Oral hygiene is a topic with immense amounts of (often conflicting) data available, I’m going to try and cover the basics without overloading, which means I’m going to have to skip some of the interesting science stuff, but I hope it will be enough to give you a broad overview which can help if you are trying to switch away from conventional methods
The first thing I’d like to do is look very briefly at some of the ingredients found in your usual toothpaste, as this is what most people are still using and I think it’s important to understand why you might want to switch away from it.
Fluoride: It’s more common knowledge these days that fluoride isn’t good for you, it’s a topic for a whole post at a later point, but suffice to say as of when I’m writing this at least 34 human studies and 100 animal studies have shown a direct correlation between fluoride and brain damage, and that’s not even going into the list of other health complications associated.
Glycerine: Another common ingredient in your over the counter toothpastes is glycerine. Glycerin helps give toothpaste its pasty texture and keeps it from drying out. But it can also leave a coating on your teeth that prevents them from remineralizing.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: SLS is a surfactant that gives you that foamy cleaning action we have gotten used to from toothpaste (it does the same job in soaps and shampoos). It’s synthetically produced and cheap, and creates lots of foam while effectively cleaning, however SLS is ‘too powerful’ a detergent which is a known irritant, not all of its effects are good which is why many people are now trying to find SLS free products
Titanium dioxide: There are some concerns that titanium dioxide is carcinogenic. The biggest problem is that nano-sized particles of titanium dioxide can be absorbed through the mouth and may cause toxic damage in the cells of the body.
Abrasives: Abrasive additives are meant to clean away plaque and reveal white teeth but they can wear away the enamel protecting your teeth from decay. Without strong enamel it is easier for harmful organisms to find a home in the crevices of your teeth or even worse, make their way into your blood stream through damaged gum tissue.
There are of course many other ingredients ranging from pure chemical to more natural, but the general consensus is that it’s extremely hard to find a toothpaste that doesn’t contain some nasties.
So what can we use instead?
This is a question that you can find many answers to, there is a plethora of information out there, I certainly couldn’t run through it all in one post, but I will try and go through some of the most common alternatives and the pros and cons I’m aware of:
This is by far the simplest and most comprehensive replacement to toothpaste, coconut oil is:
-Anti-fungal: diets high in sugar and yeast create an environment perfect for candida albicans which can lead to infections, gum disease and even mouth cancer. Coconut oil contains caprylic acid commonly used to treat fungal and yeast infections.
-Anti-inflammatory: can naturally protect the gums from gingivitis.
-Non-abrasive: avoiding the problems mentioned earlier
Using pure coconut oil can not only strengthen and whiten teeth but purify your mouth of bacterias that may trigger decay and disease. It is important to get the right coconut oil, make sure it is cold-pressed, unrefined, and 100% organic.
Hydrogen peroxide is a natural substance. It’s H2O2 (water with extra oxygen). H2O2 breaks down, or oxidizes, into water and oxygen upon contact with many other natural chemicals. The release of oxygen from hydrogen peroxide is what makes it a very effective cleaner. The 3% solution is diluted enough to make it safe for topical and oral use but prolonged exposure or high concentrations can cause irritation and it should not be swallowed.
One potential problem with hydrogen peroxide is if you have amalgam fillings as peroxide may leach mercury from your fillings.
Essential oils are very concentrated and can cause irritation if you don’t know what you’re doing, so please do dilute if you’re not clued up about oils. Adding essential oils to your coconut oil is a good way of boosting it’s healing properties if you are suffering any mouth problems. Things like mint (antiseptic), clove (germicidal) and cinnamon (antimicrobial) are good options though there are many more.
I know this is one that a lot of people use, and many feel they have good results with it, but it is very abrasive, and over time may damage your enamel, therefore I wouldn’t recommend using it more than once a week.
This technique is taken from Ayurvedic medicine, the modern adaptation is starting to become popular and has some amazing reviews, I haven’t tried it yet but from what I’ve heard it’s certainly worth a go.
Oil pulling is known as a powerful method of detoxifying the body. The alleged benefits cover everything from whiter, straighter teeth, healthy pink gums, increased energy, decreased migraines, clearer sinuses, less severe asthma, decreased allergies, improved PMS symptoms, regulated menstrual cycles, better sleep, clear skin, even decreased grey hair
The method is as follows:
– Ideally oil pulling should be done first thing in the morning on an empty stomach
– Use about one tablespoon of oil. You can start with less, though
– A couple drops of essential oil or a healing oil like oregano can be added if desired
– Swish the oil slowly and methodically, not vigorously and try to make sure the oil reaches every region of your mouth, but be careful not to swallow the oil
– Continue swishing the oil for at least 10 minutes, preferably around 20 minutes, the oil will become very thin and foamy as you swish
– Spit the oil out, rinse thoroughly and brush with pure water, or a natural method
For added whitening effect you can add a 1/4 teaspoon of activated charcoal to your oil once or twice a week, this ‘black oil’ has good reports for giving you ‘white teeth’.
Salt water mouthwash rinses are an excellent short term treatment when you have wounds in the mouth. Salt is not only a natural disinfectant, it also reduces swelling. So using salt water for two or three weeks if you have an infection or a mouth ulcer, works really well as a short term measure. Longer term there would be a problem if you were to use it every day as it could erode the teeth. It is not necessarily abrasive to the teeth but the acidity of the salt water could eat away and soften the enamel on the teeth making them more susceptible to wearing, chipping and cavities.
Essential Oils: A simple solution of 2 drops each of tea tree & calendula (or other beneficial oils) diluted in 1/2 cup of pure water will make a great little mouth wash that you can cater to your individual needs at any given time
Unlike with toothpaste that you are scrubbing on your teeth surface, using baking soda in a mouthwash utilises it’s natural alkalising effects without endangering your teeth with it’s abrasive qualities. You cab add 2 tsp baking soda to the essential oils mix above.
There are many more recipes you can find for home made natural mouth washes, but I think this is enough to show you that simple is efficient, and there’s no need to overcomplicate things, especially when starting off
After years of research, it was concluded that tooth structure and health is largely determined by diet, especially three main factors. The doctors who did this research hypothesized that these three factors influenced the body’s ability to reverse cavities and oral health problems, and that if you could optimize these factors, you could prevent further damage and even reverse present damage. The 3 factors are:
- The presence of enough minerals in the diet.
This of course makes complete sense, tooth enamel is the most highly mineralised substance in the body. It is 96% mineral, with water and protein accounting for the other 4% so consuming enough minerals like calcium and iron is vital to maintain your teeth structure.
- The presence of enough fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) in the diet.
-Vitamin A is necessary for the formation of keratin, present in epithelial cells of tooth germ, and is the primary component of tooth enamel.
-Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption. They found that simply increasing vitamin D consumption resulted in less damage and more recovery capability.
-Vitamin E benefits the body by acting as an antioxidant, and protecting vitamins A and C, red blood cells, and essential fatty acids from destruction.
-Vitamin K plays an essential role in normal blood clotting, promoting bone health, and helping to produce proteins for blood, bones, and kidneys.
- How bio-available these nutrients are and how well the body is absorbing them.
They found that this is largely influenced by the presence of Phytic Acid in the diet. Phytic acid contains the mineral phosphorus tightly bound in a snowflake-like molecule. In humans and animals with one stomach, the phosphorus is not readily bioavailable. In addition to blocking phosphorus availability, the “arms” of the phytic acid molecule readily bind with other minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc, making them unavailable as well. In this form, the compound is referred to as phytate.
Reducing Phytic Acid in your diet involves drastically reducing grains, beans or nuts and limiting fruits and starches. Lots of vegetables, protein, and healthy fats.