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A Look at Toothpaste
By Joyce Slaton
You live a healthful lifestyle: You banned refined sugars and processed foods from your diet, switched to organic produce and use only nontoxic products to keep your home clean. But have you given any thought to what you’re swishing around in your mouth every day?
Toothpastes are almost as old as teeth. Early humans used abrasives like crushed oyster shells, bone and egg- shell mixed with flavoring and powdered charcoal. Along the way someone discovered that a dash of peppermint or cinnamon made brushing more pleasant and helped kill bacteria at the same time. As knowledge of dental health progressed, so did the number and variety of pastes—and thus the modern toothpaste was born, a heady brew of chemicals meant to clean, polish and maintain healthy teeth.
While most of these chemicals do just that, some are unhealthy, many are unnecessary, and a few could actually be dangerous. If you’re concerned about what goes in your mouth when you eat, you may want to take a closer look at a product that enters your body twice or even three times a day, every day.
The case for brushing
Some natural health advocates may wonder why we bother brushing our teeth with a sweetened, flavored paste. Is brushing really necessary? And if so, why brush with paste at all?
If we ate a diet marked by lots of crunchy, raw produce and a balanced pH level, we wouldn’t even need to brush. Dental research abounds with studies of primitive tribes and cultures whose peoples wouldn’t have known a toothbrush from an anteater, yet maintained near-perfect dental health.
“A good, balanced diet with raw food will self-clean your teeth as you chew,” says Fullerton, California, dentist Richard Hansen. “A good diet will also give you saliva that will help remineralize teeth and wash away any substances accumulating in the mouth. People with dental problems usually have very poor diets.”
Point well taken. But since modern people tend to eat more processed fibers than hearty whole grains, and more cooked or juiced produce than raw, diet alone isn’t enough. We must brush to remove sticky plaque and the food particles and bacteria that cling to teeth.
And when we brush, we usually use some sort of toothpaste. Of course, there are other options. Though most dental experts recommend brushing with more than just plain water, you certainly could make your own inexpensive, effective tooth powder.
“What you need when you brush is the motion of the toothbrush, an abrasive and a foaming agent to remove sub-gingival [under the gums] material,” says dentist Eric Shapira of Half Moon Bay, California. “If you mix together salt, baking soda and a little 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide, you have all that. You don’t have fluoride, but that’s another story.”
If you’re like most Americans, you brush with toothpaste you bought at the supermarket or drugstore: a paste engineered to make your teeth whiter, brighter and healthier—but not necessarily formulated to avoid poten...
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