Morning Routine Makeover Part 4: Oral Care

I have TERRIBLE teeth (payback for all that ‘good skin stuff’, I guess.). Always have. I had at least six fillings before I was even out of 6th grade, and one of those took up half the tooth because, well, it fell apart in my mouth. As an adult, I’ve had two root canals, two crowns, another cavity or two, and all of my wisdom teeth removed at once because they were in pretty bad shape. Kris, on the other hand, has perfect teeth. Yay for him.

But I’m excited about about this last post–oral care–of this Morning Routine Makeover series. Why? It’s where I’ve made the most changes so far. 

Aside from fluoride, the toxins we cover in this post are less harmful than most of the previous ones we’ve discussed. Oral care products are just a little more straightforward and have slightly fewer concerns. Which is good, because I’m tired of the doomsday-ness of all these toxic chemicals! 

FLUORIDE
Fluoride is a touchy subject. There’s a lot of info out there “exposing” it, providing compelling facts and research that seem to prove it does more harm than good. Then, of course, the ADA and other entities with skin in the game have their own “facts and myths” published that reassure that fluoride (and specifically the fluoridation of water) is necessary to protect the oral health of the public. 

The concern with fluoride has slightly more to do with the ingestion of it than topical application. But, no matter how you slice it, fluoride is toxic. Especially to children (who are the target of a lot of fluoridation by water, supplements, toothpaste, and even special treatments by the dentist). And although it’s the only cavity fighter recognized by the ADA, there are possible alternatives like Xylitol and upping your Vitamin D. But, let me remind you, I am not a doctor, scientist, or dentist and you make your own decisions.

Why it’s harmful:  Linked to bone cancer and damage, thyroid problems, reproductive issues, lower IQs, fluorosis, and bioaccumulation in plants and animals (including us… about half of your daily fluoride intake is retained in the body, and if you live in an area with fluoridated water, that could be much more than you think). 

How it’s listed:  Sodium fluoride, fluoride

SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE/SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE (SLS/SLES)
Found in many personal care products that foam, including toothpaste, SLS and SLES can enter the bloodstream through your scalp, skin, and mouth and are not easily metabolized by the liver. EWG rates these pretty low, but there’s plenty of research out there that shows cause for concern.

Why it’s harmful: Can cause irritation of the skin and eyes, organ toxicity, developmental/reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and biochemical or cellular changes. SLES has a likelihood of being contaminated with 1,4 dioxane which we covered in the first part of this series. Plus, both are harmful to aquatic life (and all the ways we use them send them down the drain). SLS can react with other chemicals in products to form nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic.

How it’s listed: Sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, sodium dodecyl sulfate, sodium salt sulphuric acid, monododecyl ester, PEG lauryl sulfate and variations

CHEMICAL SWEETENERS
The health and use of chemical sweeteners (especially saccharin) have been hotly debated for over a century. But almost every conventional toothpaste and most mouthwashes contain some kind of artificial sweetener.

Why it’s harmful: Though there are lots of animal studies showing links to cancer and other ailments, many of them have been (controversially) discredited because it is thought those results were not applicable to humans. There’s just too much controversy around the side effects of these sweeteners for me to list any here. However, each of these sweeteners is made in a lab using other chemicals you likely don’t want in your body. It’s also worth noting that saccharin is a derivative of coal tar. 

How it’s listed: Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), aspartame, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, and advantame

GLYCERIN
Let me be clear about this one: on the body (in properly formulated products) glycerin is fine. And vegetable-derived is better than animal-derived. 

Why it’s harmful: There is a lot of talk (especially on “green” blogs) that posits glycerin in toothpaste coats the teeth and deprives them of the remineralizing effects of your natural saliva, preventing self-healing of your teeth and gums. However, there are decent counter-arguments to this stating that if glycerin in well-mixed toothpaste could effectively achieve a coating that would prevent saliva from remineralizing teeth, then that same coating would prevent DEmineralizing. (If you are super interested in the remineralization/demineralization topic, this article may prove helpful.)

Also, the original anti-glycerin claims came from one chemist and have not been substantiated by peer review and study. So make up your own mind on this one. There are no other negative effects known aside from this. 

How it’s listed: Glycerin, glycerine

 

In the very beginning of this journey to a healthier home/body/life, friend and guest blogger, Sarah Scherr, helped clarify for me how vitally important oral health is to our overall health. She turned me on to tongue scraping and away from conventional toothpaste. And through this process, I’ve reaffirmed what my dentist-uncle has been trying to teach me for years: oral health is much more about what you do and the consistency with which you do it than the specific products you use. (He always says “Only floss the teeth you want to keep!”)

My own oral care routine has certainly evolved and continues to do so as I dig deeper into this topic. While digging I’ve found some great tips that could help improve any oral care routine and many of these are steps I take in my current daily regimen.

  • Before you eat or drink anything for the day: Scrape your tongue (scraper options below) several times, then rinse your mouth out thoroughly.
  • Before brushing in the AM: Oil pull to reduce plaque and pull toxins from your system.
  • Before brushing anytime: Rinse your mouth out with water, or sea salt water if you’re going for extra clean. Brushing your teeth while your post-meal acidic saliva is still on them is a surefire way to aid in the erosion of your enamel. You want to keep your enamel, trust me.
  • After meals/snacks: Rinse your mouth out with water again. Don’t let the acids from your foods sit on your teeth where they cause erosion.
  • Swish diluted hydrogen peroxide (50/50) around your mouth occasionally to reduce bad bacteria buildup.
  • Try brushing with the Bass method to reduce the risk of gum disease.
  • Eat a mineral rich diet (read: lots of vegetables, especially green ones).
  • Use an ionic toothbrush.
  • Instead of gum, chew on herbs and spices like mint, parsley, and fennel or coriander seeds.

For more detailed steps for a thorough holistic dental routine, this post is great and so is this video.

While the steps in your routine are the most important, they go hand-in-hand with choosing good, clean products. Here are some great options I’ve found, plus Marcy and Sarah (who were introduced in part 1) are back to chime in on their favorites as well! 
 

TOOTHPASTE AND ALTERNATIVES

Glycerin-free:
Redmond Earthpaste - A favorite of greenies everywhere, including Sarah S.
Dr. Christopher’s Tooth and Gum Powder - Kris and I are using this and love it
Eco-Dent Daily Care Toothpowder

Contains glycerin:
Dr. Bronner’s Toothpaste - Marcy’s pick
Jason Sea Fresh Antiplaque and Strengthening Toothpaste - Sarah’s pick
Desert Essence Natural Tea Tree Oil and Neem Toothpaste - Kris and I are also using this and really like it
Auromere Ayurvedic Herbal Toothpaste
Nature’s Gate Natural Toothpaste
Weleda Salt Toothpaste


MOUTHWASH/RINSE

Glycerin-free:
Essential Oxygen Organic Brushing Rinse
Any of these DIYs - mouthwash is pretty cheap and easy to make yourself, plus you know exactly what’s in it

Contains glycerin:
Nature's Answer PerioBrite® Natural Mouthwash
Auromere Ayurvedic Mouthwash
Desert Essence Ultra Care Mouthwash


OTHER TOOLS FOR YOUR MOUTH

Dr. Tung’s Smart Floss - Kris and I are using this
Dr. Tung’s Tongue Scraper - I use this (carefully) and my mouth feels much healthier because of it!
HealthAndYoga Surgical Grade Stainless Steel Tongue Cleaner Scraper
Dr. Tung’s Ionic Toothbrush
Soladey-3 Ionic Solar Toothbrush
Philips Sonicare - My preferred toothbrush


Check out our Pinterest for oral care and other natural personal care DIYs.


Well folks, that brings us to the end of the Morning Routine Makeover Series. I truly hope you found this post and this series useful. But please know that the changes we’ve discussed are not meant to happen overnight. Do what works for you. Small changes do really make a big difference over time. And they could even surprise you. Personally, I am looking forward to what this new oral care routine means for my crappy teeth in the long run. :D

If you are following along: What personal care changes are you making (or want to make), and what are you looking forward to as a result of it?

If you are ahead of us: What improvements have you seen in your health/life as a result of changes you made in your personal care routine?  

-SK

Note: Anything linked in this blog is by choice and desire to do so. While some links are affiliate, most currently are not.

 

References

Antczak, S., & Antczak, G. (2001). Teeth and Oral Care Products. In Cosmetics Unmasked: Your family guide to safe cosmetics and toiletries. London: Thorsons.

Breiner, M. (2004). Dentistry: The Fluoride Controversy: What's the Truth? Retrieved August 29, 2015.

Fluoride Action Network. (2013, April 8). Retrieved August 29, 2015.

Gianni, K. (2012, February 14). Taking Care of Your Teeth Naturally — A Daily Natural Tooth Care Routine : Exclusive Renegade Health Article. Retrieved August 29, 2015.

Kresser, C. (2014, May 30). The Unbiased Truth About Artificial Sweeteners. Retrieved August 29, 2015.

Mercola, J. (2010, July 13). Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: Facts Versus Fairytales. Retrieved August 29, 2015.

Schau, J. (2012, June 14). Glycerin and Remineralization of Teeth. Retrieved August 29, 2015.

Schuld, A. (2006, September 19). Fluoride - Even Worse Than We Thought. Retrieved August 29, 2015.