Commercial toothpastes were wrecking my gums
It took me years to realize I was chemically sensitive, and figuring out what that meant, what aspects of my life were impacted how and why, took just as long. It was impossible to quickly identify all the routines that needed changing, let alone come up with alternatives.
Toothpaste was far down the list.
I have dental stories, the kind that some people love to read about and some dread. This is not one of them. All you need to know is that my gums were suffering, and I was battling to care for them, carefully brushing, intermittently flossing, and trying various pastes and cleansing mouthwashes. There was a period of several years where I avoided the dentist because my reactions to the chemicals they used got worse every time I went in. I’m handling that better now, fortunately.
It took a long time to even be willing to make my own toothpaste because I was already struggling and worried that my gums would get worse if I stopped using commercial products. I knew they had artificial sweeteners and other chemicals, but I would spit them out, so I persuaded myself they didn’t affect me. I thought the fluoride—even after I had been diagnosed as having heavy metals poisoning—was necessary to keep my teeth from decaying.
One day I got motivated and started researching how people took care of their teeth in previous centuries, exploring alternative approaches. I tried a number of them and ended up inventing my own toothpaste recipe that works well for me. And my gums started to improve once I was no longer subjecting them to the chemicals my body couldn’t handle.
This was a vital step in restoring my commitment to dentistry as a necessary part of life. My dental hygienist and my dentist have not endorsed this article, they don’t know I’m writing it, but on a personal level they approve of my toothpaste and commend my personal dental hygiene regimen.
Here’s my recipe. The measurements aren’t exact, I adjust quantities to get the right consistency. It should be a creamy paste, not stiff and harsh on the gums, but firm enough to hold its shape. You don’t want it melting to nothing in your mouth. Make sure you use high quality essential oils that are approved for ingestion and are not mixed into a carrier oil. I use doTERRA oils but I’ve heard that there are other brands with similar levels of purity.
- 2 tablespoons organic coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
- 1 tablespoon coral calcium powder
- 12 drops myrrh essential oil, undiluted
- 10 drops peppermint essential oil, undiluted
Blend thoroughly and store in a cool, preferably dark place in a tightly sealed container so the essential oils won’t evaporate (which happens quickly). I use a little glass jar.
It tastes salty and minty—a flavor I began to love almost instantly.
- ½ teaspoon organic coconut oil
- 2 drops myrrh essential oil, undiluted
- 1 drop peppermint essential oil, undiluted
- 1 drop orange essential oil, undiluted (for flavor)
- 1 drop clove essential oil, undiluted (optional)
Once a month, if I remember, I also like to “do a pull”. I put the oils in my mouth and let the coconut oil melt. No swallowing. As it melts and mixes with some saliva, I swish it gently around the teeth and tongue, holding it in my mouth for twenty minutes. Yes, that’s a long time but you get used to it and your mouth doesn’t continue to fill with saliva. I usually set a timer.
And my husband likes to try to get me say something when I’m doing a pull and can’t talk. For some reason, I always respond, waving my arms around and making sounds that imply speech but are indecipherable.
There have even been times when I had to spit out the oils early —which by the way, should be spit into the trash, not the sink where they can clog up the pipes—and explain myself. And he is so good at keeping a straight face when that happens.
After twenty minutes, I spit out the oils into the trash and brush my teeth. Adding a drop of clove oil (must also be very high quality) to the pull has a gentle whitening effect and sometimes, if I remember, a little bit of coral calcium powder is a good idea too, since it appears to help remineralize the enamel.
How it Compares
Colgate was always my favorite commercial brand of toothpaste. They have a helpful page listing all the ingredients they use in their products and what the purpose for each one is, and I sincerely commend them for this helpful and transparent resource.
Once you eliminate all the preservatives, colorings, flavorings, sweeteners, and additives that manage appearance, smoothness, feel, and blending, there are a few key ingredients left.
Of the 88 ingredients listed on that website, as of the writing of this post, there are twelve that support oral hygiene and nine that balance PH. Their benefits are:
- One “Helps to fight bacteria and prevent and reduce plaque and gingivitis”
- One “Cleanses and soothes the irritations of your mouth”
- One is “Used to help reduce hypersensitivity in your teeth”
- Six ingredients help “clean and polish your teeth”
- Two of them “control tartar”
- One “helps fight against bad breath”
- And nine help “to create an ideal pH”
Ingredients that I would be concerned about as a chemically sensitive person include:
- Six that provide some kind of long-term protection, including a copolymer that retains active ingredients on your teeth and some that form barriers on your teeth.
- Two are moisturizing
- Three flavorings are listed, two of which are artificial sweeteners, and the third “Flavor” is a catch-all for any number of synthesized flavors. If there were any extracts from actual food sources, they would be labeled as such.
Ingredients that are unnecessary for dental care and are bound to include chemicals I react to include:
- Twelve that are used to mix ingredients, provide consistency of texture, or prevent separation
- Sixteen colors, all artificial except for titanium dioxide and beta carotene which, I believe, could be manufactured in a lab.
- Three foaming agents
- Four that improve the appearance of the product
- Eight preservatives
- And nine thickeners/stabilizers
Homemade toothpaste doesn’t need preservatives because you make a small amount and use it immediately. Mine lasts a couple months without decay as long as I keep it sealed.
The Benefits of My Alternative
Here is how my recipes for toothpaste and oil pulls benefit oral health:
- Coconut oil—Research suggests it has antibacterial properties due to the lauric acid and reduces dental plaque buildup and gum inflammation. Here’s an article that mentions this.
- Baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)—balances PH in the mouth, helps to clean and polish the teeth
- Coral Calcium powder—balances PH in the mouth, helps to clean and polish the teeth, and may help remineralize tooth enamel. I am not an expert on this, but calcium is being studied in this context and there are encouraging results.
- Myrrh—used long ago by the ancient Egyptians for oral hygiene. It is antimicrobial and considered healing to the mouth and gums.
- Essential Oils—have many benefits, including cleansing and fighting bad breath. This website has an explanation of essential oils used for dental hygiene and their benefits with links to other websites.
- This concoction works better at reducing sensitivity in my mouth than other I’ve tried, including commercial products.
If you’re wondering why I decided not to include charcoal as a whitener, it’s because it absorbs a lot of things, including most (if not all) of those lovely organic compounds the essential oils provide. I would suggest making a charcoal treatment as a separate paste if you want to use it.
The “I had to make some toothpaste because I ran out” excuse hasn’t been heard much as a reason for being late, but maybe you are meant to be one of the few who will dare to try it.
It takes three minutes.
But you can claim it took ten.
Sources quoted here:
- Colgate, ingredients: https://www.colgate.com/en-us/power-of-optimism/sustainable-dental-care-products/ingredients/ingredients-a-to-z
- Healthline article about evidence based benefits of coconut oil: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coconut-oil#8.-May-improve-oral-health
- Northern Dental Trails page about the use of essential oils in dental care: https://northerntrailsdentalcare.com/blog/what-are-essential-oils/