Product story

Something to smile about: a 100% natural, mineral-based toothpaste

In the pursuit of healthy white teeth, Imerys has found that toothpaste that combines kaolin and delicately engineered perlite provides highly effective dental care and meets consumers’ preference for natural ingredients.

Man brushing his teeth



In 2020, our smiles have been mostly hidden – not least because the news has given us little to be pleased about, but mainly because of the unexpected fashion accessory of the year: the face mask.

Surgical masks and respirators have covered up healthy white teeth all over the world – and those who have been smelling their own trapped bad breath, as a result, have realized the value of oral hygiene and regularly using the right toothpaste.

The way we remove plaque and stains has, thankfully, evolved. Over the course of thousands of years, toothpaste ingredients have included ground ox hooves, crushed bones, oyster shells, bark, charcoal, dried flowers and ginseng. The past 100 years or so have seen the introduction of more palatable elements such as baking soda, chalk and salt to create a polished, healthy smile.

Growing demand for safe, natural dental care

As consumers, we no longer need to worry about digesting powdered hooves, but we are more conscious and better informed about the composition of everyday items. We want to be sure that what we are using is harmless – for us and for the environment. 

Research has shown consumers want reassurance that toothpaste, which can be swallowed, uses safe ingredients.

Abrasive agents are 15-20% of the composition: they clean to whiten, polish and smooth enamel. Many kinds of toothpaste use synthetic silica for this role.

Dental care research suggests there are no safety concerns, but consumer feedback shows we prefer natural toothpaste – with the same cleaning efficiency for teeth whitening and to main healthy tooth enamel. As a result, some toothpaste manufacturers are looking to decrease synthetic components in their products.

A natural new option in toothpaste

In September 2020, Imerys launched a kaolin-based alternative to synthetic silica. The product, ImerCare® KaoBright, when mixed with perlite, offers an entirely natural new option in toothpaste, with the same ability to remove stains without damaging enamel.

Imerys’ engineered perlite for toothpaste was, in fact, one of the first products in the Group’s ImerCare® brand, a range of engineered minerals for the Cosmetics & personal care market, launched in 2011.

This perlite, manufactured in Europe, was designed to enhance the properties of toothpaste. The rock is warmed, and the water inside the rock becomes a bubble of perlite. It looks a bit like popcorn – though this “popcorn” is good for your teeth. It’s then crushed to create 2D perlite.

Elodie Remia, Science & Technology Development Engineer specializing in cosmetics at Imerys, explains: “The perlite is added to the formula in a small amount to boost the cleaning effectiveness, without being too abrasive. Not all minerals can do this job, and the re-engineering is important to make sure the mineral is respectful of our teeth.”

This redesign of the perlite is similarly done for personal care scrubs.

The right combination for effective teeth-cleaning power

The composition of toothpaste is a delicate balancing act. The combination of ingredients needs cleaning power (pellicle cleaning ratio: PCR) and the lowest possible risk of damaging tooth enamel (relative dentin abrasion: RDA).

In short, high PCR and low RDA = high CEI (cleaning efficiency index).

“There are other minerals used in toothpaste besides kaolin and perlite,” says Elodie. “Some manufacturers use Calcium carbonate instead of synthetic silica, but we believe our perlite and Kaolin products are the best natural combination for cleaning efficiency without causing enamel damage. It’s the ultimate ‘compromise’ of cleaning properties.”

The long-term efficacy of ImerCare® KaoBright has been thoroughly tested at the Indiana University School of Dentistry1, the recognised authority for toothpaste best practice.

We hope in 2021 we’ll get to see a lot more of the beautiful white teeth currently concealed behind the mask.