Teeth are incredibly important to our overall health and well being. Without them we would be limited to eating soft mushy food, pureeing solid foods or just fluids, because we couldn’t break the pieces down to sizes manageable for swallowing. It would be difficult if not near impossible to get all the nutrients we need from liquid/mushy meals and we would have to turn to commercially produced vitamins and supplements. Can you imagine trying to maintain your iron levels on liquids?
The type of our teeth we have has a lot to do with genetics. Both my parents had rotten teeth. My dad had false teeth by the time he was 18 and out of 4 children, I’m the one that got both sets of their parents teeth genes! Despite brushing with a good brand toothpaste, flossing and regular dental checkups my teeth still insist on decaying. I spend a fortune at the dentist and have endured many horrendous root canals, crowns and extractions. My teeth are so bad that there was never any discussion of braces when I was growing up. Just recently, I suggested to my dentist (after another emergency visit) that I would have been better to have all my teeth out years ago and have false teeth in their place and he did not disagree!
In an effort to improve my dental situation and because I enjoy ‘making things’, I decided to look into making my own toothpaste using ingredients with properties that I thought might be beneficial for my teeth. I also investigated the ancient practice of oil pulling.
Oil pulling is an ancient ayurvedic therapy for promoting oral hygiene ( see review by Shanbhag 2016). Used widely in ancient India, oil pulling has seen a revival in recent years and I personally put it to the test. Once a day, or about 5 times/week I would get 2 or 3 teaspoons of coconut oil (which tastes great) and swish it around my mouth for about 20 minutes. You then spit the oil out into the rubbish bin, don’t swallow it because it contains toxins, bacteria etc that you have released during the process. I built up to the 20 minutes over a week or two, but after awhile you almost forget you’re swishing! I would start just before I got into the shower and finish after I was dressed. I have to say my teeth have never felt cleaner or looked whiter than when I was oil pulling. While hardly scientific with a sample size of 1, I also seemed to have fewer issues with my teeth and required fewer urgent appointments with my dentist. I’ve been a bit lazy of late and definitely need to get back on board with the oil pulling.
The principal behind the practice is that routine cleaning/flossing doesn’t eliminate all the harmful bacteria that reside in your mouth and cause decay. Oil, (any oil) will dissolve harmful bacteria and because it’s a liquid it can access areas of your mouth your toothbrush can’t reach. It will also address your tongue, which not everyone brushes (you should). Apparently, there are benefits for the entire body because Ayurveda hypothesizes that the tongue is connected to various organs such as the kidneys, heart, lungs etc. I used coconut oil because it tastes good, but any oil can be used for the practice.
I did a bit or research and developed my own plaque-fighting, super-cleaning, super-brightening toothpaste. My teeth feel and look clean after I’ve brushed and my trips to the dentist have declined, which can only be a good thing! If you’re wondering whether this toothpaste is ‘natural’ or what my views are on the ‘natural’ debate read my post, What does natural really mean? Despite the effectiveness of this toothpaste, the colour is a bit off putting for some children and adults at first- just be firm with them!
- Coconut oil tastes great which is the main reason I use it. It also helps to bind the other components of the toothpaste together. In the popular media it has gained ‘superfood’ status but there isn’t a lot of scientific literature to support many of the claims at this time.
- Xylitol, a natural sweetener has been shown to fight plaque and reduce tooth decay (see articles by Maguire & Rugg-Gunn 2003; Nayak et al 2014; Cocco et al 2017). It acts by inhibiting the growth and proliferation of bacteria that cause dental caries and reduces dental plaque adhesion. Furthermore, the increased production of saliva promoted by xylitol increases the remineralization of teeth and can help to repair existing dental caries. Xylitol is widely available at supermarkets and health food stores.
- Silica gel is a synthetic, hydrated form of silica, and should not be confused with crystalline or fumed silica.The type of silica gel used in this recipe is widely used by the food industry, so it’s safe to ingest. When reconstituted in the toothpaste it acts as a mild abrasive cleaning and polishing your teeth. It also contributes gel-like properties to the toothpaste which assists with the consistency. The silica gel used here was purchased from Ingredients to Die For a company in the USA.
- Hydroxyethylcellulose is a natural compound derived from cellulose (wood). It’s widely used in the cosmetic industry as a thickening agent. I purchased mine from New Directions in Australia, but Ingredients to Die For and Amazon also supply it.
- Xanthan gum is a sugar polymer which is commonly used for thickening and emulsifying in the food industry. It can be difficult to dissolve so make sure you add it to the glycerin, mix it well, let it stand for about 20 minutes and then mix it again. You can find it at supermarkets and health food stores.
- Bentonite clay has cleansing and detoxifying properties and is frequently used in facial masks and scrubs. What you may not know is that bentonite clay is safe to ingest. Since it reacts with metal only use plastic or glass containers/utensils for making the toothpaste.
- Activated charcoal has cleansing and detoxifying properties and has numerous uses. You will find it in cosmetics such as scrubs and facial masks; in toothpaste as a cleaning and whitening agent; it’s used in supplements to assist digestion and eliminate bad breath and is often a component of water purification systems.
- Calcium is a mineral essential for bone, teeth and nail health and muscle function. I used calcium carbonate powder for this recipe.
- Vegetable glycerin is a natural humectant produced from plant oils, which absorbs and holds water. It can be found in cosmetics, food and medicines.
- Probiotics are great for maintaining or restoring normal flora to your gut and there is also evidence that they can be beneficial topically.
- A preservative is essential in this recipe because water is a significant component of the formulation. I used Germall plus.
- I’ve used clove, cinnamon and myrrh essential oils in this toothpaste formulation. Clove essential oil is great for tooth pain, in addition it has antiseptic and antibacterial properties. Cinnamon essential oil has antifungal and antibacterial properties and has been shown to be particularly effective on bacteria causing dental caries. Myrrh essential oil acts as an antiseptic and soother; it supports gum health and can assist in healing mouth ulcers.
- I use boiled deionized water in all my formulations. The ions and impurities are removed by filtration and boiling sterilises the water. You can find demineralized water at the supermarket.
Where appropriate I will link the ingredients back to specific suppliers*.
You can make the toothpaste without the silica and the hydroxyethylcellulose, but the consistency won’t be as smooth and ‘toothpaste-like’ and of course you will miss out on the benefits of the silica (cleaning/polishing). These ingredients are a little more difficult to find but they’re worth the trouble because they contribute great properties to our products. You will also find them in other recipes on the website.
Try different essential oils eg peppermint, spearmint for a more traditional, pleasing taste for your family. Peppermint and spearmint essential oils are also excellent for oral health contributing antibacterial and healing properties appropriate for teeth and gums. Leave out the ground spices if you choose to use different oils.
Extra brightening boost
Once a week give your teeth an extra whitening treatment by mixing 1 teaspoon each of bicarb of soda, water and 3% hydrogen peroxide. Brush your teeth thoroughly and rinse well.
Make sure you change your toothbrush frequently, every couple of months for optimum cleaning. I’ve been using Colgate’s charcoal toothbrush (soft) which I really like; the bristles are charcosal embedded and they’re quite thin so they get in between your teeth.
I hope these tips will not only keep your teeth clean and give you a bright smile, but reduce your visits to the dentist. It’s made a difference for me.
Ann’s Brilliant Plaque-fighting Toothpaste
This makes about four 100ml tubes. I purchased my cosmetic tubes on ebay.
Deionised water (boiled) 45.75 274.5
Calcium carbonate 11 66
Bentonite clay 11 66
Glycerin 10 60
Coconut oil 8 48
Xylitol 4 24
Clove powder 2 12
Cinnamon powder 2 12
Bicarb soda 2 12
Essential oils 2 12
Germall plus 1 6
Silica gel 0.5 3
Hydroxyethylcellulose 0.25 1.5
Xanthan gum 0.25 1.5
Activated charcoal 0.25 1.5
Probiotic capsules 2 capsules –
You need to hydrate the silica and the hydroxethylcellulose first. Add approximately 50 mls of the water allowance into each of 2 containers. To 1 container add the silica gel and to the other the hydroxyethylcellulose. Stir well and allow them to sit for 30 minutes, stirring intermittently.
Put the glycerin into another small container and add the xanthan gum. Stir well, breaking up any lumps which might form. Allow it to sit for 30 minutes, stirring intermittently.
Put all the dry ingredients into a separate bowl (glass/plastic); sieve the lumper ingredients if possible. Break open the probiotic capsules and add the contents to the other dry ingredients. Remember that the bentonite clay cannot come into contact with metal bowls or utensils.
Melt the coconut oil. I place the container into a pan of simmering water, but you could use short bursts in a microwave.
Add the remaining water to the silica gel and mix well. Then add the silica gel to the hydroxyethylcellulose solution. You might notice that the solution thickens on combining. Add the Germall plus and essential oils to the mixture. Stir well.
Pour the melted coconut oil into the dry ingredients. Add the liquid/gel ingredients and mix well to form a smooth paste. It’s difficult to remove all the lumps but do the best you can.
If the mix is too dry add a litttle more water; It should be the consistency of ‘toothpaste’. Use a piping bag or any type of plastic bag with the end cut off, to pipe the toothpaste into your tubes. Happy Brushing!
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