Over the past few months I’ve been attempting to systematically re-structure the way I approach household and personal products. I’ve done my best to eliminate products from companies known to test on animals. I’ve ditched the commercial cleaning products in favor of more toxin-free methods. I’m limiting the exfoliants in my soap and cleansers to things like almonds, apricot pits and sugar instead of microplastics. I’m slowly edging my way towards cruelty-free shampoos with fewer synthetic chemicals, because I can’t quite make myself go shampoo-free.
And then I picked up the toothpaste. I’m not entirely sure what to do with it.
I’ve been buying Tom’s of Maine lately, largely because it’s the only readily available dental product I can find that’s on the Leaping Bunny standard, though its parent company isn’t. They also provide the only non-antiperspirant deodorant I can find in stores. I like both products, and the company carries a fluoride-free toothpaste for when I’m feeling especially paranoid. They even have a fennel-flavored product for the adventurous. But it is a little expensive and I’ve been curious about the possibility of making my own, and what people used before commercial toothpastes were developed.
The answer to that question seems to range from bird feathers and porcupine quills to chewing sticks (including neem in the ayurvedic tradition) to a mixture of salt and mint leaves. Other traditional dental-care ingredients include chalk, animal bones, white oak bark, black walnuts and sage. Most of these methods have fallen out of practice in modern society, but that doesn’t mean they’re totally unfounded. Of course, it doesn’t mean they’ll protect your teeth as well as store-bought toothpaste either; I haven’t read enough to fully make up my mind yet, and the fluoride debate alone is almost too much.
If you want to try a homemade tooth cleaning method, consider the following:
Baking soda and finely ground sea salt are the most popular alternatives to toothpaste. Both substances can be dissolved in water first if you are worried about abrasions, or they can be brushed straight onto your teeth with a wet toothbrush. Baking soda mixed with a little stevia and a few drops of peppermint essential oil can provide a familiar sweet minty taste. Other options include hydrogen peroxide (don’t use if you have amalgam fillings) and coconut oil. And you really can try the chew sticks.
These simple ingredients are all you need to make your own toothpaste.
Photo by Earthworm/Courtesy Flickr
For those interested in making their own dental care products there are lots of recipes around the web for tooth powders, often with a variety of antibacterial, antifungal and gum health-boosting herbs. Peppermint, myrrh, sage, cloves and tea tree oil are all possible additions (although I wouldn’t try them all at once). Cinnamon is also often added for flavor. You can also make your own actual toothpaste, but many recipes include either hydrogen peroxide or glycerin, which I’d like to avoid for my preliminary experiments. Some sources for base recipes are listed at the end of this blog.
Personally, I think I may try the baking soda, stevia and peppermint option when I next run out of toothpaste. Stevia is supposed to inhibit plaque growth and I have the ingredients on hand. (I even have a small stevia plant now!) If it’s just a little too odd I can always go back to buying my dental care products pre-made, but if it works then maybe I can try some cloves or sage. For me, this process is all about trying new things as I move towards a healthier lifestyle. If I can save a little money and share some fun tips along the way, so much the better.
Have you ever used an alternative to commercial toothpaste? Leave a comment to let me know what it was and how it worked for you!
Recipes:Natural Dental Care with Essential Oils – Jo’s Health Center
12 Natural Toothpaste Alternatives – The Nourished Life
How to Make Homemade Tooth Powder – eHow
Make Your Own Toothpaste or Tooth Powder – GreenYour