Just like any other profession, dentistry has some questionable products and techniques that I would like to warn you about. Then I’ll offer you some very simple home remedies that you can use instead. Let’s start with fluoride.
Avoid Fluoride Dental Products
Yes, that’s right, I’m shouting that bit of advice at the top of my lungs in capital letters and I hope you heard me. Don’t let your dentist or dental hygienist talk you into fluoride treatments, fluoride toothpaste, fluoride mouth rinse or fluoride dental floss. Can you believe it? Dental floss is now spiked with fluoride!
I went into a drugstore in Maui to see if they carried any natural toothpaste. Nope! Every tube I picked up contained fluoride. Every one!
Fluoride Is A Poison
Fluoride is not added to drinking water to clean it or make it healthier but to prevent cavities by making the enamel of your teeth stronger. In the past decade all the pro fluoride research has scientifically validated this fact. But they totally ignore the other effects of fluoride – up to and including cancer. Some websites even call fluoride a superhero!
Let me take a few minutes to outline the problems with fluoride. The enamel of the tooth binds to fluorine creating a whole new compound called fluoroapatite. Instead of being beneficial to teeth, accumulated evidence shows that fluoride during infancy and early childhood may damage the developing tooth-forming cells and lead to defective enamel referred to as “dental fluorosis.”
This condition is characterized by white, yellow, brown spots and/or pitted permanent teeth. But you don’t even know that in infants until their teeth have erupted through the gumline. By then it’s too late to do anything about it.
Fluorosis has been acknowledged by the ADA, which recommends that parents not use fluoridated water for children under 6 months (including water used to make up baby formula bottles) and to avoid fluoridated toothpaste for children two years and younger. For older children the ADA advises that only a pea size amount of fluoride toothpaste should be used. And that kids should be taught to spit out rather than swallow toothpaste! But they added sweeteners and flavors that makes toothpaste very tasty. And, of course chemicals are absorbed through the mucus membranes of the mouth.
Avoid Alcohol-Laced Mouth Wash
Take the most popular antiseptic throat gargle on the market – actually, don’t take it – avoid it like the plague. I don’t even have to name it, you all know from the relentless advertising that tells us we all have bad breath and aren’t fit to face our friends and family without this product.
The total amount of active ingredients in Listerine is: 0.258%. Those ingredients are Oils of Thyme, Eucalyptus, Wintergreen and Menthol. The inactive ingredients are: Water, Alcohol (21.6%), Sorbitol Solution, Flavoring, Poloxamer 407, Benzoic Acid, Sodium Saccharin, Sodium Benzoate, FD&C Green 3 making Listerine a 50-proof alcohol product!
Fluoride Kills Magnesium
While most of Europe and half of the United States have completely abandoned the use of fluoride in the water supply, it still remains in the other half of the United States, in toothpaste, and as a molecule in SSRI antidepressants such as Prozac. Fluoride seeks out minerals such as magnesium and binds with it, making magnesium unavailable to the body and unable to do its work. The magnesium fluoride mineral produced is called sellaite; it is almost insoluble and ends up taking the place of magnesium in hard tissues like bone and cartilage, but its brittleness makes the bone susceptible to fracture. The reduction in available magnesium causes a decrease in enzymatic action in the body.”
A little known fact is that there are 15 classes of drugs and thus hundreds of prescription drugs using fluoride as an active ingredient. In the above section I mention that Prozac contains fluoride, which means that Prozac depletes magnesium every day that you take it. And if you’ve read my Magnesium Miracle book you know that magnesium deficiency causes anxiety and depression.
Toothpaste has two purposes – to abrade the teeth to remove plaque and theoretically to keep the teeth white. This is usually done with an abrasive calcium carbonate component. The other aspect is to make the mouth feel clean and even tingly – usually accomplished by a synthetic mint flavoring.
I’ve been using natural toothpaste for years so it was quite mind-blowing to remind myself of all the chemical ingredients in toothpaste and realize that they are being absorbed through our delicate mucus membranes.
Fluoride: As I mentioned, fluoride is often at the top of the list of “active” ingredients in most toothpastes. But it’s a poison and it will be immediately absorbed through the mucus membranes of your mouth.
Abrasives: Like a scouring pad, abrasives help scrub off plaque and stains; they also polish teeth. The most common abrasives include calcium carbonate, calcium phosphates, alumina and silica. However, too much abrasive can damage tooth enamel exposing the yellow dentin layer below giving you the opposite result.
Tartar Control: Sodium hexametaphosphate is a chemical used in tartar control. But it’s also used in the junk food industry. It’s an emulsifier, a sequestering agent, and a texturizer. It helps prevent scale formation and corrosion. It acts to stabilize products and prevent changes in their appearance and texture. It may cause respiratory tract irritation with symptoms including coughing and shortness of breath. Some individuals may experience an allergic reaction to the ingestion of sodium hexametaphosphate that may produce mild chest pain.
Detergents: Detergents don’t do much except turn toothpaste into a foam so it doesn’t dribble down your chin as you brush. Sodium lauryl sulfate is the most commonly used detergent. But in some people it can cause canker sores (mouth ulcers). Detergents don’t taste very good – try washing your mouth out with soap and see. Therefore, using detergents means they have to use stronger flavorings to compete with the bad taste.
Whiteners: Actually, these chemicals are usually very harsh abrasives that do not whiten the teeth they just remove stains to reveal the whiter enamel underneath. However, as I mentioned above, in the process they can wear away your enamel exposing the yellow layer of dentin below.
Humectants: Humectants give the creamy texture to toothpaste as well as retain moisture so that your toothpaste does not dry out. Glycerin, sorbitol, and water are common humectants. Glycerin and sorbitol are generally considered safe.
Thickeners: Thickeners also help to create the texture of toothpaste. Carrageenan, cellulose gum, and xanthan gum are common thickening agents. They are generally considered safe.
Preservatives: Preservatives prevent the growth of microorganisms in toothpaste, otherwise you would have to refrigerate it. Common preservatives include sodium benzoate, methyl paraben, and ethyl paraben. The parabens can cause contact dermatitis and have estrogenic effects.
Flavoring Agents: These chemicals improve the taste of toothpaste. There are thousands of such agents, most of which have not gone through rigorous safety testing.
Sweeteners: Most toothpaste sweeteners are unsafe synthetics, which includes aspartame and Saccharin.
Coloring Agents: Artificial dyes are used to make red, green, and blue toothpastes. They have been implicated in allergies and hyperactivity. Titanium dioxide is used to make some toothpastes white. The jury is still out on the safety of titanium dioxide.
Bottom Line on Toothpaste Ingredients
Don’t use Fluoride at all.
Abrasives: Avoid toothpastes that claim to whiten teeth.
Tartar Control: These toothpastes will be highly abrasive.
Detergents: Avoid toothpaste with sodium lauryl sulphate.
Whiteners: Avoid whiteners because they are harsh abrasives.
Humectants: A safe humectant is xylitol.
Preservatives: Avoid chemical preservatives as much as possible.
Flavoring Agents: Look for natural flavors.
Sweeteners: Xylitol is a safe sweetener in toothpaste.
Coloring Agents: Avoid colored toothpaste.
What Toothpastes Are Safe?
Be careful. After years of making toothpaste without fluoride, most of the natural brands have succumbed to pressure and offer a fluoride alternative! Arm & Hammer has a baking soda toothpaste, but the first ingredient is fluoride. Most toothpastes that are white will contain titanium dioxide. As I mentioned above, the jury is still out on the safety of titanium dioxide. Also, when companies get bought out or undergo a change of management, so can the ingredients. That means you still have to read your labels and decide what you want to use based on the list above. Take your magnifying glass along with you to the health food store and do your research.
Make Your Own Toothpaste
One of the ways you can ensure you are getting a safe, organic product is to make your own! I’ve heard many people tout the benefits of plain baking soda and 1 drop of grapefruit seed extract (GSE) on your toothbrush as a safe tooth cleaner. However, reports are surfacing that the GSE is so acidic that it can gradually erode the enamel of your teeth. I know how strong GSE is, so I would warn you not to use it directly on your teeth.
The ingredients for making your own toothpaste can vary but the basic ones usually contain:
• Baking soda: 3 parts
• Sea salt: 1 part
• Water: to create a paste-like consistency. If you are going to store it in a squeeze bottle, make it runny enough to pour.
Here are the various additions or substitutions for this formula:
• Substitute 3 parts of kaolin clay (for internal use) for baking soda –for sensitive teeth.
• Magnesium oil, spray once on your toothbrush along with your homemade toothpaste
or one you buy. Magnesium hardens your teeth, tightens your gums, and according to some people, whitens your teeth.
• 1 part arrowroot: soothes and relieves inflamed mucus membranes
• Pinch of Stevia: sweetener with antibacterial properties
• Essential oils: Only use one oil at a time.
Lemon: 5 drops
Myrrh: 5 drops
Cinnamon: 2 drops (Use very little of this oil, because it is very strong.)
Peppermint: 10 drops
Tea Tree oil: 5 drops
Warning: Since you will not be using preservatives, just make enough for a few days and store
in the fridge.
Note: Even simpler would be to make a formula of powders only that you can safely store in the
fridge for a long time. Using an old herb bottle with a shaker top with large holes, sprinkle some
powder on your toothbrush and voila!
Caring for Your Teeth
I’m sure you all know about brushing and flossing your teeth. But there is much more you can
easily do to keep your teeth and gums in great shape.
- Rinsing with Water
Sounds simple enough. But why? Chances are that you are eating more times a day than you are brushing your teeth. And maybe you don’t even brush your teeth after every meal. Most people brush their teeth first thing in the morning and last thing at night. So for those in-between times, take a mouthful of water and swish it around your mouth and suck it through your teeth to remove food particles, especially food sugars, to prevent them from adhering to your teeth. I rinse after my morning lemonade drink. It contains maple syrup or honey, so after I take a few swigs I swish some plain water to make sure the sugar doesn’t stick to my teeth. It’s not a big deal to keep one jar of lemonade and one jar of water on my desk. In fact, it helps me drink my quota of water each day – (1/2 ounce for every pound of my weight).
It’s amazing how little we know about this practice that everyone does every day. The reason to brush your teeth is to remove dental plaque. Plaque is a biofilm of bacteria that naturally develops on the teeth. It may be there to defend against abnormal bacteria. But it can harden within 2 days and within 10 days it can form tartar – the stuff your dental hygienist scrapes off.
Even worse, dental plaque can lead to tooth decay due to the interaction of bacteria and sugar producing acid byproducts. The plaque and tartar can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis (gum inflammation) and periodontitis (gum destruction).
• Brushing twice a day for 2 minutes at a time is the accepted standard.
• Choose a “soft” toothbrush.
• Hold your brush at a 45-degree angle against your gumline, on the inside and outside of the teeth. Because you are brushing from your gums, this makes it important to use a soft toothbrush. Gently brush from the gumline with a few gentle back and forth strokes and then sweep up the tooth to the chewing surface. Don’t brush too hard, this can cause bleeding, receding gums and tooth sensitivity. But brushing your gums gently will toughen them up and prevent them from bleeding and receding.
• To clean the chewing surfaces of your teeth including the back teeth, use short sweeping strokes.
• You can also gently brush your tongue and the roof of your mouth using a forward-sweeping motion.
Once a day is the accepted standard.
Use a nylon thread or plastic ribbon to remove plaque and food elements stuck between your teeth. I just took a break from writing and enjoyed a mango. But this one left my teeth fuzzy with mango threads. So, thank goodness for flossing so my teeth no longer feel hairy.
There is not much difference in effectiveness of unwaxed or waxed floss. However, unwaxed floss is thinner and easier to slide between tight teeth.
• Carefully insert the floss between two teeth, using a back and forth sawing motion. Also curve it around the tooth to get all angles.
• Try to be in control of your floss at all times. Otherwise you can force it into your gums and cut them causing bleeding.
4. Waterpik or Water Flosser
This machine is a great way to flush out food debris, especially if you wear a dental bridge that replaces missing teeth. The underside of a dental bridge will not be flush with your gums so it may trap food. I don’t think a waterpik can be used to replace manual flossing.
You can scrape and scour your teeth all you want but if you don’t have enough vitamin C bathing your gums, the debris on your teeth keeps building. This was proven by one of my favorite nutritional researchers, the late Emmanuel Cheraskin, MD, DMD.
His team found that people with the poorest ascorbic acid levels had the most dental debris while the group with the highest ascorbate levels had the least accumulations.
Cheraskin calls the effect of vitamin C, The Invisible Toothbrush. The current feeling is that vitamin C’s importance in collagen production is the defining factor in the relationship between vitamin C and your teeth. As more research is done, I’m sure other nutrients will be found indispensable to oral health.
- Oil Pulling
Instead of a mouth wash, I recommend Coconut & Sesame Oil Pulling. But I just want to remind you that it’s one of the best things you can do for oral hygiene. The top three benefits of oil pulling have to do with the teeth and gums. Oil pulling keeps your teeth white, makes them stronger at the roots and stops bleeding gums.
Oil pulling probably works because it traps and neutralizes bacteria that create dental plaque and cause gingivitis. For me, sesame oil is a superior mouth rinse and protects the teeth from cavities with no side effects like fluoride and Listerine.
You can make a mouth rinse with water and a few drops of the essential oils. The point is not to kill all the bacteria in your mouth because some are good bacteria. The purpose of a mouth rinse should just be to make your mouth feel fresh. Personally I keep a clove in my mouth as a breath freshener. It’s a breath mint and an antibacterial. I used them every day in my practice and never once got sick.
The Sugar Connection
Rinsing, brushing, flossing and oil pulling are important measures to keep the sugars in our food from adhering to our teeth. But you can also avoid the worst kinds of sugar. The acidity of sugar can cause damage to enamel and allow bacteria to cause cavities. The worst offenders are gummy candies and mints that dissolve slowly in your mouth or sodas that you sip on. The worst offenders can be throat lozenges that you suck 24/7 when you have a sore throat. Hold a clove of garlic in your mouth instead. And don’t even think of substituting sugarless candy. Aspartame, the artificial sweetener has even more dangerous side effects.
Tales The Tongue Can Tell
Most people don’t think about their tongue at all. It tastes things, it gets burned with too hot food or drinks; it is used in various pleasurable activities, but that’s not all. The tongue, lying softly inside the mouth, is an internal organ that is affected by the complexity of the body’s inner activities. It is bathed with the same blood via the veins and arteries; it is drained by the same lymphatic tissues; and it maintains the same temperature as the internal organs.
Therefore, it can be counted on to reflect the changes that the internal organs undergo. You’ve probably heard of foot reflexology where the whole body is represented on the sole of the foot, or ear acupuncture where the whole body is represented in the ear. The tongue is also a map of the body which specifically identifies the organs. The heart is located at the tip of the tongue; the stomach and digestive organs run down the center; the liver is on either side.
Having studied Chinese Medicine, I’m very aware of the importance of a healthy tongue. Knowing that, I find myself staring at tongues – mostly the ones on TV. When a deep throated singer gives me a full view to their tongue and tonsils I often notice a heavy white coating. That may be dehydration and even fear. But I think it’s more likely yeast overgrowth, also called thrush.
Without getting into the complexity of Chinese Medicine diagnosis, I just want to give you a few examples of health conditions expressed on the tongue. Just being aware that the tongue is a reflection of your health will help you understand your body more.
- A white, thin coating on a red tongue is normal. If there is a progressive illness then there is a color progression from yellow, to red, to gray, to dark or black.
- A thin, dry, cracked tongue indicates dehydration and heat.
a. Drink more water and eat juicy, cooling foods—like cucumbers, celery and watermelon.
b. Avoid hot spicy foods.
- A yellow, furry coating on the tongue points to toxicity.
- Try a short fast. Tooth indentations on the sides of the tongue correspond to the location of the liver and indicate fluid retention.
a. Take Potassium Broth, which acts like a natural diuretic and detoxifier. See the recipe in Module 63, Weekly Fasting.
b. Drink the Lemonade I recommend in Module 63, Weekly Fasting, with ginger, cayenne to help support your liver function.
Questions and Answers
How do I overcome fear of the dentist?
I know how you feel. When I was young my dentist was European and didn’t believe in an anesthetic! I was terrified of the pain and the high pitched drills. Modern dentistry has come a long way to prevent pain. But I found out I don’t like the effects of anesthetics.
Several things helped me get over my dental terror and allows me to have some mild dental procedures without anesthetic. I used Aconite, Arnica and acupressure. Aconite is a homeopathic remedy for extreme fear. Arnica is for pain. I take several doses of both before the dentist and I take Arnica after. I also massage the web space between my thumb and pointer finger while in the dentist chair as well as my ear lobe. Both areas when rubbed or needled can cause temporary numbing of the gums.
What do you think about the Ayurvedic practice of tongue scraping with an instrument?
I have never used a tongue scraper. Instead, I use my toothbrush to gently brush my tongue with forward sweeping strokes. Or I use my top teeth to scrape my tongue from back to front. And I use oil pulling as described above to clean my mouth and tongue.