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A (dentist-approved) homemade toothpaste recipe

Yesterday I finally had a long-overdue visit to the dentist. I haven’t been to the dentist in two years. Whilst you may not think that two years is a terribly long time to avoid the dentist, I must admit that the last time I went the dentist told me that I needed a filling*, and I never bothered to get one.

*To be fair, the dentist seemed quite vague (I think he was a recent graduate), definitely told me it was to be on the safe side, and from what I could see from the x-rays (knowing absolutely nothing about dentistry of course) there was no urgency. So I saved the £120 or so it was going to cost me and cancelled the follow-up appointment.

Moving continents didn’t help either, and then I was further delayed because I rang a few dentists to find out filling prices and all the dentists were really mean. Really really mean. One was outraged that I hadn’t had a filling and told me I would probably need root-canal surgery by now, and another told me that I’d have to have a scale and polish before the dentist would even see me, as their dentists wouldn’t dream of looking into dirty mouths. (For readers who live in Perth, yep, that dentist was in Claremont).

I finally had a recommendation from someone for a dentist whose receptionist was actually nice over the phone, and so I braced myself for the inevitable expense and booked. I also thought that this would be a good opportunity to get some professional advice about my homemade toothpaste… and find out if it was actually working.

Turns out that the dentist I visited is the Nicest Dentist Ever. She didn’t seem phased that I had been told I probably needed a filling and hadn’t bothered to get one. I told her that I made my own toothpaste and we discussed all the nasties in conventional products as well as the fact that I don’t buy products in plastic. I told her what I used to make the toothpaste (recipe below) and she said it contained all the key elements that commercial toothpastes had and would be absolutely fine to use. She was so nice I even admitted that I don’t floss very often.

So she looked at all my teeth, and took some x-rays. She said the brushing and toothpaste was working fine, all the fronts and tops of my teeth were in great condition. I have the green light to continue with my homemade toothpaste!

Unfortunately I still need the filling.

In fact, I need three.

All of the decay is where the teeth touch each other at the sides. Turns out flossing is probably a useful thing to be doing after all.

So, said the dentist. What would I like to do? Obviously I’ll be wanting to keep things plastic-free. She assumed I wouldn’t like the amalgam (silver coloured fillings) because they contain mercury. She also doubted I would like the composite (white) fillings because they are made from resin – or plastic. When I said I didn’t know much about them, she said if I looked them up she was pretty sure I wouldn’t want them either.

I didn’t actually know there were other options. Apparently there is also porcelain, which uses a small amount of resin to bind it but far less than the composite filling, or gold.

Now I’m no gangsta and I’m not sure gold fillings are quite the look I’m after. Porcelain sounds great… except they’re $800 each. Composite fillings are just over $200.

In the end, I chose the composite ones. Plastic or not, I just don’t think I can justify the extra expense.

Appointment is next Tuesday.

In the meantime, it’s great to know that my homemade toothpaste now has dentist approval!

Homemade Toothpaste Recipe – dentist approved!

I’ve posted my original toothpaste recipe here (and also the reasons I make my own in the first place) but this is the one I’ve been using more recently that I’ve tweaked slightly.

Sodium bicarbonate. This is the abrasive that cleans the teeth. It has quite a salty taste that can take a bit of getting used to. It also neutralises stains and odours.

Glycerin. This acts as the lubricant and binder. In the past I’ve also tried coconut oil. I’ve read that glycerin can coat the teeth and form a barrier that prevents re-mineralisation, and some natural toothpaste users prefer coconut oil. However, because sodium bicarbonate can be quite abrasive the glycerin can help protect the teeth. The dentist thought glycerin was better suited than coconut oil.

Peppermint oil. I add this to give the toothpaste the fresh minty taste that psychologically we associate with toothpaste.

Clove oil. I started adding this recently because clove oil has great anti-microbial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. You often see clove oil in natural toothpastes and the dentist told me that she still uses it for some of her procedures.

And that’s it! I no longer add extra salt as I found the taste too salty, and the dentist said that with the bicarb it’s not neccessary to have another abrasive.

Method:

Mix 8 tbsp sodium bicarbonate with 6 tbsp glycerin. Add 10 – 15 drops of peppermint oil and 1 drop of clove oil. That’s it!

Store in a jar.

A couple of final things. The dentist also said that what can be more important that the abrasive in the toothpaste you use is the type of brush. Often toothbrushes are more abrasive than the toothpaste. She recommended using a soft toothbrush, particularly if you are worried that your toothpaste is too harsh.

The last thing to bear in mind is that not everything works for everybody all of the time. There are people who only drink fizzy drinks and eat daily Mars bars and have great teeth, and there are others who only eat salad and have mouths full of cavities. This toothpaste contains all you need in a toothpaste to keep teeth and gums healthy, and it is working for me. It should work for you too, but be mindful of what’s going on in your mouth, and if you suspect things are awry, maybe consult your dentist?!

Two simple recipes for do-it-yourself toothpaste

This weekend we finally finished off the toothpaste we have been using since last year, purchased before our plastic-free adventure began. We had a bit of a stockpile of the old stuff to use up, but now the last little bit is gone, and from now on I’m gonna make my own.

I’ve been suspicious of conventional toothpastes for a while and stopped buying them 18 months ago. Conventional toothpastes are full of cleaning agents, detergents, preservatives, anti-microbial agents, and thickeners, and many of these ingredients are questionable in terms of their effects on the body.

Three Nasties in Conventional Toothpaste

Sodium lauryl sulphate
This is added as a foaming agent and detergent. It is a known irritant.

Sodium fluoride
This is added to toothpaste to help prevent cavities. However it is toxic by ingestion and can be fatal. It can affect the heart and circulatory system. In younger children too much fluoride can cause fluorosis, which is when the enamel of the teeth is discoloured and the teeth have brown markings.

Triclosan
This an anti-microbial and anti-bacterial agent used in toothpaste to help prevent gum disease. However, it has a number of other impacts on humans and the environment. For example, triclosan is fairly stable and fat soluble, meaning it can accumulate in the body. It has been found in blood, urine and breast milk. It is a demonstrated endocrine disruptor and has potential links to breast cancer.

Despite its stability, it can react with chlorine in tap water and sunlight to form toxic intermediate and breakdown products such as dioxins, which are highly toxic, and chloroform, which is a carcinogen. Triclosan is also toxic to aquatic bacteria, phytoplankton, algae and fish. (This fully referenced fact sheet is great if you want more information.)

There are also concerns that its widespread use may cause resistance in bacteria similar to the way antibiotic-resistant bacteria developed.

So what are the alternatives?

You can buy natural toothpastes but they are expensive (and some still contain questionable ingredients), and they almost all come in plastic packaging. Making your own safe, inexpensive, packaging-free toothpaste seems to be the best solution.

How to Make your Own Toothpaste

You can make your own toothpaste simply in just a couple of minutes using only a handful of ingredients.

Bicarb soda – is an abrasive agent that removes dental plaque and food from teeth. It also neutralises stains and odours.

Sodium chloride (salt) – is a mild abrasive and also has anti-bacterial properties.

Glycerine/glycerol – is a sweet-tasting colourless odourless liquid that makes the paste smooth, provides lubrication and acts as a humectant, helping the toothpaste retain water. You can buy glycerine at a pharmacy.

Peppermint oil – this gives the toothpaste its minty taste. You can also use other essential oils but ensure they are food grade.

toothpaste2jpg

Ingredients:

4 tsp bicarb soda
1 tsp sodium chloride (salt)
3 tsp glycerine
8 – 10 drops peppermint oil

Method:

Measure dry ingredients into a bowl. Add glycerine and stir to form a paste. Add essential oil.

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Alternative Recipe – Glycerine-Free Toothpaste

There is a lot of information on the internet regarding  glycerine in toothpaste. It all seems to come from one source, Dr Gerard F. Judd, who wrote a book called ‘Good Teeth, Birth to Death‘ published in 1996 in which he claimed glycerine coats the teeth and prevents remineralisation. I have not read the book but if using glycerine in toothpaste is something that concerns you, you can replace the glycerine with coconut oil.

Coconut oil has anti-microbial properties and because it is solid below 25ºC it works well as a glycerine substitute.

To make this version use the recipe above but substitute 3 tsp glycerine for 2 tsp coconut oil.

toothpaste1jpg bicarbandsaltjpg coconutoiljpg

The Taste Test

Neither toothpaste willtaste like conventional toothpaste, so don’t be surprised! Bicarb soda and the salt make the taste very salty. The glycerine version is slightly sweeter and has more of the texture of conventional toothpaste. It has a higher melting point, whereas the coconut oil will melt in your mouth – literally – and has a mild coconut taste and the texture of oil. If you’re not worried about glycerine (and if you’ve been using conventional toothpaste you’ve probably been using glycerine in that) I would recommend starting with that, and once you get used to the taste you could consider making the switch to coconut oil.