Would you think it odd to consider using something other than toothpaste to clean your teeth with?
Do you think that toothpaste is non-negotiable for maintaining optimum oral hygiene?
When you take a closer look at some the chemical ingredients used in commercial formulations, you may have second thoughts.
Regular toothpastes come with a laundry list of ingredients that most of us wouldn’t recognise from Adam.
We’re no experts, which is why we put our trust into commercial laboratories to come up with formulations that are effective, and manufacturers’ marketing messages to convince us that they are safe to use.
But are they really?
Take sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) for instance. Found in about 85% of toothpastes (including ‘natural’ formulations), it is used as a wetting agent that helps the paste spread and create lather.
While not considered toxic as such, the substance is known to cause microscopic tears in the oral tissue that can cause irritation and chronic mouth ulcers.
Propylene glycol is a type of mineral oil that is used in antifreeze and paints. In toothpaste formulations, it acts as a surfactant/detergent.
The substance can be quickly absorbed through the skin and is a known skin, eye and lung irritant. Prolonged contact can cause brain, liver and kidney abnormalities.
Interestingly, the US Environmental Protection Agency insists on laboratory staff wearing rubber gloves before handling propylene glycol.
Praised for decades for its enamel strengthening properties by dentists, the addition of fluoride to toothpaste formulations has done much to protect our teeth from decay.
But fluoride is also toxic when ingested at high levels.
Sodium fluoride is a by-product of aluminium manufacturing, and can be found in rat poison and industrial pesticides.
The toxic chemical accumulates in our body tissues over time, and can cause problems with our nervous system and hormonal functions.
Swallowing even a small amount of sodium fluoride can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Which may explain why the policy of adding fluoride to our drinking water draws such strong opinions from both sides.
Other commonly found toothpaste ingredients include:
• Glycerin, a moisturizing agents that coats your teeth, preventing them from absorbing minerals that are essential for strong, healthy teeth
• Whitening agents, containing peroxides and hydrogen peroxide that are toxic and irritant to all soft tissue
• Artificial sweeteners, usually aspartame or saccharin that have been linked to a number of health scares
• Microbeads, tiny plastic pellet abrasives that pose a threat to wildlife and the wider environment
What’s more, potentially harmful ingredients may not just be found in the major commercial toothpaste brands.
Just because a product is labelled ‘natural’ and sold in health food stores and similar outlets doesn’t necessarily make it any safer.
If in doubt, always check the label or consult your dentist.
If you are concerned about what’s in your toothpaste and are keen to find an alternative method for cleaning your teeth, there is good news.
Here Dakota Murphey, working alongside Dental Healthcare Practice, have found 7 safe and effective natural alternatives to toothpaste that you might like to try.
Good old baking soda is a tried and tested home remedy for a great number of things. It is also used as an ingredient in some commercial toothpastes.
To use as a cleaning agent for your teeth, simply dip your toothbrush straight into the baking soda, or use a simply homemade paste from 7 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 drop of peppermint or lemon essential oil and a few drops of water.
Often used as an alternative to toothpaste, you can’t get any more natural than sea salt.
It has antibacterial properties while the mineral content of the salt will help to strengthen your teeth.
Dip your toothbrush into finely crushed sea salt or make a saline solution with water to brush your teeth.
Coconut is another great natural ingredient that’s been hailed the answer to many health and diet problems over recent years.
The antibacterial and antifungal properties of coconut oil make this substance a great cleaning agent for your teeth.
Use it on its own or mixed with sea salt or baking soda.
A traditional Ayurvedic method that goes back 3,000 years, oil pulling is used to kill bacteria in the mouth and treat bad breath, strengthen teeth and prevent tooth decay.
The practice, as described here, involves swishing oil – typically coconut oil or sesame oil – around the mouth for 10-15 minutes.
If you are looking to minimize both the amount of chemicals and the amount of personal care products in your home, here is an easy answer.
You can use natural, unscented soap for everything – body, hair and teeth.
It may not be to everyone’s taste but both liquid and bar soap versions are good solutions.
With a little bit of guidance from a herbalist, you can use a mixture of herbs to effectively clean your teeth and protect against cavities.
Organic peppermint, clove buds, goldenseal root and aloe vera resin are not only great cleaning agents, they can help with gum inflammation and mouth ulcers too.
Finally, have you tried cleaning your teeth with nothing at all?
Not as silly as it may first appear, dry brushing is practiced in many areas of the world.
Using only a dry toothbrush, or some plain water, will allow you to remove food particles and plaque without any chemicals whatsoever.