By Brittany Anas
Brushing your teeth involves polishing those pearly whites twice a day, two minutes at a time. But have you paused to think about the kinds of chemicals you’re putting in your mouth when you do?
As more consumers become aware of ingredients in personal care products, the demand for alternatives is growing.
First, it helps to know why you brush in the first place: The idea is to remove plaque, a sticky bacterial film that can break down tooth enamel, irritate gums and cause infections.
“Toothpastes work by abrading, or scrubbing away, the food sources and bacteria on a regular basis,” explains Glennis Katzmark, DDS. “Most natural toothpastes have some abrasive properties and so would be fine for that purpose.”
When switching to a new toothpaste, give it two weeks so you can observe its effects. And don’t judge a toothpaste just on its flavor; some natural products can feel or taste different than conventional varieties.
Ingredients commonly found in natural toothpastes include the following.
Charcoal absorbs impurities, explains Philip Gallegos, DDS, saying, “It can effectively remove the plaque and surface stains caused by tea, coffee and red wine.” He recommends using charcoal toothpaste just once a week because it can be abrasive and you don’t want to damage enamel, which would make your teeth susceptible to decay.
This common household item can neutralize harmful acids that may cause gum disease and cavities, and also help remove stains, says Kumar T. Vadivel, DDS. “A smooth, clean surface keeps bacteria at bay, while a rough surface accumulates bacteria,” he notes.†
It may be best known as a source of healthy fatty acids, but coconut oil can support oral health, too. Researchers have found that this popular kitchen and skincare ingredient is effective in reducing plaque and preventing gingivitis, or gum disease.†
Neem bark and leaf extract can help prevent cavities and gum problems, according to a study in Pharmacognosy Review. Mouthwash that contains this Indian herb can also be helpful in cases of tooth decay and oral infections, and in prevention of bleeding and sore gums, according to the researchers.†
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree’s long usage as an antimicrobial, which makes it valuable in cleansing cuts and scrapes, helps explain its benefits for oral health. A study of herbal toothpastes in the Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry found that tea tree oil is effective in removing plaque.†
A natural sweetener often used in children’s supplements, xylitol can help prevent tooth decay and promote saliva production, which combats dry mouth, says Vadivel.†
†The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described.
The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.