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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