Should We Really Use Antibacterial Toothpaste?

Bacteria gets a bad reputation, but they are vital to our health.

This video was originally published on and republished with permission.

Since the discovery of bacteria, many health problems have been blamed on these microscopic creatures. It is true that there are strains of bacteria that can be dangerous or even deadly, but most are completely harmless and there are many that are quite beneficial. Because some of these helpful bacteria are found in our mouths, it may be time to reconsider buying antibacterial toothpaste.

An interesting trait that a number of animals (including us humans) share is an instinct to lick wounds. As it turns out, this instinct does have an inherent benefit. Scientists wondering about whether the healing properties of licking was a legitimate phenomenon or not found that the licking of our skin produces nitric oxide from nitrites found in the saliva. Nitric oxide, which the body creates after the good bacteria in our mouths convert nitrates that we get from food into nitrites, is able to help protect against some of the microbes that live on our skin. This does give credence to the idea that licking wounds can be helpful compared to doing nothing, but you might want to stick to more sanitary methods of cleaning up a cut.

Because nitric oxide has this wonderful protective ability, when tests show that we are deficient in it, it should be taken as an early warning that we are at risk for a number of serious conditions. Making a plant-based diet a priority is a great way to boost the amount nitric oxide that the body creates, since many leafy greens contain high levels of nitrates, but it won’t matter how many pounds of veggies you eat if you there is no bacteria present to convert the nitrates into nitrites. The body won’t have the resources to then make nitric oxide, and we therefore lose a good chunk of our natural defenses. When we use certain oral hygiene products such as antibacterial toothpaste and mouthwashes, we think we’re being clean, but all we’re really doing is putting ourselves at a mint-flavored disadvantage.

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