The Ultimate Guide to Natural and Eco-Friendly Oral Care
Above: Toothbrush Mug, Crow Canyon/Tambur.
Let’s talk about oral care. Sounds boring? Well, maybe, but we can probably all agree that it’s important. Now, we’re assuming that you’re already brushing your teeth two times a day and maybe even floss once in a while (not talking about the dance move). Healthy habits like these are essential, but the question is: are you getting your oral care products out of habit too? If it’s been long since you last made an update, you might be pleased to find that there are many, many great natural and eco-friendly alternatives to the conventional products on the market.
Take toothpaste for example. The “regular” toothpastes that most people use are filled with plenty of ingredients that are both ridiculously unnecessary, and in some cases flat out unhealthy. We’re talking about synthetic detergent foaming agents (SLES/SLS), artificial colors and flavors, preservatives and sweeteners. No thank you. Instead, opt for a toothpaste with natural and organic ingredients, like peppermint essential oil (kills bacteria), activated charcoal (whitens and removes stains) and aloe vera (protects the gums).
What about fluoride? People (and dentists) seem to have very different opinions about whether fluoride in toothpaste is healthy or not. Fluoride is a non-essential mineral that is naturally occurring in drinking water and food (tea and fish especially), and it’s been established since the beginning of the 1900’s that fluoride in drinking water prevents the occurrence of dental caries.
However, it’s also known that an excessive intake of fluoride can become toxic and have a negative effect on our health. It can, for instance, lead to fluorosis (white stains on the teeth, which is harmless in the early stages but can advance into a more severe condition) and osteofluorosis (skeletal changes), and there doesn’t seem to be much information on the eventual risks of long-time exposure.
The Swedish Dentist Association claims that small amounts of fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash are safe to use as long as they’re not ingested (don’t swallow!), and recommend grownups to brush their teeth two times a day for two minutes using two centimeters of fluoride toothpaste (less for children). They do acknowledge that you don’t need a fluoride toothpaste to clean your teeth, but claim that fluoride is the only thing that protects us against the cavity bugs.
Obviously, we can’t make any recommendations, so choose what feels best for you.
Dentists also recommend that we replace our toothbrushes every third month. That’s a whole lot of plastic waste; if your toothbrush is made of plastic, that is. It doesn’t have to be, ’cause with all the great new bamboo alternatives – that are biodegradable and come from natural, renewable sources – there’s really no need to add to the polluting plastic mountain.
However, if you’re hooked on your electric toothbrush, you might not feel like throwing it out first thing after you’ve read this. One big problem though is that the plastic brush heads, as well as regular plastic toothbrushes, can’t be recycled within the normal system (for some reason… anybody know why?), so they end up being burned or piled up in landfills.
Some brands have solved this by offering collecting services for their products, like Georganics and Live Coco. And in the US, Colgate has an oral care recycling program in collaboration with TerraCycle that offers collecting points for this specific type of waste. Where are the solutions for this in Sweden, if we may ask?
Some might find flossing incredibly boring, uncomfortable or perhaps even painful at the beginning (hang in there, it gets better!), but an once-a-day flossing regime is actually very important in order to minimize plaque buildup and keep your teeth and gums healthy. Being committed to finding plastic-free solutions to our everyday needs, we’ve searched out some natural and eco-friendly alternatives to the conventional plastic or nylon flossers. One is a dental floss made from Ahimsa silk, also known as “peace silk”, which is made through a method where the silk is extracted only after the silkworm has left the cocoon. Another would be a floss made from a biodegradable bioplastic based on corn.
No reason to reach for plastic when it comes to tongue scrapes either; there are some great toxic-free and hygienic alternatives made from reusable, recyclable stainless steel to do the job. If you’re truly committed to achieving optimal oral health, this might be a step that you’d want to consider adding to your daily self-care routine. Scraping has been done all over the world for hundreds of years to remove bacteria from the tongue, and this in its turn is said to help improve breath and overall oral hygiene. Go as far back on the tongue as you can (this will get easier in time), and rinse the scrape between each stroke. Repeat once a day.
There are more ways of keeping your gums and teeth healthy, and one of the most interesting is called Oil Pulling. Have you tried it? We’re new to the concept but tested it a couple of times over the weekend and it was surprisingly satisfactory. This is a method based on ancient ayurvedic medicine used to cleanse the mouth and teeth from toxins, refresh the breath and remove excess “ama” (oral buildup).
What you do is take 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil and swish it around your mouth for 5-20 minutes; best time is to do it before breakfast. This is something of a workout, but the longer you go on, the better. The oil should turn into a milky white before you spit it out in the bin; never the drain (it can get clogged).
From what we can tell, this method actually work, and the mouth feels notably “cleaner” afterwards; so it’s a great natural substitute to conventional mouthwashes. You can also add in a few drops of peppermint essential oil, which is said to be effective at killing anaerobic bacteria on your teeth (or go for a ready-made blend!). Can’t get fresher than that.
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