Natural toothpaste is sometimes used as an alternative to traditional teeth cleaning products. Many people prefer the natural variety for its lack of chemical foaming, cleaning, and whitening agents. Natural toothpaste often contains plant and earth-based ingredients such as calcium, zinc, vegetable glycerin, and cranberry extract. Natural toothpaste generally does not use man-made ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulfate or propylene glycol, a synthetic petrochemical that is sometimes used in anti-freeze.
Most natural toothpastes use plant-based ingredients as foaming agents. One such ingredient is glycyrrhizin, an ingredient derived from licorice root. This compound is also 30 to 50 times sweeter than regular table sugar. Another foaming ingredient sometimes used in natural toothpaste is sodium cocoyl glutamate. This ingredient is chemically similar to sodium lauryl sulfate, but is made from the glutamate amino acid and coconut oil instead of synthetically created.
Natural toothpaste usually contains non-chemical sweetening ingredients, such as xylitol. Xylitol is a natural plant ingredient which is lightly sweet and helps inhibit and prevent plaque and cavities. Stevia is another possibility for natural sweetening. Stevia is a leafy plant that tastes much sweeter than sugar, but is claimed to be much healthier. Sorbitol, a corn-based sweetener, is also sometimes used. These ingredients are typically alternatives to traditional sweeteners, such as saccharin.
Whitening agents in natural toothpaste are typically plant and mineral-derived. Calcium carbonate, a substance derived from rocks and the shells of marine animals, is sometimes used as a whitener. Silica, often found as sand, is another ingredient sometimes used. Other ingredients may include bamboo powder or sodium fluoride, which is derived from the ore fluorspar. Such ingredients replace traditional whiteners such as calcium peroxide and carbamide peroxide, which are derived from hydrogen peroxide and animal urea.
Some natural toothpastes are fluoride-free. Fluoride helps to prevent cavities and tooth decay, but many consumers have become skeptical about its necessity in toothpaste. Fluoride has the potential to poison an individual if too much is swallowed. This can be especially dangerous when fluoride is used in children's toothpaste, since children often swallow toothpaste while brushing. Almost all traditional toothpastes contain fluoride, but many natural toothpaste producers make a fluoride-free version of their products.
Simple natural toothpaste can be made at home by combining common household ingredients. A mixture of baking soda, salt, water, and glycerin can be used just like a traditional toothpaste. Peppermint oil is often added to the mixture in order to improve flavor.