Better living through nature
Recent research has shed light on the importance that dental health is to our overall health and longevity: The Mayo Clinic reports that poor oral health can affect endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart, as well as cardiovascular disease, premature birth and low birth weight, diabetes, immune system disorders and eating disorders.
It may be well worth giving up commercial toothpaste and turning toward home remedies for healthy teeth and gums.
Is Traditional Dental Care the Best?
Experts recommend protecting your teeth and gums by getting regular dental checkups; eating a healthful diet; and brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice daily. Katie The Wellness Mama cites studies about oral health and lack of minerals by married doctors Mellanby and Weston Price, showing that vitamin D is important to healthy teeth. She discusses her own experience with a diet that helps her treat cavities and improve oral health: She cuts out grains, beans and nuts, limits food with sugars and starches, and adding healthful fats (coconut oil); pastured, cultured butter; and homemade bone broths.
Even if you eat this way, regular toothpaste contains lots of things you may not want in your system. When was the last time you read the ingredients on the toothpaste you buy? Do you know what’s in your toothpaste? Do you have a favorite brand or flavor of toothpaste?
Commercially prepared toothpaste has ingredients such as synthetic additives; disinfectant chemicals containing ammonium compounds,; preservatives; fluoride; foaming agents; abrasive silicas and mica; artificial colors and flavors; and even have plastic microbeads that can get lodged underneath gums and in between teeth.
One of the most concerning ingredients in commercial toothpastes is triclosan, a pesticide that alters hormone regulation but is used in toothpaste as an antimicrobial to fight gingivitis. This petroleum-derived ingredient has also been linked to carcinogenic and abrasive properties.
Toothpaste pot from the early 1900s.
Photo via Wellcome Images
Neem & Peelu
If you don’t want to use such ingredients in your mouth every day, you have plenty of safe and effective alternatives. Before 1873, when Colgate started mass production of toothpaste in jars, people used cloth and water to clean their teeth, or chewed on twigs or inner bark fiber from neem and peelu trees.
Neem twigs are still used as toothbrushes in India. They peel off the thin, outer bark covering of a twig and chew on the end until the fibers split, then rub it on teeth and gums. Peelu fibers from the Middle Eastern peelu tree (Salvadora persica), also called miswak and siwak, are available at health-food stores to aid in oral health. Use the raw fibers to chew daily or use it in powder form to brush with.
If you live in a warm climate, you can grow neem and peelu trees for personal use. They are not hardy outdoors in freezing climates but could be grown inside as houseplants.
Use sage leaves to clean teeth by rubbing them on teeth in your mouth.
Photo courtesy Nnorbu/Wikimedia Commons
Baking soda is another great natural solution for clean teeth and gums. Turn it into a paste by mixing it with water. This is an easy and effective time-tested tooth cleanser. Mix in some peppermint or spearmint oil, as well as a little bit of stevia extract, for a better tasting paste.
Instead of baking soda, you can mix sea salt with a little bit of water to brush with. Both baking soda and salt can be abrasive, so some people may prefer formulations without them.
You can also use a toothbrush dipped in hydrogen peroxide to your brush teeth. Follow up follow with a mixture of baking soda and fine or crushed sea salt to brush a second time, unless you have amalgam fillings—hydrogen peroxide can cause mercury to leach from these types of fillings.
Try making your own toothpaste with two parts baking soda and three parts organic coconut oil to five parts calcium powder. Flavor and sweeten this mixture with mint, cinnamon or orange essential oil and xylitol.
Finally, if you have access to fresh sage, rub fresh sage leaves on your teeth to clean and disinfect them. Some tooth powders actually contain crushed sage.
Retail Products I Trust
If you don’t want to mix your own toothpaste, use herbal tooth powders such as Dr. Christopher’s Herbal Tooth & Gum Powder or inVitamin’s Natural Tooth & Gum Powder with Activated Charcoal. Dr. Christopher’s powder has a mixture of many herbs, including shavegrass, peppermint, white oak, comfrey, lobelia, cloves, prickly ash bark, bayberry bark, slippery elm bark and stevia. InVitamin’s powder contains activated bamboo charcoal, bentonite clay, orris root powder, myrrh gum powder, hibiscus petal powder, stevia leaf, peppermint and cinnamon.
You may prefer one of the natural toothpaste products from Earthpaste or Uncle Harry’s Toothpaste. With their toothpastes, you’ll get all the freshening, cleansing, whitening and antibacterial benefits without any of the risky chemicals.
Heidi Cardenas is a freelance writer, gardener, knitter and crocheter in Illinois with a keen interest in growing and using herbs and spices. She has written about gardening and natural living for various online venues and loves the focus on natural alternatives at Mother Earth Living.