Let’s Talk Toothpaste

I recently came back from a visit with a friend who has always been a sort of hip­pie, so it was no sur­prise to see a tube of “Tom’s of Maine” all nat­ural tooth­paste in her bath­room, next to the deodor­ant crys­tal and neti pot.

Being brought up on Crest and Colgate, with the occa­sional foray into Madison Avenue exotics such as Pear Drops Tooth-polish, and Close-up, it reminded me that when it comes to tooth­paste, it seems to be as much about cul­ture and pol­i­tics as it is about taste.

That is, until I learned from a reader of this blog post that Colgate owns Tom’s of Maine, he wrote, “In 2006, Colgate-Palmolive acquired Tom’s of Maine and promptly changed it’s long­stand­ing recipe. I had used Tom’s tooth­paste for over 20 years and then one day it sud­denly tasted like typ­i­cal cor­po­rately pro­duced toothpaste.”

I went to the Colgate web­site and saw that they don’t list Tom’s under their tooth­pastes. That makes sense right? Why would the big cor­po­ra­tion want the Tom’s demo­graphic, who are prob­a­bly not keen on big cor­po­ra­tions, to know that their tooth­paste is not made by a band of hip­pies in Portland but in a fac­tory owned by the cor­po­ra­tion that also makes Bubble Fruit Toothpaste for kids?

So, let me say thank you to this reader for point­ing out that infor­ma­tion. Now, back to this thrilling blog post about toothpaste!

There are cus­tomers who are dead-set against putting flu­o­ride in their mouth. This may also be a polit­i­cal choice; there are pros and cons although it is always a good idea to be informed. That being said, the water that comes out of our taps in Toronto is flu­o­ri­dated. At any rate, if you are look­ing to buy unflouri­dated tooth­paste there are many options out there. Here is a post with a recipe to make your own tooth­paste.

Other con­sumers are moti­vated mostly by taste, and opt for one of the big three when it comes to flavours. The big three tastes are over­whelm­ingly mint-both pep­per­mint and spearmint– cin­na­mon and anise, or fennel.

a mis­wak twig

I still have a tube of some­thing called “Miswak” in our own van­ity, tooth­paste that was brought to me a few years ago from my friend on his return from Syria. Miswak tooth­paste has the dis­tinc­tive fen­nel flavour asso­ci­ated with the tree from which it is derived, the Salvadora per­sica or Arak tree.

In fact, the prac­tice of chew­ing on a Miswak twig has been around since ancient Babylon and is still the pre­ferred method of oral hygiene for many Muslims for tra­di­tional and reli­gious reasons.

For those not used to the anise flavour, it might take some get­ting used to. Most North Americans opt for minty flavours, or cin­na­mon, but bub­ble gum flavour and other ques­tion­able and astound­ing taste sen­sa­tions have also been used in the effort to get peo­ple to brush their teeth. 

Of course, the option to avoid mass-marketed prod­ucts is always there, and one can always man­u­fac­ture one’s own “home­made tooth­paste”. It may take a lit­tle ex-spearminting (haha! sorry, couldn’t help it) to come across a flavour pro­file and con­sis­tency that is to your lik­ing, but a lit­tle tin­ker­ing may be just the ticket to a whiter smile. And fresher breath. And who knows, with a lit­tle savvy you just might be able to make a career out of it; after all, it worked for Tom of Maine.

Well that com­ment from our reader kind of killed the end­ing as we now know Tom doesn’t exist. Oh well, time for bed, go brush your teeth with a mis­wak stick.

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  • Franz Neumann

    Brought to you by Colgate-Palmolive.

    I find it curi­ous that this arti­cle talks only about flavour and flu­o­ride in tooth­paste and con­cludes by sug­gest­ing that the only choice is between “mass mar­keted” and home­made tooth­paste. It’s also curi­ous that the only prod­ucts pre­sented at those pro­duced by Colgate-Palmolive.

    In 2006, Colgate-Palmolive acquired Tom’s of Maine and promptly changed it’s long­stand­ing recipe. I had used Tom’s tooth­paste for over 20 years and then one day it sud­denly tasted like typ­i­cal cor­po­rately pro­duced toothpaste.

    Fiesta is free to do as it pleases with its web­site. But it would be appre­ci­ated if you didn’t try to hood­wink your cus­tomers by pass­ing off cor­po­rate adver­tis­ing as folksy blog entries.

  • igknight

    Hi Franz,
    Thanks for shar­ing, see our cor­rec­tions in the post above. I hope they will con­vince you that we’re not try­ing to hood­wink any­one and that this blog is not run by any type of cor­po­rate adver­tis­ing.

  • Franz Neumann

    Thank you, Ivy. I much appre­ci­ate your respon­sive­ness to my con­cerns and apol­o­gize for the sug­ges­tion about hoodwinking.

    I avoid cor­po­rately pro­duced prod­ucts to help sup­port inde­pen­dent pro­duc­ers and avoid the use of chem­i­cals and such in prod­ucts. The lat­ter is mostly out of envi­ron­men­tal and health con­cerns. This is the rea­son I’m a loyal Fiesta cus­tomer, as they carry a lot of this type of product.

    It peeves me when big cor­po­ra­tions buy out these types to elim­i­nate their com­pe­ti­tion. I absolutely loved Tom’s of Maine prod­ucts until that hap­pened and they wrecked the qual­ity of those prod­ucts. On the bright side it led me to some other great nat­ural prod­ucts like Green Beaver, which Fiesta carries.

    Cheers right back,