Is Glycerin In Toothpaste Safe? Debunking The Myths And Misconceptions

Seeing as you found yourself reading this article, that means that you have previously read about how horrible, terrible and no good glycerin is to have in a toothpaste. And there’s a high chance that you have even read those articles saying that even though you are now avoiding fluoride and the awful SLS (the foaming agent Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) in your toothpaste, you should now get rid of glycerin too. Yikes. As if there aren’t enough problems in our lives already, now we have to worry about glycerin too? This is surely one hard pill (better say, a blob of toothpaste) to swallow, since glycerin is part of most toothpastes, be it natural or traditional. Oh, just a reminder, if you are using a toothpaste that contains fluoride, try not to swallow it, and in the event that you do, immediately call Poison Control- but we digress. Do not fear. We are going to break everything in detail for you and give you a pretty solid debunking of the whole glycerin toothpaste myth.

What Is Glycerin?

Referred to also as glycerol, glycerin is a natural substance that derives from animal fats, petroleum, or vegetable oils, via the fermentation of starches, sugars, or yeasts. It is an odorless, colorless (clear) compound that has a very sweet taste. Glycerin was first discovered back in the 1779s, accidentally, by a Swedish chemist named Karl Wilhelm Scheele- during a try of his to heat a mixture of lead oxide and olive oil. Glycerin can be utilized as a candida-safe sweetener (you have probably come across homemade sugar-free marshmallows), but it is also incorporated into personal care products such as homemade foaming soap. Furthermore, it is employed in glycerites, yet another kind of sweetener, and as the base product for alcohol-free extracts, like alcohol-free vanilla.

What Is Glycerin Made From?

The most known sources of glycerin are natural such as palm, soy, and coconut. Actually, back in the 18th and 19th centuries, individuals frequently utilized candles and soaps made of animal fat to produce glycerin. Nowadays, however, for making glycerine the most commonly used sources are plant-based oils. Back in the day, another element that used to be employed to produce glycerin was petroleum, yet, that wasn’t found until the 1948s. Petroleum though is the most pricey way of making glycerin so it isn’t really the most preferred source of glycerin on the market. And if you are among those people worried about GMOs, you can simply pick organic or non-GMO glycerin to diminish such worries.

Did The Study Prove Glycerin Is Bad For Your Teeth?

The majority of authors who say that glycerin doesn’t aid in the prevention of remineralization state that there doesn’t exist any study proving that glycerin is an issue. That seemed to be precisely the case, but one specific day, whilst going through comments in one of our blogs, we found it. Someone shared this study, stating that it proved that glycerin aided in the reduction of the hardness of teeth. And as a matter of fact, it seemed to do exactly that.

The Study Details

During the study, a wide range of substances, glycerin included, were applied to dead/ prepared tooth fragments, and they were left for approximately eight hours. Next, the fragments were submerged in artificial saliva for about sixteen hours. 

The researchers concluded the following:

Glycerin presented a light decrease in microhardness for sound dentin and enamel, parallelly to the impact of carbamide peroxide. It could play the role of an adsorbed layer barrier to artificial saliva and a remineralizing effect. This, of course, at the very first glance looks like the death knell for any toothpaste that contains glycerin. But, not so fast.

Image illustrating a study made on the benefits of glycerin in toothpaste.

Problems With The Study

Glycerin’s Results

Firstly, the control was a ten percent carbamide peroxide solution. As per their words, the carbamide peroxide is accepted as secure and efficacious by the ADA (American Dental Association). What that implies is that the control substance has been established in a way so it doesn’t harm teeth, and glycerin actually performed much better than the control in many aspects of the study.

The Artificial Saliva Factor

It is to be noted that all the substances tested proved a decreased microhardness, but there isn’t much clear about the artificial saliva other than other studies mentioned as references. How can we know if their saliva wasn’t already decreasing the microhardness of the teeth?

Having water or another element such as erythritol, xylitol or sorbitol as another control would’ve been a much better decision. Or another way would be the artificial saliva alone as a control, to know precisely what that did to the teeth.

It is noteworthy that the solution was supersaturated with minerals. This implies that the water had way too many ions in it that it was impossible for anything else to be dissolved in it. Take, for instance, dumping a high amount of salt into a tiny glass of water. At some juncture, the salt cannot be dissolved anymore into the water.

Thus, the artificial saliva was so saturated that the glycerin was unable to dissolve and the minerals found in the artificial saliva solution got to the tooth for remineralization. Nothing else would have been able to dissolve in the saliva solution, which makes things much more complicated.

That’s Not How Toothpaste Works

Whilst the study is quite intriguing, that’s not how toothpaste works in the oral cavity. Teeth don’t sit rightly in a solution that contains saliva and toothpaste. The mouth continuously produces saliva- notice how the mouth fills up whenever you’re brushing. Plus, even though you rinse the mouth after brushing your teeth, the saliva in the mouth isn’t supersaturated.

Image illustrating a woman wondering whether glycerin is good for your teeth.

Who Started This Glycerin Myth Anyhow?

Apparently, the whole demonizing of glycerin was started by Dr. Gerald Judd, a chemistry Ph. D., who wrote tons about dental health some years ago. It seems that Judd was looking for ways to maintain teeth healthy and well, needless to say, he had some quite interesting views. Originally, he claimed that glycerin can create a coat on the teeth that, according to him, would take approximately twenty-seven washes to get rid of. Additionally, he added that teeth brushed with any toothpaste are coated with a sticky film that cannot rightly remineralize.

Interestingly enough, he advised brushing your teeth using soap (do bear in mind that he publicly stated that there are only two rinses needed to remove the soap from teeth). Others claim that glycerin doesn’t simply impede tooth remineralization, but it is also a plaque magnet that causes the growth of bad bacteria, which in turn can lead to gum disease, bad breath, and ultimately tooth decay. 

The sole reason why we are writing this article is because such claims from Dr. Judd have bugged us from time to time, and at some point, we decided to research further. Below is all we were able to find.

But Is It Bad For Your Teeth? Let’s Find Out!

Other Dental Claims By The Same Doctor That Don’t Make Sense

First things first, Dr. Judd didn’t write most of the time about glycerin. Matter of fact, he didn’t write much about it. The majority of what he wrote was related to other tooth issues. For some reason, still, the glycerin thing has drawn the most attention in the natural health field. Certain of his other thoughts, well, just because an individual makes some wrong or even wacky statements about some things doesn’t mean he is entirely wrong on everything. It can however be a huge cause for concern. The way we see it, there are some options: either that specific individual has no idea what she/ he is talking about, hasn’t done the right research, is a sensationalist, is absolutely nuts, or is baffling.

Brushing With Soap

Yet again, Dr. Judd had another claim. Apparently brushing your teeth with soap is the correct way to do it, rather than using toothpaste. As a matter of fact, he stated that you will only require two rinses to get the soap off the teeth. But, doesn’t that insinuate that soap sticks to your teeth? And if so, how many rinses exactly are needed for something that you are going to put on your teeth? Two are alright but twenty-four is not so much? Are seven rinses okay? Maybe brushing with soap does work, but taking into account the fact that most bars of soap contain glycerin this is quite confusing.

Sugar Doesn’t Cause Cavities

Another claim of Dr. Judd was that sugar consumption doesn’t lead to cavities. Indeed. According to Judd, he came to this realization after he saw that adding sugar to bone material didn’t affect the bone material in any way (negatively). But of course, cavities do not work like that. Bacteria found on teeth feed on sugar, and they start depositing plaque on the teeth, and then boom- cavities.

Bacteria Doesn’t Cause Cavities

Judd claimed that seeing as skeleton teeth buried in the ground didn’t have any cavities, in spite of being in touch with bacteria in the dirt, bacteria, in turn, cannot lead to cavities. Undoubtedly, the dirt doesn’t contain any saliva and the same exact carbohydrates and strains of bacteria that are present in the mouth are absent too. This isn’t necessarily to say that Dr. Judd wasn’t smart or that everything he said was completely wrong. Yet, it does seem a lot like his general views on dental health were too simple and didn’t take any consideration of several essential factors.

Image illustrating the best toothpaste for optimal dental health.

Evidence That Glycerin Is Actually Good For Your Teeth

Now that that study is completely debunked and done with, and Judd’s reasoning is fully debunked as well, let’s focus a little on glycerin’s benefits. Ultimately, we are referring to other problems here, much more than what the FDA thinks about glycerin- but just for the record, the Food And Drug Administration considers glycerin fully safe. Furthermore, there exist many other studies and research that state that glycerin has quite some advantages. Whilst not all are directly applicable to dental health, seeing the connections is not that hard.

Is Sorbitol Better For Toothpaste Than Glycerin?

Most natural toothpastes utilize sorbitol rather than glycerin seeing as sorbitol additionally plays the role of a sweetener and aids in preserving the toothpaste for drying out, though it doesn’t have the same preservation properties as glycerin. Note that despite the fact sorbitol isn’t as cariogenic (causes cavities) as glucose, it can nonetheless cause cavities. Thus, although it doesn’t seem of too much importance, it’s not precisely the very best thing to have in your toothpaste.

Image illustrating a toothpaste designed for optimal dental health.

Benefits Of Glycerin In Toothpaste

Rather than naming it the bad guy, the following are some reasons why you should be happy glycerin is part of your toothpaste.

Makes It Taste Better

Glycerin is very sweet. Thus, a toothpaste that contains it tastes much better so you and your children are more likely to use it to brush your teeth.

Prevents Toothpaste From Hardening (Becoming Cement)

Alright, maybe not quite cement, but if it has ever occurred leaving the cap off of your toothpaste, you might know exactly what we are talking about.

Being a humectant- meaning it draws water to itself- glycerin aids in keeping toothpaste from drying out in the tube. It has the very same feature in homemade foaming hand soaps, as well as it can be found in several skincare cleaners and products, all in order to keep them from drying out.

It’s Bacteriostatic (Kills Bed Bugs)

On grounds of worries about glycerin being secure for your teeth, this can be a very interesting thing, worth noting. Glycerin doesn’t simply stick to the teeth for the prevention of remineralization, but it goes further on by being antimicrobial and bacteriostatic.

This implies that it does a lot more than simply keep your toothpaste from drying out. It is just as good for your teeth because it can help in the cavities and periodontal disease prevention and help your teeth turn whiter.

Reduces The Need For A Preservative

There is no requirement for a preservative whenever a formulation is 50 percent or more of glycerin. Such a thing is amazing. Preservatives in personal care products should be avoided, whenever possible. While in contrast, water and aloe in personal care products are both mold and bacteria breeding grounds, glycerin can be a much better base for toothpaste.

Conclusion

So there it goes. Glycerin isn’t nearly as scary as made by people and as a matter of fact, it can be your teeth’s friend. Though not a close friend, think of it as having a friend you sometimes can and should hang out with. To summarize, glycerin is quite secure and non-toxic and highly likely advantageous for oral health. The myth about glycerin being damaging to your teeth stays just that- a myth.

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