We all know what regular toothpaste does for us, and there are others, like the elephant toothpaste, which we use for our little science experiments.
But have you ever wondered what other substances your toothpaste contains besides the common fluoride? Does any of these substances make your toothpaste flammable? In this article, we want to find out.
So, Is Toothpaste Flammable or Not?
No, toothpaste is not flammable and will not catch fire on its own. This is because regular toothpaste contains lots of water and substances with high melting and boiling point. So, even if you ignite your toothpaste, it will only smolder to produce toxic fumes.
That said, there’s something else we want you to know, and it’s about the popular Elephant toothpaste or the bigger version—the Devil’s toothpaste.
These pastes are actually not toothpastes. Rather, they are paste-like substances good for science projects and not dental hygiene.
To make one, you need to mix hydrogen peroxide, liquid soap, food coloring, potassium iodide, and baker’s yeast. After mixing, you will see the giant paste rushing out of the tube. That paste people call the Elephant paste.
Unlike general belief, the hydrogen peroxide used in elephant toothpaste is not flammable. But it is a strong oxidizer that produces a substantial amount of oxygen that supports burning.
That means if it comes in contact with certain organic compounds and other combustibles, it can ignite and explode. So, you need to handle the experiment with extreme care.
What Ingredients Do Toothpastes Contain?
Depending on the brand, different toothpastes have different cocktails of chemicals. But according to a 2017 research paper from the Multilayer Flexible Packaging Journal, most toothpaste have the following contents:
- Water—about (20 -40%).
Water acts as the major solvent in our toothpaste. Likewise, it prevents them from drying out.
Although, we all know that water is non-flammable. In this article, we emphasized some special reasons water does not catch fire at all. So, the high moisture content of toothpaste is one of its fire-resistant abilities.
- Fluoride – like sodium fluoride.
Fluorides are the most common ingredient in toothpaste. Their major function is to help form dental enamels and bones. So, yes; they strengthen your teeth and prevent dental erosion.
As for their flammability nature, most fluorides used in toothpaste are quite resistant to heat. The most common fluoride in toothpaste, sodium fluoride, melts at 18190F and boils around 31000F.
- Abrasives (50%) – like silica, and calcium carbonate.
These are the components that actually clear the plaque in our teeth. They also prevent tartar or calculus accumulation and reduce gum disease.
Focusing on flammability, many of the toothpaste abrasives have a high melting and boiling point. So, they rarely ignite and burn. The common calcium carbonate abrasive, for instance, has 2,4420F as its melting point.
- Detergents or surfactants – (0.5 -2%)
Not all toothpaste has surfactants, but many of them do. In those toothpastes, surfactants help to boost their cleansing power and distribute the toothpaste molecules.
A good example of surfactant used is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). This SLS has a low boiling point of 4030F and a flash point of 3380F. That means, when heated hot enough, SLS can catch fire. But it is not flammable.
Even if it is, the amount of SLS in toothpaste is quite low and some toothpaste don’t have it. So, its combustible nature won’t really weigh much compared to the water, abrasive, and fluoride part of toothpaste.
- Flavorings and Coloring Agents.
The kinds of flavoring used in toothpastes depends on the brand and the region. In the Mediterranean, for instance, people prefer a blend of peppermint and anise oil as a flavor.
Besides peppermint, spearmint, lavender, and wintergreen are another common flavors in toothpastes. These oils, in their liquid form, are very combustible.
Peppermint oil, for instance, has a flash point of 1560F, and in this article, we noted just how ignitable essential oils like it can be. But the amount of flavoring in toothpaste is quite small to affect its flammability. So, flavored or not, toothpaste is still non-flammable.
Other agents in toothpaste include the following. Some of them contain alcohol contents. But although this article explained how flammable alcohol can be, the amount of alcohol in toothpaste is not enough to make it flammable.
- Humectants like glycerol, sorbitol, and propylene glycol—keep toothpaste moist and reduce sensitivity.
- Anti-calculus agents like zinc citrate and sodium polyphosphate—help to remove tartar from teeth.
- Re-mineralizers in a few toothpastes calcium phosphate and nanoparticles – these prevent early tooth decay.
- Antisensitivity agents like strontium chloride or arginine—are found only in sensitive toothpaste.
What Happens When Toothpaste Gets Too Hot?
Earlier, we talked about the common components of toothpaste. Many of those chemicals are synthetic, and they find common use because they are quite cheap.
However, some brands out there now make green toothpaste with all-natural ingredients. Yes, the environment loves this. But then, these eco-ingredients are more susceptible to heat.
With little heating, they melt and their mint flavor will disintegrate and leave the user with less-than-fresh breath.
Even for those toothpastes made with synthetic ingredients, the high temperature is not friendly. Because with increasing heat, the ingredients separate. Those with lower melting points can even liquefy, and overall, the toothpaste becomes less effective.
For that reason, many brands like Colgate, often recommend that you store toothpaste in a cool environment. So, let’s conclude that you should not store toothpaste under heat.
Does Toothpaste React with Light?
Well… yes, the ingredients in toothpaste can react with ultraviolet light, and that includes sunlight.
With over-exposure, the preservative ingredients can break down, and this increases the risk of bacterial and fungal growth within the toothpaste. Overall, this can damage your teeth rather than help them.
So, it’s really a bad idea to re-package your toothpaste into a transparent container. Because these days, that idea is popular. But like us, an official post from Dr Suhail Mohiuddin at Home Insider, disagrees.
According to Dr Suhail, toothpaste ingredients are not UV-stable. So, light can make them ineffective and reduce their anti-bacterial ability. Therefore, you will need to brush them more than twice a day to keep them active.
With time, these ineffective pastes can cause plaque accumulation, bad breath, gum diseases, and even cavities. Yes, those are the same effect you get from using expired toothpaste. You can check this out on Healthline.
So, now you understand why toothpaste often comes in an opaque tube rather than a transparent one.
Can Toothpaste Conduct Electricity?
To some extent, toothpaste can conduct electricity toothpaste. But the degree of thermal conductivity depends on the brand and type of toothpaste.
By luck, some toothpaste may conduct electricity while others can’t. In that case, you can use such toothpaste in place of thermal paste when you have no other alternative.
But you should always remember that toothpaste contains water, which can be problematic for electric circuits. Also, the fragrance in some paste can easily smolder and release toxic fumes, causing the toothpaste to dry out quickly.
To help with dryness, you can mix Vaseline and toothpaste in about 20-80 ratio. The Vaseline should help prevent the toothpaste from drying out.
Overall, toothpaste (including devil’s and elephant toothpaste) is not flammable. So, many of the safety organisations around the world classify toothpaste as a non-hazardous material, and they are heat-resistant.
However, under intense heat, toothpaste ingredients can separate, liquefy and become ineffective. The same thing applies when you overexpose your toothpaste to light because toothpastes are not UV-stable.
Using ineffective toothpaste can cause:
- Bad breath
- Gum disease
- Plaque accumulation