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
Hi, can you please update on how brushing your teeth with soap has gone?
It’s been 2 years since this article was posted. Have you been using soap all this time to brush with?
I’m wondering how things turned out for you? Did you develop any cavities or problems with your teeth?
Any comments from your dentist visits?
Hi there, I’ve been meaning to write an updated blog post about my teeth but haven’t quite got around to it yet… In short though, my teeth are looking great although it’s time for another dentist visit as I haven’t been for a year. But my gums have almost completely grown back – there’s only a little bit of filler visible from when he filled the receding gum line a few years ago. My teeth look and feel clean and my tongue is pink and healthy. The only thing is the soap doesn’t keep my teeth as white as they used to look (I used to whiten them with commercial tooth whitening bleach gel when I was younger). So I use the activated charcoal tooth scrub every few weeks to give them a deeper scrub and whiten. The charcoal is quite abrasive though, so I wouldn’t do it more frequently. I also swear by my homemade clove oil mouthwash which doesn’t taste as nice as a sweetened minty mouthwash, but I’m sure it keeps my mouth clean and healthy – it certainly nailed the ulcer I got once from knocking my guns with my toothbrush. I also have to say that I firmly believe that diet is key – my teeth are great because I also eat/drink hardly any sugar and I eat almost no processed foods – real food only! I hope this helps, Esther x
Thanks so much for this post! I’m really keen to give it a go 🙂 just wondering if there are better kinds of essential oils to use for mouthwash? Or any brands you can reccomend?
Hi there! Sorry for the slow reply; I’ve been out of the country for a week. Peppermint is the most obvious alternative essential oil that comes to mind, as most people already associate it with oral hygiene products. I haven’t tried others because I think clove oil is amazing for the mouth and teeth. Just make sure if you’re not familiar with essential oils, that you are buying a food grade oil. Essential oils are not all created equal (some is real crap), and you have to expect to pay more for the real thing. And I always buy organic 😉 x Esther
Great article. I make soaps and decided to try the coconut soap for my teeth. It’s been a month. I only decided to see if I’m crazy for doing this or there were others who are just as brave as I. I also don’t watch television and eat and grow as much organic food as possible. Again great piece.
Thanks! I imagined that coconut oil soap would lather a lot, but is that the case? How are you finding it? I visited the dentist a few weeks’ ago so I intend to write a follow-up post very soon… 🙂
Hi Esther (not Kia! Sorry!).
I’ve read various accounts online of remineralisation early on, to which I have not experienced. But whether I do or don’t, I’m none the worse for wear, and I’m happier for it.
I’m pretty much on the same page as you, but I guess we’re all different in our idiosyncrasies.
Thanks for your reply. I’ve read it with great interest!
Hope its going well for you. Its been a year for you using Olive Soap to clean your teeth, so you must have some more interesting insights!
I’ve read your webpage with great interest. I read another blog a few months ago, and as such I’ve brushed my teeth with Oliva Soap for 2 months 10 days as of today. Not really seeing any difference either way so far (and neither has my dentist), but feeling better for not using fluoride. I do plan to stick with it, but I have a few basic questions:
1. Is an electric toothbrush twice a day sufficient?
2. I brush my teeth at least 15 minutes before eating my breakfast, and last thing at night. Should I wait longer, or is that OK?
3. I’ve got a touch of receding gums (happened well before I started the Oliva Soap). Will this method help reduce my symptoms?
4. I’m still flossing, but do I need to continue doing so with this method?
Many thanks in advance!
Thanks for your feedback and questions! Before I try to answer your questions, I just want to say that I’m NOT a dentist, nor anything remotely close to a dental expert! The health of your teeth is so important for your overall health and wellbeing that I would hate to be responsible for advice that would cause you distress in any way.
Anyway, I’ll try to answer your questions as best as I can.
Firstly, what sort of difference were you expecting to see?
I generally brush my teeth AFTER breakfast, because I understood the whole point of brushing my teeth was about alkalinising my mouth after eating acidic foods. I thought that’s why it’s not particularly good for one’s teeth to be snacking all the time, or to be drinking anything other than water in-between meals.
As for wanting me to comment on how your gums are going to respond to your tooth-brushing regimen, I’m really sorry but I can’t do that. Everyone’s body is different, and we are all starting to learn that even highly refined medicines illicit different responses from individuals when they take them as instructed.
I will say that I STRONGLY believe that tooth/gum health is linked to one’s overall health, and I also strongly believe that no amount of brushing and flossing, fluoride or other exciting chemicals, can compensate for a poor diet and/or lifestyle. I also learned through two pregnancies that hormones play a BIG part in the state of my teeth and gums.
As for your receding gums, I can tell you this much: my receding gums have grown back, contrary to my dentist’s opinion that this is impossible. They really have, and they look very healthy. But while this could be due to my toothbrushing regimen, it could also be due to my much-improved diet (very little processed food now), lots of probiotic and prebiotic rich foods in my diet, the fact that I’m not pregnant or breastfeeding anymore, or significantly reducing my exposure to plastic.
I hope this helps you somewhat. Just a thought, if you haven’t already heard about it, you might be interested in learning about the Bass brushing technique. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1q5H91HdAJY. I’ve modified my own toothbrushing technique after reading about it because it forced me to brush more gently than my previous up-and-down, side-to-side brushing technique.
Also, flossing apparently does little good, and the US health department has recently dropped it from their list of dental recommendations, prompting other countries around the world to review their own stances on flossing. Personally, I only floss when I have something stuck in my teeth.
What a fantastic idea brushing your teeth with Sabun. I have been searching for an alternative to traditional toothpastes for a long time and just happened along your blog when researching soaps to wash my face with. I too use coconut oil and baking soda in my teeth cleaning regime but the soap idea was the missing link. I am going to cut it into squares, one for each of the family to use. Many thanks for posting :)!
Hi, thanks for the great feedback! I hope it works for you and your family 🙂
PS. If you don’t already use it, activated charcoal is awesome for teeth whitening (for occasional use as I understand it’s quite abrasive 😉