemical-free toothpastes

There are several brands of toothpaste that avoid synthetic chemicals for their active ingredients. These toothpastes are proud to claim they are sugar-free. This simply means they do not contain artificially made sweeteners. The ADA does not approve any toothpaste with cariogenic (cavity forming) flavorings, but some sweeteners used in toothpaste are artificial. Therefore, here are a few toothpastes to consider that do not contain any artificial sweeteners.

Dr. Bonner's All-One Toothpaste- Vegan
- Non-GMO
- Uses coconut flour and coconut oil
Weleda Natural Salt Toothpaste- Uses baking soda and salt for main active ingredients
- Natural spices and herbs
- Fluoride-free
- No parabens, phthalates, or preservatives
Himalaya Botanique Neem and Pomegranate Toothpaste- Fluoride-free
- SLS-free
- No artificial colors
- Saccharin-free
- Uses xylitol
Tom's of Maine Fluoride-Free Toothpaste- Uses xylitol for sweetener
- Zinc citrate for tartar control
- Silica for whitening
- Natural oils for flavors
Burt's Bee Natural Flavor Toothpaste- No triclosan
- SLS-free
- No parabens
- Fluoride-free
- Uses silica for whitening
- Uses peppermint and essential oils for flavor

Toothpaste is an important part of our oral hygiene care routine. Toothpaste helps clean food and bacteria from our teeth, but that’s not all. Brushing your teeth two times a day with the right toothpaste can make all the difference. So, what’s in your toothpaste matters. A good hygiene routine, regular dental check-ups, and the right toothpaste ingredients will help keep your smile healthy and happy for a lifetime.

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