From skincare to hair, nails and make-up, it seems as though the movement towards a 'clean' lifestyle has left no stone of the beauty market unturned. However, while our make-up bags and skincare draws may now be full to the brim with products boasting non-toxic, naturally derived formulas, how far does this ring true when it comes to what we're putting on our teeth?
Admittedly, I'm a little late to the 'clean' oral hygiene party, having always believed my Colgate Total Toothpaste and Listerine Mouthwash served me pretty well, thank you very much. But, with a flurry of new dental brands offering a 'free-from', natural alternative to oral care, such as Lebon and Moon (of which Kendall Jenner is a co-creator), I'm beginning to feel as if I've missed a trick.
Much of the conversation surrounding 'clean' oral care is centred around fluoride, and more specifically, the belief that in a green, toxic-free routine, fluoride has no place. While the subject remains a contentious issue, with various experts conflating between the pros and cons of new, fluoride-free formulas, I spoke to the Aesthetic Dentist at Beyond Medispa at Harvey Nichols Knightsbridge, Dr Zainab Al-Mukhtar, to get to the root of the matter.
"Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally, for example, in rocks, volcanic emissions, water, soil and air," says Dr Zainab. "Up to certain concentrations, fluoride is beneficial to teeth and is added to dental care products as it helps to remineralise and strengthen tooth enamel, which can prevent cavities and reverse early signs of tooth decay."
She adds, "dental decay is far less a problem than it once was earlier in the 20th century, due to fluoridated toothpaste."
It all sounds rather faultless, so why are we now seeing a backlash against fluoride formulas?
Though there is overwhelming evidence that upholds fluoride as safe and highly effective, Dr Zainab points to a number of reasons for the rise of fluoride-free products, which have centred around a 'culture of fear'. She notes, while it's extremely helpful for dental health, "excess fluoride can lead to a condition called fluorosis, an intrinsic discolouration and mottling of teeth, which is rare in the UK. Chronic ingestion of fluoride in large amounts can also be toxic and concerns have arisen about fluoride toxicity."
Despite this, dental health professionals are concerned that more people are turning to fluoride-free toothpastes. "It is important to break the myth that fluoride-free toothpaste is equally helpful. There are claims often from 'natural' toothpaste marketers that fluoride-free toothpastes also prevent tooth decay, but the evidence shows that without fluoride, the incidence of tooth decay is far higher."
However, as with many things, it all comes down to a matter of personal choice. And if you do opt for non-fluoride products, the emphasis then falls on preventing tooth decay in other ways. For Dr Zainab, this means limiting your sugar intake, using an electric toothbrush twice daily for two minutes (as well as other interdental cleaning aids like floss and interdental brushes), choosing alternative toothpastes which are free from parabens and sodium lauryl sulphate and finally, going for regular dental examinations to monitor any early signs of tooth decay.
With that in mind, if you're still in the market for natural alternatives to toothpaste, here are some of our top picks.
The best fluoride-free formulas to try now
Formulated without parabens, sulphates, fluoride and titanium dioxide, this uses papaya enzymes to gently remove stains and plaque without causing any erosion to the teeth.
Co-created by Kendall Jenner, this vegan toothpaste contains activated charcoal, antioxidants and silica to remove stains and polish teeth, leaving the mouth fresh and clean with the help of a multi-dimensional peppermint blend.
With sea buckthorn to soothe gum aggravation, and cardamom and wasabia japonica to cleanse, this fluoride-free formula is a treat.