A guide to natural dental products
Terry Poulos, HBSc, DDS
Fortunately, choosing which toothpastes, toothbrushes, floss, and whitening products to use gets a bit easier when we look at natural dental products.
Anyone who has tried to make sense of the myriad dental products available has experienced the mind-numbing effects of modern marketing. Fortunately, choosing which toothpastes, toothbrushes, floss, and whitening products to use gets a bit easier when we look at natural dental products.
A wide range of natural dental products is available at the natural health store. As a holistic dentist, here’s what I recommend.
Not all toothbrushes are created equal. Look for a toothbrush with soft natural bristles that are easy on fragile gum tissues, which will often recede from continued forceful brushing. Enamel is very thin right at the gum line as well, so we don’t want to brush aggressively there.
Electric toothbrushes can be both a blessing and a curse. Simple rotary toothbrushes spin the bristles and therefore multiply the amount of force exerted on fragile teeth and gums. Ultrasonic toothbrushes are better because they use ultrasonic energy to vibrate the bristles in a way that is considerably easier on enamel and gums. Ultrasonic toothbrushes are more expensive than other electric toothbrushes, but they are worth the investment considering how effective they are at removing plaque.
Natural toothbrushes made from the Araak tree are gaining popularity. The root “stick” is mineralized and does not require toothpaste. This is an inexpensive and promising variation on the toothbrush; however, the straight stick makes it difficult to negotiate back teeth (especially on the inside aspect). The natural fibres are thicker and do not adapt well to the area around the gums where plaque likes to hide, yet they may be gentler on the surrounding enamel.
Floss is really simple. Any floss will work as long as it’s not impregnated with fluoride — a massively controversial chemical compound that all holistic dental practitioners recommend we avoid because of increased risk of cancer, fractures, and arthritis. Find a floss wide enough (the wider the better) to slide easily between your teeth. Flossing is the single most important thing we can do to improve oral health.
Toothpastes are a little more complicated. Again the main concern is fluoride, so choose fluoride-free toothpaste. Those with sensitive mouths should look for toothpastes made without the foaming agent sodium laurel sulphate (SLS), which can irritate delicate tissues.
Mouth rinses can also be controversial, but fluoride and alcohol are the only ingredients to avoid. Ultimately, mouth rinses are more about aesthetics than hygiene. Nevertheless, any liquid swished around the mouth will remove some plaque as part of the mechanical action. If you’re battling a serious breath issue, look for a mouth rinse that contains eucalyptus oil to neutralize the sulphur-based compounds responsible for nasty mouth odours.
The important thing to note about whitening products is that, from a marketing standpoint, anything that removes stains (products containing hydrated silica) can be called a whitening product. But the only compound that actually makes enamel “whiter” is peroxide based, so my advice is to read the fine print and find out the main ingredient in the product you are considering; then consult your dentist before using any peroxide-based product.
Some individuals can neglect their oral hygiene without consequence; other less fortunate individuals struggle to control progressive dental disease. I cannot stress enough how important it is to seek help from a dentist to assess how susceptible your teeth are to risk factors and to ask for professional help to maintain good dental hygiene.