Use a natural mouthwash
The number one environmental concern associated with mouthwash is the concoction of chemicals that comprises most conventional varieties. Natural mouthwash is made without synthetic chemicals, such as dyes, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, or anti-microbial agents.
What to look for when choosing a natural mouthwash
Natural mouthwash does exist, replacing antibacterial chemicals, synthetic sweeteners, and dyes with plant-based, healthy ingredients. However, since laws regulating the use of the term "natural" on product labeling are lax, you'll need to read the ingredients list carefully and look for third-party certifications when shopping for a greener, safer mouthwash. Specifically, keep an eye out for the following:
- Avoid triclosan: Studies have shown that the antibacterial agent triclosan acts as an endocrine disruptor and ecological pollutant with the potential to cause health problems in humans, as well as animals living in waterways where triclosan is deposited after disposal down the drain. Triclosan has been found in 55 percent of streams examined in 2002 at levels high enough to disrupt the natural life cycle of frogs. Tea tree oil is a natural antibacterial agent that can be found in natural mouthwash.
- Look for paraben-free mouthwash: Parabens—preservatives that prevent the growth of bacteria—are found in about 75 to 90 percent of cosmetic and personal care products. After washing down the drain, these chemicals are discharged through wastewater systems and end up in waterways, where they appear to have estrogenic effects on fish. In humans, parabens can affect the endocrine system, which produces hormones. Acting like estrogen in the body, they increase the risk of breast cancer, with recent studies finding parabens in breast tumors. Parabens have been found in breast milk, blood, and body tissues, and can enter a developing fetus.
- Avoid sodium lauryl sulfates (SLS): This chemical, which is used as a foaming and cleansing agent, is a suspected carcinogen.
- Seek out natural coloring, rather than coal-tar colorants and synthetic dyes: Coal tar is a byproduct of the distillation of bituminous coal and is harmful to the environment, is a known carcinogen in animals, and can cause skin rashes and hives. If the color's name is preceded by FD&C, it's certified for use in food, drugs, and cosmetics. Common colorants found in mouthwashes include FD&C Blue 1 and FD&C Green 3, which are carcinogenic. FD&C Yellow 5 and FD&C Yellow 6 contain impurities that have been proven to cause cancer when applied to skin.
- Look for mouthwash flavored with plant-based essential oils: Natural essential oils, like peppermint, are safer for you and the environment than synthetic sweeteners and flavoring, which are chemically concocted, may be petroleum derived, and the health effects of which are unknown. Methyl salicylate, a synthetic compound used to create the wintergreen flavor, for example, has been deemed shown to cause health problems in animal testing.
- Look for mouthwash that does not employ animal testing: While you're contemplating green attributes, you may also wish to join the cruelty-free movement. Just keep in mind: a company may claim that they don’t employ animal testing for their products, but without third-party verification, it’s hard to know whether these statements are in fact completely true. So stick to those products certified as cruelty-free by looking for products with the Leaping Bunny Logo or the Certified Vegan Logo. You can rest assured that no bunnies (or monkeys or cats for that matter) were harmed in the making of these non-animal-tested products.
Find it! Natural mouthwashes
There is a growing menu of natural mouth rinses available today. While you're looking for the greenest and healthiest mouthwash, you may also want to go alcohol-free. Conventional mouthwash brands can be made of up to 75 percent alcohol, which can cause burning and irritation for the user.
A vegan product, this mouthwash is flavored with cooling menthol, clove, and organic peppermint oil in a witch hazel oil base.
This alcohol-free natural daily rinse is made with 14 essential oils, echinacea, goldenseal, and baking soda. Available in mint, cinnamon, and orange-clove (mint free) flavors. Mint variety is available as a 2 oz. concentrate, which can make up to 2 gallons of mouth rinse without excessive packaging.
JASON's Healthy Mouth uses Certified Organic tea tree oil and perilla seed extract as an antibacterial agent, aloe vera gel to soothe, and mint, clove, and cinnamon for flavor and freshness.
This alcohol-free, natural mouthwash contains organic aloe vera, purified water, organic bitter orange extract, organic spearmint, peppermint, clove bud, myrrh, and cinnamon essential oil, sea salt, organic clove bud essential oil, and organic sage and thyme extract.
Cruelty-free certified and made with organic ingredients, this unique, alcohol-free mouthwash contains neem leaf, which clinical studies have shown supports a healthy mouth. Also contains organic aloe vera, extracts of peppermint, spearmint, clove bud, anise, and white thyme.
This Leaping Bunny-certified, alcohol- and saccharin-free mouthwash is made with vitamin C, aloe vera to soothe, and witch hazel as an astringent. Pure essential oils create three refreshing flavors: cinnamint, peppermint baking soda, and spearmint.
Rinsing with natural mouthwash helps you go green because…
- By avoiding chemicals in your mouthwash, you are keeping these harmful agents from washing down the drain and into aquatic ecosystems.
- Keeping synthetic chemicals out of your mouthwash keeps them out of your body and avoids the health risks associated with them.
- Supporting companies that manufacturer natural toothpastes encourages the replacement of synthetic ingredients with natural ones.
- Most natural mouthwash companies are ecologically conscious, employing green practices, such as using recycled packaging and buying renewable energy.
Fluoride is used in many mouthwashes because of its effectiveness as a cavity-fighter. However, in high doses, it's also a potentially toxic chemical, effecting the nervous and reproductive systems, and disrupting the endocrine system, which produces the body's hormones. It has also been linked to cancer in lab animals. Scientists aren't sure whether or not the amount in toothpaste and mouthwash, coupled with the amount you ingest from treated tap water, is enough to equal a hazardous dose.
- TreeHugger - There's a Frog Disrupter in my Soap
- Winter, Ruth (2005) A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients. New York: Three Rivers Press: 41-555