Do You Kiss Your Mother with That Mouth?

Now you can, because you’ll be brushing with natural homemade toothpaste.

Image from soap.com

There are a number of reasons why I’m not in love with your traditional toothpaste: 1) It, like many other cosmetics, bath products, and toiletries is home to many unpronounceable, unrecognizable chemicals that you can’t find in the backyard (anyone’s backyard, anywhere); 2) One can’t be positive if it is vegetarian/vegan because ingredients like glycerin can be sourced from plant or animal sources, and it frequently depends on such variables as market values; 3) It’s full of sugar, which I feel is counter-intuitive to good dental health, particularly when we’re supposed to cut processed sugars out of our diet in the first place; and 4) It’s friggin’ expensive and often gross.

I have teeth that are chipped, teeth with deeper-than-normal grooves, teeth that have been stained with countless coffees and wines, teeth that have gone years without seeing a single professional, teeth that have often gone without flossing (save your negative commentary for someone who has bad plaque buildup), teeth that are sensitive to too-cold and too-warm and sometimes even the very toothpastes intended to help them, teeth that are worn down from night grinding and clenching.

Of course, I can’t pretend I’m some sort of expert on dental health. And I haven’t yet been to a dentist to test how well my homemade toothpastes have worked on my mouth (I will certainly update once I go!). But I have been doing my research, and many dentists support the efficacy, safety, and benefits of using simpler, natural ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, unsweetened cranberry juice, and oils (essential and otherwise) in our mouths. These everyday kitchen ingredients (and everyday ingredients for “crunchers” like me, like the 54 oz. of coconut oil in my cabinet) keep our teeth and gums healthy and strong, the risk of gingivitis down, any incidence of the strep virus low to nonexistent, and most importantly, our bodies remain chemical-free.

My first adventure with homemade toothpaste was somewhat difficult. The paste itself was great–thick and pasty, easy-to-use–but the recipe was absolutely repulsive to have to taste. As someone who was forced to gargle with salt water after lost teeth as a child, one can imagine how gag-worthy a toothpaste made of only baking soda, sea salt, water, and tea tree oil might be to me. I got choked up more than a few times, and not because I was so proud of my accomplishment as a “homemaker.” Why did I keep using it? Because I knew it was the healthier option, and, well, let me tell you: I could eat a ton of garlic, brush my teeth with this toothpaste five minutes later, and have absolutely no trace of my indulgence at work or play! That’s one effective toothpaste right there.

All my ducks in a row so I can get cookin'!

All my ducks in a row so I can get cookin’!

I haven’t had the chance to perform the garlic test with my new toothpaste recipe; however, my mouth definitely feels clean when I’m done brushing, and the taste is far easier on the tongue. It may be tough for some of you to get used to; the coconut oil is fairly solid at room temperature, so you scrape the paste onto your brush and then wait as it melts in your mouth, which can be mildly disconcerting at first. However, the coconutty, fresh taste and clean feeling that you are left with when you are done are worth the getting-to-know-you period.

It’s pretty easy to make this toothpaste. First, gather your ingredients together: coconut oil, tea tree oil, and baking soda. It’s just easier if they’re all together. And make sure you have your measuring spoons and other “ware” at hand, as well as the container you’re going to put the toothpaste in! I use a simple jar (in fact, I haven’t even removed the original label yet).

Just 3 ingredients! Couldn't be easier.

Next, you’ll measure out the coconut oil and melt it in the microwave until mostly melted. If your microwave has heat settings, I would set it in the middle, around level 5 in our microwave.

Coconut oilFinally, measure your baking soda and add the tea tree oil if you desire to the coconut oil and stir thoroughly. The tea tree oil is nice because it is antibacterial, and will kill the germs while leaving you with a pleasant (in my opinion) feeling and smell. Once incorporated, transfer the toothpaste to your jar. The consistency will be thicker, but more fluid than conventional toothpaste and far less stiff than the final product. You can see that in the picture below.

IMG_0353Once it sets fully, your toothpaste will stiffen. If you have the time and want to make the extra effort, you can warm it up before use it so it’s not solid. However, it’s fun to scrape it up with your toothbrush and wait for it to melt in your mouth! Here’s the exact recipe, but you can always adjust the measurements to suit your tastes (literally!):

Homemade Toothpaste
4 tbsp. coconut oil
7 tbsp. baking soda
dash of tea tree oil

If you are feeling daring and, perhaps, eat a lot of garlic to the detriment of your love life or working relationships, here is my original toothpaste recipe:

Homemade “Raw” Toothpaste
1/2 c. baking soda
2 tsp. sea salt
dash of tea tree oil
1-2 tsp. water

When using either toothpaste, I would recommend rinsing your mouth very thoroughly after brushing; this gets the leftover baking soda out of your mouth. You can also make your own natural mouthwash with half-strength vinegar or unsweetened cranberry juice (I prefer the unsweetened cranberry juice).

I can’t recommend making the transition highly enough, particularly if you have children. Why keep a toothpaste in the house that, once in your mouth, you should worry about swallowing?!  Why keep a toothpaste in the house that you have to keep away from your children?! Getting them to brush in the first place can be tough enough without making it seem like a necessary parent-assisted activity.

But even more important for dental health is cutting out processed sugars and foods. And honestly, my mouth never felt cleaner and healthier than when we switched to a vegan diet. No one has to go vegan to have a cleaner mouth, but putting an end to mornings of sugary cereal, followed by lunches and snacks of chips and flavored crackers and desserts of store-bought cookies and cakes will certainly make your teeth less grimy. When I read at the age of 20 in Michael Pollan‘s In Defense of Food that people in other lands don’t do anything (or do very little) for “dental health” besides eat only “clean” foods as is consistent with their culture, I almost didn’t believe it. But I’ve lived to tell the tale of how disgusting those processed foods really made my mouth feel, compared to how wonderful my teeth and cheeks feel now! This, of course, doesn’t mean I haven’t had ANY indulgences–of course I’ve had a couple–but overall, my mouth and diet get pretty high scores 🙂

What are your thoughts on mouth health? Does anyone do oil pulling with success? Write in and let me know, or share your recipes/experiences with natural toothpastes! And of course, write in with any questions 🙂

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3 thoughts on “Do You Kiss Your Mother with That Mouth?

  1. I laughed out loud at the opening line. I pictured a horse drawn cart with the words ” Dr. Feelgood’s All Natural Home-Made Remedies and Tonics” painted on the side! No insult intended. You know I value the “real thing”. I also know that your research is correct . Every indiginous culture that Had teeth by adolescence had natural , local products that they used to successfully care for their teeth. You have the essential ingredients, and the essential principals are covered.The only concern I have is for people with their own well water. Do these ingredients address the need for flouride, and if not, is there a way to provide it? Post your findings if you manage to address this. I would love to try it. I am also very intrigued by the ‘family sized’ jar of coconut oil ! I must be shopping at the wrong stores! Anyway, great work. Thanks for the ‘service’ you provide.

    • Thanks dad! I don’t know how one could incorporate fluoride into this routine, but I know emerging research is questioning the extensive use of fluoride in dental care. I’m not a doctor, so, you know, I have no idea. I will definitely look into the topic some more to see what I can dig up.

  2. It really is incredible difficult to find a commercial toothpaste that has no glycerin or sodium lauryl sulfate. Thanks for the recipe, I might try my luck with it.

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