January 24, 2009

Is Tom’s of Maine still green? By Claire Burstein of The Feng Shui Fairy.

Tom’s of Maine: Squeaky Clean or Just Squeaking By?

by Claire Burstein, a.k.a. “The Feng Shui Fairy”

I imagine that many health conscious folks out there naturally reach for Tom’s of Maine toothpaste.  It makes sense, right?  It’s so readily available, it’s in health food stores and supermarkets alike, it looks good, it tastes good, it’s “all natural” and everybody’s using it. Why wouldn’t it be a good thing?  Well, there are some things you should be aware before you buy Tom’s of Maine products again.  I used them regularly, until a teacher clued me in on some important details. I was a bit shocked at the vehemence with which he bashed Tom’s of Maine. I’ll spare you that energy. What I would like to do is pass the knowledge on to you and point you in the direction of an alternative. 

Firstly, the word “natural” is used quite loosely in the health and beauty industry. Everything on this Earth once came from nature.  Even “synthetic” things come from petroleum, which is a natural thing. There are plenty of harmful substances that are sourced from natural things.  And there are things directly from nature that are very harmful to humans, such as mercury and snake venom.  So, beware of the word “natural”.  

Fluoride is a good thing, right?  It’s in our drinking water.  Our dentists readily recommend it.  I heard growing up that the English have bad teeth because there’s no fluoride in their water.  So, why would we question it?  According to Natural Choice Directory, “studies over the years have pointed to fluoride as a possible carcinogen, a bone-weakening agent and even a reason for decreased fertility among women.” 

Some Tom’s of Maine products are now made with fluoride, according to consumer demand, as claimed on their web-site. Unfortunately, so is the natural toothpaste I just picked up at Trader Joe’s.  It’s a learning process. I’m becoming more educated about this, too. Fluoride is listed under the words sodium monofluorophosphate and sodium fluoride. Many question its use and it’s worth looking into. 

Sodium laurel sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate are both sourced from coconut. They are surfactants, or foaming agents.  There is a lively debate, it seems, as to whether these chemicals cause cancer or not.  Tom’s uses a different product made from licorice root for some of it’s toothpastes.  What I wonder is, why not use that for all of the products? Tom’s of Maine at least gives the consumer a choice in the matter.  They do deserve credit for that.

“Natural” does not always mean “eco-friendly”. Poloxamer 335 is a product sourced from natural gas and oil.  It’s something that Tom’s of Maine uses in their mouthwash to disperse the flavor oils since they have chosen not to use alcohol.  And what of the hydrated silica and calcium carbonate which are “from the earth”?  How are they getting these materials and where do they come from?  Tom’s of Maine is sensitive about the Poloxamer 335 and is seeking a plant-based alternative, at least. 

Be careful of what you swish in your mouth, brush onto your pearly whites and scrape your tongue with.  Digestion begins in the mouth.  It’s not just a vessel for food and beverage.  Your mouth is a very sophisticated thing that deserves respect.  There’s an abundance of dental care products available that are simply toxic.  I want to be clear that Tom’s of Maine is not in that category. The company is worthy of praise for it’s health consciousness, transparency, and environmental practices. Check out their web-site for yourself at www.tomsofmaine.com. 

There is another company that I’d like to point out for your consideration.  It’s called Eco-DenT.  Their products are made with “advanced formulas, premium ingredients, and state-of-the-art manufacturing.”  

And, they are designed to add to your health and well-being. My favorite product is the Eco-DenT Ultimate Daily Rinse, which has CoQ10, a host of essential oils, ecinachea and goldenseal among it’s list of ingredients. It tastes great, I feel great about using it, and I’ve noticed a difference in my periodontal health since swishing it daily. 

Eco-denT also has tooth powders instead of pastes. These are more eco-friendly because they require less ingredients, packaging, and petroleum for shipping. They are the ultra light-weight tooth product that packs a punch!  Other eco-friendly features are vegan floss with recycleable packaging and replaceable head toothbrushes. 

The choice is yours, of course. It’s also important to consider the source. I am not a naturopath or dentist.  However, as a trained singer, I am particularly aware of the mouth’s capabilities and maintenance needs.  I am also someone who is very sensitive about my dental health, my overall well-being, and the planet that we’re currently occupying. 

As a feng shui consultant, health and well-being is important to me. Still, no person or company is perfect—we’re all just doing the best we can according to our present level of awareness. That’s why I felt it important to bring some things to your awareness. Now, you can make the choice according to your own personal preferences and priorities. Happy brushing, swishing and flossing!


Claire Burstein is a feng shui consultant, whimsically named “The Feng Shui Fairy”.  She is based in California and is an active participant in the “green business movement”.  Her articles and list of services can be found at www.thefengshuifairy.com. 








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