Natural Alternatives for Dental Hygiene

Cleaning the teeth using a dry coarsely-woven cloth wrapped around your finger is more effective than brushing the broad surfaces. You can use a very little bicarb.soda on the cloth if you wish, or dip it in salt water. Don't use dry salt on your teeth, it is too abrasive and may damage the enamel. If you find even bicarb. too harsh, ask your pharmacist to obtain some pharmaceutical quality chalk (Calcium carbonate) for you. It's expensive, but will last a long time. You can substitue it for Bicarb.soda in homemade toothpaste or powder recipes.
Don't forget to massage the gums.

Cleaning the sides and in between the teeth needs to be done with something which is flexible and does not injure the gums. I find the dried flower stalks of Fennel excellent for this purpose. They are pleasant tasting, antiseptic, do not splinter, and come in a variety of thicknesses. Any similar dried stem from a non-poisonous plant could be used, e.g. dried grass stems, dill, or parsley. A supply should be cut and stored each year when the stems are beginning to dry naturally on the plant.

Toothpicks should be used to remove large particles of debris from between and around the teeth as soon as possible - even during your meal. Always be gentle. The wooden toothpicks sold commercially are often too sharp, and/or liable to splinter and can easily injure the gums, but there are some plastic models now available. These, though, are disposables. A metal or ivory toothpick, if you can find one (try an antique shop - in the past many people carried their own toothpick with them to meals), has a smoothly rounded point, and is preferable, since it protects both your gums and the environment.
Or use your imagination and make one from suitable material. You could even buy a dentist's tool made for the purpose, though this is not so easy to carry around in your pocket.

Chewing fresh parsley, coriander, or mint leaves gives a topical fluoride treatment as well as disinfecting the mouth and sweetening the breath.

If you prefer to brush, you could try green twigs - chew the ends until the fibres are loose enough to clean the teeth. Discard after use. Suitable twigs include birch, persimmon, elm, and probably camellia. No toothpaste is necessary.

Tooth care is often skimped, because looking after your teeth properly is time-consuming, however you choose to do it. Using the techniques outlined above means you can look after your teeth almost anywhere, instead of being stuck in the bathroom. You can do it in bed, while reading a book, or even watching television.
The most important thing is to make sure your teeth are thoroughly cleaned at least once every day, and that you use a toothpick and mouthwash - water is fine, or thoroughly chew a piece of apple or celery, every time you eat - not just meals, but after snacks.
If you can only clean once daily, the best time is when you go to bed. This means your mouth has all night to recover from the onslaughts of the day. Warning! Don't scrub or rub your teeth vigorously immediately after eating, especially if the food was acid. The enamel will have been softened, and needs time to recover it's strength. Thorough rinsing, and removal of food from between the teeth, and stimulating saliva flow is better than brushing immediately after eating.

If you must use a commercial toothbrush, rinsing it well in salt water (one teaspoon to half a cup of water) will keep it disinfected, and prevent the bristles from going limp. Other ways to stop bacteria breeding on the brush are to dry it in the sun, or to keep it in the freezer. Why not try

Invented by a Brisbane dentist, made from bamboo, order online, or your local 'green' store may stock it.
Use just a little bicarb.soda, calcium carbonate, or plain soap instead of toothpaste. Do not rinse after cleaning, just spit. It's best not to swallow, either, but at least these cleansers are not toxic!

Mouthwashes are best used in between cleanings as an oral hygiene supplement, or if for any reason you are unable to clean your teeth properly. Plain water is fine, but if you wish you can use a teaspoon of bicarb.soda, or of salt, in a cup of water. They both kill bacteria and sweeten the breath. For a fluoride wash, rinse with green tea.
Cleaning the tongue at least once daily has been proven to improve oral hygeine. If done in the morning soon after waking, your breath will be sweeter for most of the day. The simplest tool is the edge of a spoon. Start as far back as you can, a little practice will soon overcome the gag reflex, and scrape very gently towards the tip. Wipe the spooon after each 'sweep', repeat until the entire tongue has been cleansed.

Dentures and dental plates
Dentures are often fragile, and of materials likely to be harmed by using the sun to sterilise them. Mix equal quantities of bicarb.soda and salt, and keep the powder in a covered jar. Use a toothpick to dislodge any food particles from the denture, then clean the surfaces with a soft cloth. (If you need glasses, don't forget to wear them so you can see properly!) Next, dissolve a heaped teaspoon of the above mix in a half a cup or so of water, then soak the dentures for at least 20 minutes in the solution. You can shake off the excess when you remove them from the solution, but do not rinse them.
Always use a mouthwash, and give your gums a massage with your finger before replacing the denture or plate in your mouth.

Some important notes:
Commercial toothpastes, especially the Multi-national brands, contain synthetic sweeteners, flavours, and fluoride. They may be the cause of irritation or even ulcers. One of the leading brands costs only about one sixth of it's price to produce. Two-sixths goes on packaging, and three-sixths - that is, half the cost, goes into promotion and advertising! Even the 'Health Food' brands are often manufactured, on behalf of small companies, by larger companies.

Bio-dynamic or Ayurvedic pastes are also available, but are not Australian made. Use no more of these than you need, and don't rinse, or you remove the active ingredients from the mouth, which rather defeats the purpose of using it in the first place.

Home-made tooth powder
Two parts bicarb.soda, or calcium carbonate, two parts fine salt (Try pounding it in a mortar), one part ground cinnamon. Mix well, and use dry. To keep the powder from getting contaminated, put the required amount of powder into the palm of your hand, close the container, then dip the toothbrush or rag into your hand.
If you prefer a paste, you can add a few drops of glycerine - but then make sure you either make only a little, or keep it in the fridge.

Oil of Cloves is often promoted as being good for toothache. It is! But if it comes into contact with the gums or tissues of the mouth, it will burn!
The safe and painless way to use it is to protect the tissues around the affected tooth with soft rag, then apply the oil directly to the cavity and/or surfaces of the tooth. A cottonbud may be too large for this purpose, and anyway, if you are environmentally aware, you will not be using such disposables. A scrap of soft rag held in a pair of fine tweezers is works well. Use a mirror, and open your mouth really wide. Better still, get someone else to help you.

Fluoride certainly hardens the outer surface of the teeth, but too much is very toxic. Adding it to a public water supply is risky, not only because of the direct effects, but also because foods grown and irrigated, or manufactured, in areas with fluoridated water may overload the diet of people living in areas where the naturally occuring level of fluoride is already too high.

Natural sources of fluoride:
If you need to make certain your fluoride intake is adequate for strong teeth and bones, you may like to consider the following:

Dietary sources

Seafoods - all seafoods contain some fluoride. The bones of marine fish have significant amounts, so eat the bones of canned, or better still, home-pickled fish if you need a rich natural source.
All green leaves contain fluoride, which leaches into the water when they are cooked. Thus green tea is a good source, as is the water in which your greens have been cooked. Black tea does not contain so much, and if you take milk in your tea, the calcium in the milk reduces the body's uptake of fluoride.
Persimmons are rich in fluoride, as well as many other essential nutrients.

Topical application:
You can get natural fluoride directly in contact with your teeth by using green tea as a mouthwash; or by chewing edible green leaves like parsley; or chewing celery stalks. Give the chewed material a chance to mix with your saliva, and hold the mix in your mouth, moving it around to allow contact with all the surfaces of the teeth. Then choose whether to spit or swallow!!

As a child, I was told to finish my meals by chewing an apple, to clean my teeth. Some people swear by using the cut surface of a strawberry to keep their teeth strong and white - so I wonder if these fruits are also good sources of natural fluoride? However, I would not recommend this, as the acid in the strawberry will attack the tooth enamel.


Note:In researching & answering questions about earthwise living, Margaret offers information, opinion, & personal experience, but no quick fixes! Readers should evaluate these offerings in the context of their own situations; they are suggestions, *not* recommendations. Any responsibility for their implementation rests *solely* with the reader.

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