Confession: I Haven’t Used Toothpaste In Five Years
It’s true. And I still have friends. And no, it’s not because all bad breath is equal over the internet. Despite how unseemly my confession must seem, I didn’t give up toothpaste in an attempt to create a six foot “personal space bubble.” My mouth is actually minty fresh as I type this – I just took a closer look at the label and decided that toothpaste and I needed to break up.
Sorry, toothpaste. It’s not me. It’s you, and here’s why:
Most commercial toothpastes – even many of the “natural” ones – contain fluoride. Unfortunately, a Harvard study recently linked fluoride to lowered IQ in children, while additional research has associated it with weakened bones, thyroid suppression, lowered metabolic function and dementia. (source 1, source 2, source 3)
Is it possible to remain cavity-free without fluoride? Great question. According to Dr. Hardy Limeback, DDS, PhD, who has served as head of the Department of Preventive Dentistry at the University of Toronto and president of the Canadian Association for Dental Research, “You can get perfectly healthy teeth with resistant enamel without having any kind of fluoride exposure.” (source)
Glycerin is used in almost all toothpastes because it helps create a pasty texture and prevents it from drying out. Though it’s non-toxic and I love to use it in homemade beauty formulas, glycerin is not something I want in my mouth. Why? Because it coats the teeth in a way that prevents normal tooth remineralization. Though most of us were raised to believe that minerals cannot be returned to the structure of the tooth itself, there is good data suggesting that it can. If the concept of remineralization is new to you, I recommend you check out this post from Wellness Mama.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
SLS is a foaming agent and detergent that is commonly used in toothpaste, shampoo, and other products used to do things like, um, degrease car engines. Why should we avoid it? Though some people have concerns that it may be an estrogen mimicker, I’d say the most obvious and substantiated reason is that it increases gum inflammation and mouth ulcers. According to a study conducted the Department of Oral Surgery & Oral Medicine in Oslo, Norway, individuals who used a toothpaste containing SLS suffered from more ulcers (canker sores) than those who used an SLS-free toothpaste. (source)
Used to make toothpaste look white, titanium dioxide is sometimes used in it’s nano-particle form. (source) It’s also used in salad dressings for the same reason, and I wrote here about why that might be a problem.
So What Do I Use Instead?
The great thing about ditching toothpaste is that there’s no “right” way to replace it. Many things, like tooth suds and even coconut oil will work, but after a lot of experimentation I concluded that the homemade tooth powder recipe below works best for my family. Here’s a breakdown of what each ingredient does:
Yes, I’m talking about the stuff I wash my hair with. Bentonite clay is a gentle cleanser that is rich in minerals which support tooth remineralization. It’s detoxifiying properties help freshen breath and fight gum disease, while it’s adsorptive properties help remove stains from teeth. (See Activated Charcoal for more about adsorption)
Baking soda is a mild abrasive tooth polish that helps mechanically remove stains while other ingredients such as clay and activated charcoal draw them out. It also helps freshen breath.
Herb & Spices
Spices and herbs such as clove powder, ground cinnamon, and ground mint add flavoring, but they also have astringent properties that support gum health.
The whole herb form of stevia is used in this recipe as a sweetener. My kids like the flavor so much they actually refuse to spit when they brush their teeth. Of course, that’s okay with me because all the ingredients are edible.
As I wrote here, “Activated charcoal – also called activated carbon – is made by processing charcoal with oxygen and either calcium chloride or zinc chloride. It was used medicinally by both Hippocrates and the ancient Egyptians, and it is still the poison remedy of choice in modern day emergency rooms. Why? Because it’s highly adsorptive, which in plain English means it attracts substances to its surface like a magnet. Like absorptive substances which work like a sponge, adsorptive materials bind with certain compounds and prevent our bodies from using them.
Fortunately for us, activated charcoal is a bit particular about what it locks onto. It’s not interested in calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, inorganic phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc and other compounds you probably want to hang onto (including your tooth enamel). It does, however, happen to like tannins – the compounds found in coffee, tea (even herbal tea), blueberries, wine and spices like cinnamon that stain our teeth. As a bonus, activated charcoal also balances the mouth’s pH and is even considered beneficial enough to be used in some tooth re-mineralization formulas.”
Homemade Tooth Powder Recipe
Note: Feel free to add or adjust ingredients based on your needs. For example, if you have very sensitive teeth you might want to skip the baking soda and salt at first, or if you want to focus on removing stains add a little more activated charcoal to the homemade tooth powder recipe.
- 4 tablespoons bentonite clay (You don’t need an expensive brand – something like this will work well)
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoons finely ground unrefined sea salt (I use this brand and this brand)
- ½ teaspoons clove powder (where to buy organic clove powder)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (where to buy organic cinnamon)
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground peppermint leaves, spearmint leaves or 5-10 drops peppermint essential oil (where to buy spearmint oil or peppermint essential oil)*
- 1 ½ teaspoons unrefined stevia powder – optional (find it here)
- ¾ teaspoons activated charcoal – optional (I open up about 4 capsules of this brand to add in)
* If you don’t have peppermint leaves, just grind some peppermint tea in a coffee grinder. Voila!
Using a stainless steel or plastic spoon, mix all ingredients in a clean glass jar. To use, add a little to a wet toothbrush and brush as normal.