The People's Perspective on Medicine

Changing Toothpaste to Ease Asthma Symptoms

Q. A caller on your radio show said that using Crest desensitizing toothpaste instead of the usual brand had abolished his lifelong asthma symptoms. I went right out and bought some.

This toothpaste contains potassium nitrate, which was an ingredient in asthma relievers in the days when the pharmacist used to compound medicines. I hope this toothpaste will work for me as well.

A. Potassium nitrate, also known as saltpeter, was once prescribed for arthritis as well as asthma. Today it is employed as a preservative for cured meat and is the active ingredient in desensitizing dentifrice, including Crest Sensitivity Toothpaste.

Another listener heard the same call and has this report: “I also bought the Crest Sensitivity toothpaste and noticed immediate results. Previously, I needed my inhaler anytime I brushed my teeth. It’s been three days using the Crest, and I haven’t needed the inhaler at all.”

Do not stop your asthma medicine, but we are fascinated that switching toothpaste might help some people with their wheezing symptoms.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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WOW! This is such great information. I Just went to the Dr. yesterday and was told that I had no Flu or Pneumonia. It was Asthma. I know I have it but this time it kicked in w a vengeance. Since I was awake for the most of the night (because of the Asthma steroids) I was racking my brain and the only thing I could come up that was different was that I was using a Dentist recommended FLUORIDE toothpaste and rinse (PreviDent) because of the dental work I had done. I have done my research this morning and I’m so happy there is all this information out there about this. I shall pass this on. THANK YOU, EVERYONE!!! I can breath more easily now.

Toothpaste definitely can trigger asthma. Switching to a variety that lacks the offending ingredient would obviously stop triggering the attacks. I would suggest using a brand that also is free of nitrates, since those compounds form nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic.

I tried almost all toothpastes, and flouride-free works best for me. I do baking soda, too, and no coughing fits like before.

We have finally figured out that my husband’s severe asthma is associated with his toothpaste. Will try the Crest, I suppose, but there’s a lot of crap in that too….I’ve seen several other articles online (google toothpaste and asthma) about sulfites, xylitol, triclosan, salicytes, or other common toothpaste ingredients causing immediate and severe asthma symptoms. One woman’s son had his asthma disappear after his appendix was taken out, only to find that he didn’t brush his teeth with his usual toothpaste while recovering in the hospital–it was the toothpaste the whole time.
I”m not sure if the Crest is making things better, or if it’s just lacking some of the ingredients that are common triggers.

I have suffered from moderate/severe asthma my whole life and had used an inhaler daily to relieve asthma attacks. I am currently 30 years old. A few years ago my mom told me she read an article that sensitive toothpaste could help asthma. I decided to give it a shot. After a week I noticed that I was using my inhaler less and less. After a month I was not using my inhaler at all! Seriously, I do not use my inhaler at all after 28 years of chronic asthma. Why are doctors and medical professionals not telling people about this extremely easy lifestyle change!?!?!

Once I did run out of sensitive toothpaste without thinking and started using my wife’s which is not a sensitive type. I started wheezing and using my inhaler again! I quickly switched back and it took about a month for me to be completely better again. I would highly recommend trying it if you have asthma. It changed my life. Previously I wouldn’t leave the house with out an inhaler and now it never even crosses my mind.

My 4yr old son recently had been having repeated asthmatic like symptoms as soon as he went to bed. We noticed that his wheezing began soon after brushing his teeth in the evening. On changing brands of toothpaste his symptoms disappeared. He had been brushing with a low fluoride toothpaste for a couple of years without a problem. Recently we discovered that his toothpaste had changed to a new formulation which included striped colouring. We are now adamant that it was this change that caused his sensitivity.

I find that every time I brush my teeth I have the most terrible asthma symptoms. It took me a while to work out that it was the toothpaste that did it to me. I had thought that it was just something that would happen to me in the evening or in the morning when I was commuting. Does anyone have any idea what ingredient in toothpaste may be doing this? Furthermore, I am going to try using toothpaste containing potassium nitrite to see if that helps.

I read this on the LA Times and I started using Crest because I suffer from Asthma, but as a side effect my arthritis pain is under control. I am waiting to have a left knee replacement due to arthritis, I had 24 hr pain a dull pain that was very hard to deal with. I started brushing my teeth with Crest ProHealth and suddenly a few days after I started using it I noticed that my low level pain is completely gone. People don’t believe me and they think I’m crazy or some nut that read it on the internet and now it’s because the placebo effect.

I read your column in the Orlando Sentinel about toothpaste relieving asthma symptoms. I am curious to know if their previous toothpaste was the one aggravating their asthma instead? Perhaps an allergy mediated response.

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