In recent years, the word “natural” has popped up a lot, affixed to beauty products, fabrics, household-cleaning products and more, but it’s not always clear what it means. Cyanide and asbestos are “natural” compounds, for example.

For Georgia Geminder, founder of Australian oral-care brand Gem, it’s about making everyday products that work without relying on potentially harmful synthetic chemicals.

While brainstorming start-up ideas, she says she was struck by how many people diligently avoid putting chemicals on their face or spraying them across the kitchen bench but still regularly put them in their mouth on a toothbrush.

“I tried all these non-toxic toothpaste alternatives,” she says. “None of them foamed up, they didn’t have that minty fresh feeling I craved and I thought, ‘Why can’t be there be a natural alternative that performs, tastes and functions as effectively as a non-natural counterpart?’ So that sort of began my quest,” she says.

After two years of research, consultations with dentists and experimentation, Gem launched with its first product in March: a 100-gram tube of Crisp Mint natural toothpaste.

It’s vegan and chemical-free but still has the smooth texture and refreshing flavour of regular toothpaste. It also contains an oral probiotic to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the mouth and replace bacteria affected by harsh oral-hygiene regimes.

One issue Geminder faced when creating the toothpaste was finding effective replacements for common ingredients such as fluoride, which is proven to strengthen teeth counteract decay. The solution she chose was a coconut-derived alternative called hydroxyapatite that similarly helps to remineralise teeth by restoring lost calcium and phosphate, making the teeth harder and preventing cavities.

“The problem with a lot of natural toothpastes is they take fluoride out but they don’t replace it with anything effective and that’s when you start to see problems,” she says.

“I knew I wanted to create something natural and non-toxic, but I also knew if I took out these ingredients, I had to replace them with functional ingredients that work as effectively.”

The original toothpaste contains a sulphate-free foaming agent, several plant-derived anti-bacterial ingredients, and essential oils from mint leaves for flavour and fresh breath. (The full list of ingredients, including pictures of each, can be found here.

There are now Coconut Mint, Cinnamon Mint and Apple Mint versions as well, along with plant-based biodegradable floss. New products are on the way, too, including probiotic mouthwash.

“The assumption is if you nuke your mouth [with mouthwash] any bacteria, good or bad, can thrive but if you add in that beneficial bacteria, it really allows for a healthy oral microbiome,” says Geminder, who has a background in marketing and developed an interest in probiotics while working for Remedy Kombucha.

At present, Gem products are available online and in a handful of independent grocers but will be available via popular make-up brand Mecca’s online store and in Totally Smiles dental clinics Australia-wide from early next year.

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