I don’t know about you, but I have long been on the lookout for good alternatives to the standard toothpastes out on the market. I won’t get into the fluoride debates – there are pros and cons – but when it comes to triclosan, I have thought to myself about a thousand times, “This is just scary!” Seriously, is the only way we can control bacterial overgrowth in the mouth a chemical as harsh as triclosan?!? Is there no natural alternatives” (Triclosan is in virtually all of the toothpastes that I have checked.)
I believe there now good natural alternative out there, but you and your dentist will have to decide for yourselves of course. But keep in mind that triclosan is currently under review by the FDA! Look at what the FDA has posted on the subject on their web site:
“Triclosan is not currently known to be hazardous to humans. But several scientific studies have come out since the last time FDA reviewed this ingredient that merit further review. Animal studies have shown that triclosan alters hormone regulation. However, data showing effects in animals don t always predict effects in humans. Other studies in bacteria have raised the possibility that triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. In light of these studies, FDA is engaged in an ongoing scientific and regulatory review of this ingredient. FDA does not have sufficient safety evidence to recommend changing consumer use of products that contain triclosan at this time.” 
Do you find that comforting? Well, I sure don’t, especially when you consider that the FDA does not usually review something unless it is really bad. And I really don’t feel good knowing that my kids are brushing their teeth with the stuff. Look at these two studies on triclosan and I think you’ll see why this is potentially pretty frightening:
1. Endocrine Disruption. Several animal studies have shown that triclosan in low doses can alter thyroid function in many ways:
“Tadpoles pretreated with triclosan concentrations as low as 0.15+/-0.03 microg/L for 4 days showed increased hindlimb development and a decrease in total body weight following T3 administration. Triclosan exposure also resulted in decreased T3-mediated TRbeta mRNA expression in the tadpole tail fin and increased levels of PCNA transcript in the brain within 48 h of T3 treatment whereas TRalpha was unaffected [corrected] Triclosan alone altered thyroid hormone receptor alpha transcript levels in the brain of premetamorphic tadpoles and induced a transient weight loss. In XTC-2 cells, exposure to T3 plus nominal concentrations of triclosan as low as 0.03 microg/L for 24h resulted in altered thyroid hormone receptor mRNA expression.” 
2. Chloroform and Dioxin. Two particularly nasty toxins are chloroform and dioxin. The Environmental Defence organization points out that “when it reacts with other substances in water, or breaks down in sunlight, the chemical reactions create the human carcinogens chloroform, and dioxins, which are one of the most toxic groups of substances known.” 
The bottom line is that triclosan is using a huge gun to try to kill a very small target. When triclosan was first approved, we simply did not have the understanding as to how serious these kind of chemicals are to human health.
Of course, the question becomes: “do we have any current alternatives to triclosan to manage the mouth bacteria that can cause us such serious health issues?” After all, keep in mind that the inflammation that occurs from gum disease often increases whole body inflammation and has been linked to erectile dysfunction!
1. Probiotic Lozenges. Now this is an option that makes a lot of sense! Instead of trying to anhilate the “bad bacteria” in your mouth with toxic chemicals, why not try to just crowd them out with good bacteria? Is that a beautiful idea or what? Obviously, this is a similar strategy to what many men try to do with probiotics and their gut flora. These lozenges are already out on the market and they have a study behind them showing that they can significantly improve gum disease. 
L. Reuteri is the type of good bacteria used to date and the particular brand tested was called Prodentis, which is sold on Amazon as G-U-M Periobalance. This is my favorite option by the way, because you want some bacteria on your tongue in order to create nitric oxide from nitrates in your food. Mouth bacteria is a powerful source – or at least it should be – of NO for men over about the age of 40, most of whom are suffering from significant arteriosclerosis and endothelial dysfunction.
2. Manuka Honey. Not just any honey will do. This special honey from New Zealand has powerful antibacterial abilities and researchers believe it will be non-carcinogenic. One study made “fruit leather” from the manuka honey and found that it decreased bleeding of the gum and plaque on the enamel.  Nice! This option, though, has the disadvantage of probably killing off both good and bad bacteria, at least to some extent.
3. Pomegranate Extract. A 2006 study made a mouthwash with pomegranate extract and found that it was a potent killer of mouth bacteria.  Again, this option has the disadvantage of potentially killing off too many bacteria, something I discuss in more detail in my link on The Additional Dangers of Toothpaste. In addition, discuss with your dentist before actually making any changes.
1) http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm205999.htm, “Triclosan: What Consumers Should Know”
2) Aquat Toxicol, 2006 Dec 1, 80(3):217-27, “The bactericidal agent triclosan modulates thyroid hormone-associated gene expression and disrupts postembryonic anuran development”
3) Environmentaldefence.ca, “The Trouble with Triclosan”
4) J Oral Microbiol, 2010, “Effect of the probiotic Lactobacilli reuteri (Prodentis) in the management of periodontal disease: a preliminary randomized clinical trial”
5) Journal of the International Academy of Periodontology, 2004, 6(2):63-67, “The effects of manuka honey on plaque and gingivitis: a pilot study”
6) Journal of Dietary Supplements, 2006, 6(2):79-92, “Punica granatum (Pomegranate) Extract Is Active Against Dental Plaque”