Brush your teeth the Paleo way

Get our “getting started” mini-course:


Humans are the only animals (other than domesticated dogs and cats that are resigned to suffer the pitfalls of human lifestyles) who have regular dentist appointments, brush their teeth 2 times a day with state of the art toothpaste, and floss regularly. Yet we’re plagued with all sorts of teeth problems including crooked teeth, cavities, brown spots and discoloration, receding gums, gum disease, and sensitivity.

Animals’ teeth last them their lifetime because they eat according to their natural evolution. One of the first signs that our diet is wrong, as a society, is problems with teeth, even in well developed nations where an abundance and variety of food exists.

Humans have not evolved at the cellular level beyond what Caveman had. Tooth decay is caused by poor diet and can be cured with the right dietary nutrients, so a Paleo diet will help you with plaque and tartar, bacteria in the mouth, and will diminish the development of cavities, especially for children whose teeth are still growing.

This article exposes the horrors of commercial toothpaste and shows you a simple way to replace it with an inexpensive natural alternative made from coconut oil and baking soda. (For a lengthier discussion, consult the article Preventing and Healing Tooth Decay for a dietary approach to keeping your teeth healthy).

The problem with commercial toothpaste

The first step is to stop using commercial toothpaste. All major brands contain chemicals that will actually cause insidious problems in the long term, the kind you may never see or feel until it’s too late. There’s a reason for the warning on the label that reads “Keep out of reach of children. If accidentally swallowed, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away”.

Here’s a list of just some of the ingredients that can be found in conventional toothpaste.

Calcium pyrophosphate – Used as an abrasive to remove plaque and tartar

  • Also alumina, dicalcium phosphate, and hydrated silica, a class 1 carcinogen and bioaccumulative.

Polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) – Used as a binder

Fluoride (sodium monofluorophosphate, stannous fluoride, or sodium fluoride) – Fluoride was thought to build strong teeth and it was decided that it should be added to our water supply.

  • Fluoride is suspected by many of being a carcinogen
  • When taken systemically, it gathers in the bones causing fluorosis, a condition that actually calcifies the ligaments
  • An overexposure to fluoride in the first 8 years of life can cause discoloration and mottling of teeth.
  • Many toothpastes contain enough fluoride to kill a small child within 2 to 4 hours.
  • In young children, minimal ingestion of sodium fluoride causes salivation, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Larger doses may cause paralysis, muscular weakness and convulsions, followed by respiratory and cardiac failure.

Triclosan – It’s used as an antibacterial agent and can be absorbed through the skin and mouth. Research has shown it alters hormone regulations in animals, disrupts immune function, and contributes to antibiotic resistant germs.

Methylparaben – Used as a preservative

  • It’s quickly absorbed through the skin, mucous membranes, and intestinal tract
  • Has hormone mimicking properties and causes endocrine disruption
  • It remains unaltered by the body’s metabolism and has suspected links to breast cancer

Butylated hydroxy tuolene (BHT) – Used to mask taste and smell of undesirable agents. The Materials Safety Data Sheet for BHT says:

  • Do NOT let this chemical enter the environment
  • Combustible
  • Ingestion causes abdominal pain, confusion, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting
  • The substance may have effects on the liver
  • The substance is harmful to aquatic organisms

Glycerine – Used for consistency and to help toothpaste glide, prevents remineralization

Sodium Laurel Sulphate, Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLS) – a known eye and skin irritant that’s also used as a pesticide and herbicide.

  • SLS was turned down for approval as an organic farming pesticide because of its known toxic and polluting properties
  • Releases toxic fumes when heated (becomes volatile in heat released from mouth tissues)
  • The taste is unbearable so sweeteners and flavoring are needed to mask it

Propylene glycol (PEG, PPG) copolymers – Non-reproductive organ system toxicity

Hydrogen peroxide – Used as a whitener, and is a potential neurotoxin

Sodium saccharin – Banned in Canada, shown to be a carcinogen in animal studies


Hydrated aluminum oxides, SD alcohol, Blue 1 and Yellow 10 dyes

Soaps, foaming agents, or surfactants – These keep compounds that have different properties together, like oil and water, and they require flavoring to mask their ghastly flavor.

Humectants – These retain water and help maintain a paste consistency (sorbitol, pentatol, glycerol, glycerin, propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol, water, xylitol, PEG 8-polyoxyethylene glycol esters, PPG – polyoxyethylene ethers).

Flavorings – Cinnamon, although it’s anti microbial when ingested, for some it can sensitize and irritate mucous membranes (the mouth) and is highly caustic as an essential oil.

Thickeners – Sodium carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC), cellulose ethers, sodium alginate, carbopols, silica, sodium aluminum silicates

Preservatives – To prevent the growth of bacteria in the product and extend shelf life (sodium benzoate, methyl paraben, ethyl paraben)

Creating Your Own Natural Toothpaste

Baking soda
If you’re more than just a little afraid of the list of chemicals in your toothpaste, the simple way to get rid of it is to make your own for a fraction of the price using natural ingredients, some of which you may already have in your pantry. It’s easy to make, harmless to your mouth, and you won’t need to call the paramedics if you swallow some.

Here’s a basic recipe that uses coconut oil and baking soda. You can vary the amount of the basic ingredients to make more or less toothpaste, but you’ll want to mix the two together until they form the desired consistency.

Basic ingredients:

1/4 cup raw coconut oil – antibacterial properties

1-2 tablespoons baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) – used as an abrasive, deodorizer, and tooth whitener

Mix together to the desired consistency.

Use any of the following ingredients as variants:

Abrasives: salt, pumice, kaolin, bentonite, calcium carbonate (chalk), sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)

Antimicrobials: Antimicrobials prevent the development of bacteria, some viruses, and fungi. Use oils of basil, cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, lemon, oregano, peppermint, tee tree, thyme, or grapefruit seed extract.

  • Peppermint also inhibits biofilm (plaque) formation.
  • Cinnamon essential oil has antiseptic properties but may irritate mucous membranes for some
  • Grapefruit seed extract is a broad spectrum natural antibiotic with antioxidant properties. It can also act as a natural preservative.

Sweetener (for fussy children): Stevia powder or liquid

Preservatives: Coconut has antibacterial properties, but to further ensure that your product won’t spoil, add a few drops of one or more of these antibacterial essential oils – sanguinarea extract (1), myrrh extract (an antioxidant with antibacterial and astringent properties), lavender, grapefruit seed extract, lemon, oregano, or tea tree.

All the ingredients listed above are easy to find online or at your health food store, so it’s easy to eliminate one more product of the industrial age that’s ultimately hazardous to your health!

P.S. Have a look at Paleo Restart, our 30-day program. It lets you jump into Paleo, lose weight and start feeling great.

+ Paleo Leap Tribe is now also available. It's a set of tools that we've built to make Paleo work for you. It has a meal plan generator, a weight loss tracker & tons of visual cheat sheets.

Get a PDF with our top 35 recipes