Dentist and oral health care expert Harold Katz, DDS (pictured), the founder of The California Breath Clinics and author of The Bad Breath Bible, says that many ingredients in commercial toothpastes are of questionable benefit, while some are actually bad for you.

Here are a few ingredients that Katz suggests avoiding:
• FD&C blue dye No. 2: This commonly used toothpaste dye is one of several on the list of additives to avoid maintained by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. It’s said to be linked to learning, behavioral, and health problems; severe allergic reactions; and headaches, among other problems.
• Sodium lauryl sulfate: The American College of Toxicology reports this ingredient in cosmetics and industrial cleaning agents can cause skin corrosion and irritation.
• Triclosan: An antimicrobial ingredient, triclosan is listed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency as a pesticide. According to the agency’s fact sheet, “Studies on the thyroid and estrogen effects led EPA to determine that more research on the potential health consequences of endocrine effects of triclosan is warranted. … Because of the amount of research being planned and currently in progress, it will undertake another comprehensive review of triclosan beginning in 2013.”

• Saccharin and aspartame: Both of these artificial sweeteners are on the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s list of additives to avoid.

Katz, who also formulated the TheraBreath oral care program, suggests that buyers should look instead for natural ingredients, such as aloe vera juice. Aloe vera tooth gel is said to kill disease-causing bacteria in the mouth, Katz says.

Katz also recommends avoiding all toothpastes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate, a harsh detergent that has been linked to canker sores. Toothpastes that are free of sulfates include Weleda’s Salt Toothpaste, TheraBreath, and Tom’s of Maine.