We Get Greener Kit Cassingham & her Bigger Half

Tooth Powder For Clean and Healthy Teeth

Do you put things in your mouth that have warning labels on them, warnings like "For external use only.", or "Keep out of the reach of children under 6 years of age."? I'm going to bet you do. I have, though I may be ending that soon. Where does external stop and internal start, anyway? And why does toothpaste have a warning like that on it anyway? Are warning labels conducive to a green lifestyle?

The warning labels had created an edginess in me for years that stayed in the background of my mind. When I read that sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a known irritant and commonly found in personal hygiene products, was especially a problem in toothpaste (where it might be worse than a mere irritant), my edginess came to the forefront of my mind. I quit using the Crest I had been using for years, replacing it with Tom's of Maine SLS-free toothpaste. I felt better, but didn't like the xylitol used for sweetening the paste.

Young Living has a SLS-free toothpaste too, but again it wasn't very satisfying to me, so I have been staying with Tom's of Maine's toothpaste while I've looked for other options. Miessence has a highly rated SLS-free toothpaste (according to GoodGuide.com), but I haven't gotten around to ordering any yet. I suspect there are others as well that would work fine.

For various reasons I'm interested in getting away from commercial toothpastes.

  • sugar or sugar alternative
  • packaging
  • weight, like for traveling
  • price
And that interest opened a memory door, the one that held the memory of my mom using tooth powder when I was a kid. Time to do some research.

Cavity Protection
Tooth Powder
Tooth Powder to fight cavities and freshen your breath

As I researched the topic a long-lost memory returned: my mom used tooth powder instead of toothpaste when I was growing up. Huh. I hadn't thought of that as an option, having forgotten of its existence. You don't see tooth powder ads like you do toothpaste. I wonder why.

There are lots of toothpaste and tooth powder recipes found online so you can find a formula that will suit your style. I've opted to try the tooth powder first because it is simpler and is a better traveling companion because of density and weight (powder goes further than paste/gel for the same space and with less weight). But, wow, are the recipes different!

The ingredients are simple and basic: baking soda and salt. I saw wildly different proportions though, ranging from 12 parts of baking soda to 1 part of salt, to equal/ parts of baking soda and salt. I went with the 12:1 ratio, anticipating that would be a salty enough difference for me, at least for starters. I was right. And of course there are myriad other recipes with various ingredients, some that caused an eyebrow to cock in question.

I started with a small baby food jar and put in 4 tablespoons of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of salt. I stirred it well, then closed the lid and shook it for a minute or two. Then I dispensed the powder into my clean travel toothpaste container -- aka contact lens case, the kind with the screw on lid -- about one to one and a half teaspoons per section. Not knowing before my travels how long a section would last, I loaded two cases up. I found each section lasted me about 10 brushings, though your mileage may vary.

The first time I brushed with my tooth powder I was struck with how salty it was. No wonder it works! Germs must flee from your mouth to avoid death by salt. But, my teeth felt clean and my mouth felt fresh, even hours later. After a few days of brushing with the powder I hardly noticed the saltiness, or the lack of sweetness. My technique is to get the brush wet, shake off excess water, place the bristles into the powder, and brush away.

Some of the recipes suggested you add drops of essential oil for that flavored experience that we've become accustomed to. Initially I was looking forward to my first test being over so I could experiment with a flavor. I'm less interested in doing that now I'm used to the plain formula. But for science and my readers I'll give flavor a try.

When I mentioned to My Bigger Half what I was testing and writing about his first reaction was that fluoride was imperative for cavity protection. He feels a fluoride toothpaste is critical for good dentistry.

It's clear fluoride reduce tooth decay or gum disease by preventing plaque bacteria to create tooth-weakening acids, and by re-mineralizing tooth enamel. It seems, though, that fluoride is most effective in keeping childrens' teeth from decaying but has less, if any, impact on permanent teeth. Since fluoride is toxic, my question is why use it if benefits are for a limited population segment.

While fluoride is touted as the great addition to toothpaste because it fights acids on your teeth, here's another vote for baking soda: it's alkaline so neutralizes acids found on your teeth. And since it absorbs odors it's going to be a great mouth freshener. Eeehaw!

If tooth whitening is a consideration, add hydrogen peroxide to your procedure. Rather than being an additional ingredient in the formula, it's an additional step in your brushing, being used before or after the tooth powder. I also saw the recommendation of sodium tripolyphosphate (TSPP) as a whitener, but it's not intended for ingestion (despite being a food preservative), and contact with the skin or eyes is to be avoided; uh oh, another warning label in the making.

I'm not going to be part of the fluoride debate in toothpaste. Make your own decision about the benefit of fluoride toothpaste in your health regime. For now, I'm focused on cleaning up my hygiene habit from chemicals, especially SLS, saving money, and getting greener. My baking soda and salt formula will continue to be my tooth powder of choice until it's proven to me that's a bad idea (which I'm doubting will happen). Stay tuned, and keep on brushing and flossing daily.

Articles with tooth powder recipes:


Hey Kit.I have tried hydrogen peroxide a few times for teeth whitening but worried I may mess up and brush off enamel or something. Do you know if it is safe to use on a regular basis and should I water it down or just straight up.
Thanks and hope you guy's are having a great holiday

Butch at December 26, 2010 5:44 PM

Butch, according to my research hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)is safe for teeth. The brown bottle we buy in the store is a 3 percent solution. It kills bacteria very nicely at that strength too. The strength H2O2 used in dental offices and on those tooth whitening strips can stain. The 3 percent solution rarely stains or degrades teeth if used properly (rinse with water after use).

In fact, rinsing your toothbrush in H2O2 will kill the germs that congregated there since you last brushed.

One article I read suggested the 3-step approach to dental hygiene:
1.) Clean your toothbrush with a touch of dish washing liquid. Suds the soap with your thumb on the bristles, lightly scrub the neck and back of the brush. Rinse.
2.) Sanitize your toothbrush with H2O2 by pouring a little over your toothbrush and waiting for 5-10 seconds (it'll be bubbling nicely as it kills germs, so it may take a bit longer for really dirty toothbrushes) before rinsing.
3.) Brush your teeth with H2O2.

It seems to be ok to dip your toothbrush into the brown bottle, just don't leave your brush in the bottle.

Thanks for the great question, Butch!


Kit Cassingham at December 27, 2010 12:12 PM
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