There are literally dozens of toothpastes on the market, including plenty of fancy, new, alternative brands that promise no fluoride and herbal bases. They probably make you feel as though you’re making the responsible choice in how you brush your teeth, right? Heck, just the fact that you use toothpaste at all should make you feel proud of yourself! Then again…
Did you know that nearly all tooth pastes on the market contain an ingredient that actually weakens the health of your mouth? This ingredient is called glycerin.
In fact, you’d be better off dry brushing than using a toothpaste that contains glycerin. Luckily, you’ve got better options than that. Tooth powders are a fantastic alternative: they are great for the health of your mouth and they’re easy to make right in your own kitchen.
We’ll examine some of the ingredients you can combine to make your own personalized tooth scrub below. But first, lets take a look at how our mouths maintain homeostasis and why glycerin throws the balance off.
Why We Love Our Saliva!
To understand why glycerin is bad for your teeth, it’s important to first understand the role of saliva in keeping your mouth super-duper healthy. Yes—saliva does more than initiate the digestive process!
Your mouth is an ecosystem. It is full of hundreds of thousands of both helpful and harmful bacteria. The harmful bacteria creates acid that damages the teeth on a microscopic level. Your saliva works to constantly re-mineralize your teeth, repairing these microscopic damages and balancing the PH of your mouth so it doesn’t become too acidic. Saliva aids the healthy bacteria, while killing and washing away the bad bacteria.
Unfortunately, glycerin prevents saliva from doing its job, leading to an overly acidic ecosystem.
What Is Glycerin?
Glycerin, also known as glycerol, can be derived from animal or vegetable oils. It is a clear, sweet and viscous emollient. It’s a common ingredient in pharmaceuticals, ointments, lotions, hair gloops and other beauty supplies.
Glycerin is put in toothpaste because it lends itself well to creating the gel like consistency that all of us consumers have grown accustomed to think of as “natural” for a toothepaste.
So What’s the Problem?
Glad you asked! A harmless enough ingredient in other products, glycerin can wreck havoc on your mouth’s ecosystem. The problem is that when you use toothpaste that contains glycerin, the uber sticky substance coats your teeth. This coating creates a barrier between your saliva and teeth. As mentioned above, saliva is in charge of maintaining a healthy PH. When your saliva is prohibited access to your teeth, it can not swaddle them with remineralizing magic. It’s like an oil spill in your mouth—you have to rinse your mouth about 20 times to remove the sticky mess (in fact, most glycerin is an oil by-product).
When saliva is prevented from doing its job, the environment around your teeth becomes more and more acidic. The more acidic your mouth becomes, the more bacteria are able to thrive, causing issues such as periodontal disease—better known as gum recession.
Sadly, most toothpaste brands on the market contain glycerin. Yes, even the alternative, natural, fluoride-free, hippie toothpastes typically contain this obnoxious ingredient.
Luckily, there are alternatives.
I’m a big fan of tooth powders, and there are plenty of them appearing on the grocery store shelves these days. There’s even a couple excellent, non-glycerine containing pastes now available (see links below). These pastes can be perfect for those who really can’t get used to the idea of using a powder. However, even these pastes will not have the same thick, gel-like consistency you’re probably accustomed to, so it can take some time adjusting to the new feeling.
Powders have a lot of advantages of pastes. For one thing, you don’t have to work so hard to get the last bit out at the end of tube—no squeezing is involved! Just wet your toothbrush and dip it in. Also, powders aren’t so messy and sticky when they do spill—no messes in your luggage when you’re travelling.
Of course, the main advantage of a tooth powder is that they will actually encourage a healthy mouth ecosystem. There is no sticky coating. They are totally safe, so you could even swallow after brushing with no danger.
And, let’s not forget one of the primary reasons that tooth powders are so much fun: you can make them at home! It’s easy and you can even throw together a decent powder with ingredients you probably already have on hand.
How to Make a Tooth Powder
Making your own tooth powder, like all herbal or DIY health care, is a lovely blending of art and science. You get to be part chemist—mixing just the right amount of each ingredient for the right outcome—and part artist—playing with your palette of ingredients. In this case your palette will include herbs, minerals and essential oils.
Below is a recipe for a tooth powder, but you can play around with the exact ingredients. Think of it as a loose outline. I’ll also provide a list of the ingredients that are usually included in a quality powder, along with a short list of some specific herbs that have an affinity for mouth health, but it is by no means comprehensive. In fact, the most basic tooth powder is pure baking soda. More than once I’ve dipped into the kitchen baking cabinet in a pinch.
Just have fun! And don’t worry about making it perfect. You’ll figure out what you like and what you don’t as you experiment. Follow your intuition.
1 part baking soda
½ part salt (use a nice mineral-complex salt, like pink Himalayan or grey salt)
1 part bentonite clay (or activated charcoal)
1 part dry, ground herbs
15-20 drops of essential oil
Stir all up in a jar and you’re done! Now just wet your toothbrush and dip it into the jar and get brushing! You won’t believe how clean your mouth feels!
Now let’s look at each ingredient in a bit more detail.
Baking Soda: Baking soda helps to alkalize our mouths. As mentioned above, an acidic environment lends itself to a thriving bad bacteria colony. At a Ph of 8.3, baking soda will help to move our mouths towards a more alkaline environment, which is great. Baking sodia is also antimicrobial and whitening without damaging the enamel.
Salt: Like baking soda, salt is anti microbial. Salt also provides trace minerals—the exact mineral makeup will vary based on which kind of salt you use. You’ll want to pick one that has a lot of healthy minerals, such as pink Himilayan or grey salt. Salt will draw out toxins and decay causing impurities. Additionally, salt, like baking soda, will also help to polish your teeth, though it is more abrasive—thus the reason you want to use less salt in your recipe.
Clay and Activated Charcoal: Clay and charcoal are both safe whitening agents. They also both have a pulling action, sucking toxins out of your gums, providing a thoroughly deep clean.
Xylitol: Xylitol is remineralizing and adds a sweetness to the powder, if that is your preference. Be sure to source your Xylitol from Birch as opposed to corn, if you want to keep GMOs out of your body.
Herbs: Herbs are lovely addition to a tooth powder. They contribute an abundance of healing actions, in addition to offering a certain aesthetic appeal—it’s so pretty to see a small jar full of minerals and ground specks of plant material! There are many great herbs to choose from. Here’s a few of my favorites:
- Peppermint— A popular flavor for toothpastes, peppermint freshens the breath and has some whitening abilities too!
- Yarrow— A fabulous herb with an entire arsenal of helpful actions, yarrow is excellent for mouth health. As an anti-inflammatory, yarrow will soothe inflamed gums. As a circulatory stimulant it will encourage a healthful blood flow around the teeth. It’s styptic abilities means it will heal any small wounds, such as bleeding gums. Yarrow is an antiseptic, so it will clean the mouth and it is an astringent, which means it will tighten the gums around the teeth.
- Plantain— Often used for tooth aches, plantain has a pulling action that helps to remove toxins. It is also a soothing anti-inflammatory and an astringent.
- Sage— An excellent astringent, sage tightens the gums and soothes a sore mouth.
Essential Oil: Essential oil is antibacterial. This is helpful not only in killing off any gross bacteria in your mouth, but it will also act a preservative to your powder, so you don’t have to be freaked out about repeatedly dipping your toothbrush in your jar. Essentail oils help to reset the microbiome of your mouth and, helpfully, they also add flavor!
I recommend Tea Tree as it has an affinity for the mouth, it’s inexpensive and—in my opinion—the Number One essential oil to have on hand, if you only have one. Lavender is wonderful too. Myrrh and Neem are classics for the mouth. I’ve also used Rosemary and course Peppermint. Combine your favorites and add as much as you need to make it right (hint: start with less—you don’t need a ton!).
Conclusion: Making the Transition
It can take a while to get used to using a savory-salty tooth cleaner as opposed to a sticky-sweet cleaner. Give it a couple weeks—you will soon acclimate. If you really prefer a paste as opposed to a powder, try adding coconut oil to your powder. Or, if you want to buy a wonderful no-glycerin-paste-in-a-tube, try Earthpaste (link below). It still takes some getting used to, as it is more watery than gel-ly, but try it for a while. In a couple weeks you won’t know why you ever used that sticky, sweet conventional paste on your precious teeth!
http://www.earthpaste.com/ : Earthpaste is an excellent clay-based toothe paste—in a tube!
To learn more about the good, the bad and the ugly bacteria in your mouth and the wonderful role of saliva, you can begin with these:
www.Orawellness.com : This website is a treasure trove of articles on mouth health and alternative healing options. They also make a fantastic essential oil blend just for your mouth!