I have to begin this post by saying that I have been blessed with very good teeth. Now, at the age of 38 and after two pregnancies, I have only one tiny filling behind my two front teeth. Thanks to my mum and dad’s foresight when I was a teenager, I have a very orthodontically-engineered straight set of pearly whites.
When the local referendum on fluoridated water came to our letterbox I had no opinion on the matter, because I assumed that fluoridated water was the underlying reason for my good teeth. That, and I am vigilant about brushing and flossing my teeth after breakfast and before bed (or at least I was, before I had kids). Then, when I started to take an interest in healthy living, I read suggestions that fluoride is toxic when ingested, that it is some chemical by-product of aluminium smeltering, and that it has been claimed to lower IQ in children – all very scary stuff for a new mother! But again, I assumed that fluoride exposure through drinking water and toothpaste was the reason for my good teeth, so I reassured myself that everything was fine just as it was. However, I had made a commitment to myself to convert ours to a cruelty-free bathroom. This necessitated a switch from Colgate toothpaste to a ‘natural’ animal-friendly alternative. Natural, animal-friendly alternatives are firstly much more expensive than Colgate, and secondly, fluoride-free. I felt like I was taking a big risk brushing my teeth with a fluoride-free toothpaste and was nervous to see how my teeth would cope.
Then one day in conversation with an old school friend, I found out that I’d actually grown up without fluoridated water. Say what?! How is it possible that I have amazing teeth and an un-fluoridated childhood? The city I grew up in doesn’t and didn’t fluoridate its water. This new piece of information threw my unfounded assumptions out the window. Then when I learned that most developed nations do not fluoridate their water and yet their records of tooth decay are no worse than ours, I decided that regardless of the fact that I have not even a basic understanding of chemistry (or science in general actually – my Achilles’ heel in high school), common sense and logic both urged me to feel no guilt about removing fluoride from our dental regimen.
So, Colgate was out. However, the next complication arose from me wanting to go plastic-free. Has anyone else noticed that all toothpaste, even the ‘natural’ ones are packaged in plastic? Extensive googling on the matter revealed a wonderful recipe for homemade tooth powder by Mommypotamus. We used it for about a year and found it extremely economical, pleasant to use, and it certainly left our teeth looking sparkly white. The only annoying aspect of it was that it made a mess of my white ceramic sink. I spent many months nagging my husband to wipe the sink after each tooth brushing session (to no avail) before I discovered our perfect fluoride-free, glycerine-free, cruelty-free, plastic-free, dirty-sink-free, extremely affordable solution:
olive oil soap.
The idea of brushing my teeth with soap occurred to me when brushing my teeth after a lemon drink. Soap is alkaline; the perfect condition for a healthy mouth. It would also leave your sink looking nice and clean! I googled ‘brushing your teeth with soap’ and found that it wasn’t such a crazy idea after all! In fact, it makes perfect sense if you can get over the association of soap washing out swear words from one’s mouth. My husband and I decided to trial it, and the test would be my next visit to the dentist; my first visit since pregnancy and baby no.2. Our tooth soap of choice is Sabun soap. It has only four ingredients: saponified olive oil, bay laurel oil, salt, and water. A $5-$6 bar will likely last our family well over a year, judging by how much we’ve used until now. It took me about a week to get used to the taste of it, and now I think nothing of it at all. It doesn’t lather as much as other soaps do, and I prefer that as I don’t like a mouthful of froth. All I do is rub my toothbrush a couple of times across the soap, wet it, and brush. After rinsing it out with water, I take a swig of homemade mouthwash and gargle for a minute or so.
Once or twice a month I give my teeth a deep clean and whiten by brushing them with a mix of baking soda and activated charcoal. I smear coconut oil over my toothbrush first, then dip it in my baking soda/charcoal mix, and then give my teeth a good thorough brushing, avoiding my gums. After this, my teeth come up super sparkling white. You would never know that I am an anti-Colgate hippie mum by the look of my teeth! My teeth are less sensitive than they used to be, and I am sure my receding gums (exacerbated by pregnancy) are improving. But of course, the real test was my visit to the dentist.
I was a little nervous, and warned him that I had had a pregnancy and breastfed a baby since my last visit. I also told him that I had changed up my dental hygiene regimen, but I refused to tell him what I was doing until he shared his findings with me! An x-ray and quick check revealed I had very little tartar, he did barely anything to clean my teeth as they were extraordinarily clean, and he was completely intrigued by the idea of brushing teeth with soap. When he said he might suggest it to his daughter (a new mum also), I knew that my eco-experiment was looking very promising!
We’ve only been brushing our teeth with soap for about 6 months now, so perhaps it is too early to tell. My husband is next up for a dental visit, so we are both curious to learn what condition his teeth are really in! It certainly seems almost too easy to be good, but we have no reason to feel that we need to change our dental hygiene regimen anytime soon. We are very aware that our improved diet plays a huge role in our dental health, as well as in the health of our children’s teeth. My hope, though, is that in a few years’ time our teeth will still be in great condition and we will have demonstrated that it is possible to pursue a healthy, safe, ethical alternative to a ubiquitous, commercial product like toothpaste without being burdened with a huge ongoing cost or inconvenience.
P.S. For your interest, I really enjoyed reading this blog post on brushing teeth with soap: http://www.mintandchili.com/why-i-dont-use-toothpaste