A Tale of Toothpastes and Deception

Toothpaste tubes and floss containers are pretty wasteful, so I’ve been experimenting with various homemade and natural varieties. I’ve already switched to Eco-Dent floss (it comes in cardboard) to avoid that waste (why not sell floss refills instead of a brand new case each time?), and even if Glide floss is a little more comfortable (I’m not gonna lie), that’s a small sacrifice to make. Toothpaste, though, appears to always come in plastic tubes.

My great-grandmother used baking soda, so that was my first attempt. It was efficient, if boring, and I missed mint. I also tried baking soda and salt. Then I got a little bottle (plastic) of Eco-Dent toothpowder, thinking that if I liked it, I could recreate and refill that bottle. It’s slightly better than baking soda alone, but it’s also not minty. I read a variety of paste and powder recipes, and I fell down the natural toothpaste rabbit hole.

I’m talking oil-pulling miracles.

I’m no dentist; swishing oil about in your mouth may very well help clean your teeth. It may very well not. I’m pretty sure, though, that it won’t cure my swollen ankle or my autoimmune disease. Every pro-oil-pulling page I read was full of testimonials citing miraculous healing after just a few months, weeks, or days (first name and last initial only, all written in the style of the exuberant recently converted) and no citations of actual facts or studies. The logic, what little there is, follows this format: “It’s natural, so it can’t hurt, and it just may help!” I’ll concede that swishing oil around is cheap and unlikely to be dangerous, but I disagree with one author of a book on the subject who mentioned that oil-pulling must work because no one’s profiting from it, except, of course, the very person profiting from selling that book.

I mention this because it seems like it’s happening quite a bit as I try to avoid plastic. Homemade things tend to be more natural, so I find myself clicking through natural after natural recipe until I find myself on a homeopathic site telling me one drop of X diluted 1000 times will cure me of everything, or that I suffer from a swollen ankle and Celiac disease because I don’t swish oil through my teeth twenty minutes a day.

I like natural things, and I’m trying to avoid petroleum products as much as possible in my current state of not being able to walk very far, but I’m not ready to throw logic out with the additives.

So far, my natural products are doing what they’re supposed to: my skin is clean and moisturized, my lips aren’t chapped, my laundry and dishes wash up just fine, and my food is delicious and mostly healthy. I’m not too worried about switching conventional toothpaste to a homemade paste or powder, but tooth and gum health is a bit harder to gauge than whether or not I’m in need of lotion. So here’s what I’m going to do: In January when I have my six month checkup, I’m going to ask my hygienist to take some detailed notes for me so I can compare after six months of using my homemade paste. If anything isn’t as good or better, then I’ll have to reconsider.

I’ve more or less settled on the following recipe as the most pleasant brushing experience:

1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp coconut oil
dash salt
2 drops peppermint essential oil

I went with a cream because the powders were just a bit unpleasant, though they’ll be fine for traveling when not having liquids or pastes will make having a carry on easier. I did decide against hydrogen peroxide. I saw it on several recipes, but I think it’s mostly for whitening. I’m not against white teeth by any means, but I’m not sure of the effect of various concentrations of hydrogen peroxide on tooth enamel.

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