When people became increasingly concerned with artificial ingredients and processed food, research started to make people aware of just how many artificial and heavily processed products we use in our everyday lives.
Making the switch to a natural lifestyle is a little more difficult than ditching the cheeseburgers and energy drinks. It’s about changing everything you use in, on, and around your body. Most people don’t realize how many ingredients are in their oral care products. It can be hard to determine what those ingredients do.
If you’re looking to improve the health of your teeth and your gums the natural way, a few key product switches may be in order.
Why is it Better to Go Natural?
A lot of the ingredients in your toothpaste don’t serve any real purpose, especially when there are natural alternatives available. Artificial colors only have cosmetic value to your toothpaste, which has no real reason to be pretty. Artificial mint flavoring is unnecessary when natural mint actually contains antibacterial and anti-inflammatory compounds that may be beneficial for your teeth and your gums.
Another significant benefit to switching to all natural products is that many of them are designed to be sustainable, using renewable resources that don’t harm the environment. Natural products aren’t just better for you, they’re better for the whole world.
It Starts With Your Toothbrush
Keeping your teeth and gums healthy starts with your toothbrush. If you’re using the wrong toothbrush, you may be causing damage to your teeth and gums. There’s no reason to use anything other than a soft bristled toothbrush. Firm brushes can actually scratch the enamel off of your teeth and lead to gum irritation.
A soft bristled brush will remove buildup from your teeth perfectly well, as long as you’re brushing for the full two minutes that dentists recommend. Gentle brushing over a longer period of time has less potential to cause damage than aggressive brushing, no matter how long you brush for.
Your toothbrush needs to be replaced every three months, as it will accumulate germs and the bristles will begin to splay and become effectively useless. Although it will not directly benefit your teeth, it also helps to switch to a natural toothbrush. Switching your toothbrush every three months means throwing away four toothbrushes a year. If those toothbrushes are made of plastic, they’ll sit in a landfill. Some plastics take hundreds to thousands of years before they begin to decompose.
Compostable toothbrushes made of sustainable bamboo will decompose rather quickly. When they do decompose, they’re made of completely natural material. Nothing they leave behind will harm the planet. In fact, the nutrients contained within the bamboo will fertilize the soil, leaving it in better condition.
Choosing the Right Toothpaste
The first step in choosing a toothpaste is deciding whether or not you’re comfortable using products containing fluoride. Fluoride is a natural mineral that can be used to remineralize teeth and prevent cavities. It works by combining with minerals like calcium and phosphorus that already exist in your mouth, creating tiny crystals of a substance called fluorapatite that fill in the weak spots in your enamel.
While fluoride does work, many people are skeptical of its safety. While we know that fluoride is safe in small doses, fluoride exists in almost everything we consume. It is one of the most abundant of the earth’s elements. It’s in the soil we grow our food in. It’s in the ponds, rivers, and lakes that supply water to that food. It’s even added to tap water.
When too much fluoride is ingested, it can begin to deposit on the bones. This leads to a painful condition called skeletal fluorosis. This condition is more common in countries where people consume a lot of groundwater, but it can happen in developed countries where the water people primarily rely on contains less fluoride.
If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of using fluoride, there are other toothpastes you can use to remineralize your teeth. These toothpastes contain all of the minerals your mouth needs, minus the fluoride.
As long as you’re using a mineral rich toothpaste, you can repair your teeth. It doesn’t necessarily matter if that toothpaste contains fluoride.
Keeping Your Oral Bacteria in Check
Most conventional toothpastes aren’t designed to kill bacteria, but to remove them. They’re brushed away and spat out after you’ve finished scrubbing your teeth. There’s no way to know the ratio of good to bad bacteria your toothpaste is removing. Your toothpaste could be upsetting your natural bacterial balance and leaving your mouth at a disadvantage.
Very few toothpastes contain antibacterial ingredients. There is at least one toothpaste on the market containing triclosan. The FDA studied and approved it, although begrudgingly. They aren’t sure that triclosan stands up to its claims as an antibacterial ingredient, and they’re worried that it may become a contaminant.
Natural antibacterial ingredients can work to damage or eliminate the bad bacteria in your mouth. Ingredients like nano silver work without chemicals. Nano silver particles are made of actual silver, the metal used to make jewelry. The cores of nano silver particles are coated in a special silver oxide that allows them to steal thousands of electrons from the cell walls of bacteria, rendering them useless.
Rather than wiping the slate clean of all the bacteria in your mouth, nano silver inhibits bad bacteria and keeps them from reproducing. It doesn’t damage the healthy biofilm in your mouth that protects the good bacteria. They’ll have time to repopulate and re-establish dominance in the bacterial tug of war that keeps your mouth healthy and balanced.
You can use nano silver in toothpaste, mouthwash, or both.
Choosing the Right Mouthwash
Most conventional mouthwash uses ingredients like alcohol to kill germs. While alcohol is a highly effective antibacterial solution, it’s less than ideal for your mouth. Alcohol is a dehydrating substance. If you’ve ever had a few too many cocktails and woke up feeling miserable the next day, it’s because the alcohol has purged a lot of water from your body on its way out.
When you use alcohol in your mouth, you’re removing some of the moisture. Your mouth needs to remain moist in order to consistently produce saliva, which washes over your teeth to protect them.
In addition to inhibiting moisture production, you’re also swishing away your entire oral microbiome at once. Alcohol will rapidly kill just about everything it comes into contact with, whether or not its detrimental to your mouth. Your good bacteria is wiped clean, and your mouth has to start from the beginning to reestablish a healthy balance.
Using natural mouthwashes without alcohol will keep your mouth clean without negatively impacting its ability to manage itself. Natural antibacterial ingredients are effective without being so potent that they destroy all the delicate microorganisms your mouth needs without giving your body time to replenish them.
Some people prefer to use oil pulling instead of conventional mouthwash. Oil pulling is a highly popular natural alternative to alcohol mouthwash. The process is almost exactly the same as using mouthwash, where you’d swish around a few tablespoons for about thirty seconds and spit it out. The only difference is that you’re using oil. It’s a very straightforward process.
Coconut oil, which is often regarded as liquid gold for its ability to moisture the skin and hair, is the best oil to use when oil pulling. Coconut oil contains high levels of a natural antibacterial substance called lauric acid. Lauric acid will kill bacteria, and it’s even easier for the lauric acid in coconut oil to work because of the nature of oil.
Oil is sticky. It pulls things in, coats them, and traps them. All the bacteria and food debris that dislodges from your mouth gets stuck in the coconut oil, where the lauric acid works to kill the bad bacteria. After you swish, you spit out the coconut oil along with all the other undesirable substances it has removed from your mouth.
Eliminate Added Sugar From Your Diet
Taking care of your mouth and taking care of your body go hand in hand. When you’re eating bad food, it’s entering your mouth first. That point of contact starts the process of damage to your body. Added sugar is bad for the body all the way around, starting at the teeth and working its way to the organs and eventually the waistline in the form of unwanted body weight.
Sugar is the favorite food of bacteria, and there are hundreds of species of bacteria living in your mouth. When they eat sugar, they convert it to lactic acid and leave it to sit on your teeth. This acid is strong and works immediately to begin the process of tooth erosion, creating cavities and weakening the enamel.
Eliminating sugary foods from your diet will save your teeth and save your body. It’s entirely unreasonable to operate under the mindset that you’ll never have a delicious piece of pumpkin pie again. Allow yourself to have a nice treat once in a while, but try to save that treat for after dinner and brush your teeth soon after. If you don’t allow the sugar to sit in your mouth, you’re minimizing the amount of damage it can do.
Keeping your teeth and gums healthy the natural way isn’t any more difficult than diligently keeping up with your oral care routine and making wise decisions about what you eat. These are things you should be doing anyway - all you need to do is switch your products and stay on top of it. Going natural is better for you and better for the planet without creating any extra hassle. It’s so easy, you would be foolish not to make the switch.
Source 1 - plastic in landfills
Source 2 - fluoride safety
Source 3 - triclosan toothpaste / fda