Glycerine has long been used in many household oral hygiene products such as toothpaste and mouthwash. Mostly added to toothpaste for its viscosity, there were no contra-indications for its use until a few years ago.
Glycerine is a sticky, gooey liquid. It is sweet and if taken orally on its own, causes the saliva glands to activate.
Glycerine is also popular among parents. Using glycerine on a cotton swab or a square of gauze around your index finger to clean a baby’s mouth is common practice.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration, pharmaceutical products with glycerine have a low risk of being toxic and are classified as GRAS (generally recognised as safe).
Colgate advises that parents should still discourage small children from swallowing large amounts of toothpaste or mouthwash as the sweeteners and the fluoride can potentially cause an upset stomach. Large amounts of glycerine have also been known to cause side effects such as abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, bloating and even rectal pain.
Water is just as effective for cleaning an infant’s new teeth and general mouth area and has no negative side effects.
Glycerine is a humectant, which means it holds onto water and prevents the toothpaste from drying out in the tube, explains Green People blog.
Glycerine prevents dry mouth.
People who are pro-glycerine argue that it in fact has many health benefits too, including its ability to reduce bacterial activity by reducing the available water activity, in turn protecting against tooth decay.
Previously, a chemist named Gerald F Judd, in a “treatise” he called “Good Teeth from Birth to Death” claimed that glycerine toothpaste and products created a barrier of glycerine on the teeth which would require 20 rinses to get rid of, thus preventing re-mineralisation ( the natural process of the teeth’s enamel regenerating itself). This happens when the acids on the teeth’s surfaces are neutralised by brushing and cleaning.
Glycerine is water-soluble. It dissolves easily. It’s also bacteriostatic – that is, it prevents bacteria from reproducing – and has, according to Doctor Gerry Curatola, “prebiotic properties that Doctor Judd also regretfully seems to know nothing about.”
This claim has since been refuted by Doctor Gerry Curatola, who states that glycerine actually has probiotic qualities like bacteriostatic – which prevent bacteria from reproducing and is water-soluble, which means it dissolves easily and wouldn’t coat the teeth.