In which I ask my doctor and dentist to weigh in on homemade toothpaste

Since deciding to switch to homemade toothpaste/toothpowder, I’ve read A LOT on the subject, mostly in the form of blog posts by writers who extol the virtues of adding this or that to the mix. I’m on my third batch in four and a half months — more on that in a minute — as I try to get a recipe nailed down that I like … all the while wondering what my doctor and dentist would think about this whole ordeal.

Melting coconut oil in a saucepan of water is actually a pretty cool trick. Which I stole, obviously.

You can add coconut oil to your baking soda … but my dentist doesn’t recommend it.

I mean, I’m an English major, you guys. And I minored in History. Let’s just say science classes were low on the ground. And also, I’m totally in favor of keeping my teeth.

I had my annual physical in August, and on my list of items to discuss with my doctor (whom I love and adore) was zero waste toothpaste.

Tangent: At first she thought I said zero WAIST.

Once we quit laughing over semantics, she said that she thought it was great — that we used to use straight up baking soda before commercial toothpaste came on the market, and it does an effective job. She qualified that by saying she had no idea how my dentist would feel about that assessment, but on her end, brushing with baking soda would be fine.

So then I asked about adding various elements to that baking soda, like bentonite clay, xylitol, essential oils, etc. She just shrugged and said she had no idea if those were medically proven to work or not, but it sounded like maybe those things were added simply to improve the taste (“Because straight baking soda is terrible!”).

So that was encouraging.

On Tuesday afternoon, I had a dentist appointment … because one of my old fillings was cracking my tooth and I had to get a crown. Not cool, teeth. I was sitting in the chair, all numb and kind of cranky about that, telling my dentist (who is just a little too jovial about all procedures) how a coworker thought I was off to get a tiara when I told her I was out for the rest of the day because I needed a crown. (Words, you guys. And also: This is why English is a confusing language.)

I should get tiaras for everyone who has to get a crown! he said, and then paused. Nah, they’d just hit the trash the second everyone left the office.

OOOOH! I yelled, all excited I actually remembered my toothpaste question. So I tell him about my zero waste goals and switching to homemade toothpaste, and he was like, yes! Do it! He’s kind of overly enthusiastic anyway (oh, wait, so am I), but he said he’s a big fan of home remedies — if they work.

So I start rattling off the ingredients I’ve been adding to my various pastes and powders. What about bentonite clay?

That’s just ash. Really, the concern would be that you’re not getting any fluoride.

What about, like, calcium citrate?

No idea.

Coconut oil?

That sounds like a waste of perfectly good coconut oil.

So just … baking soda?

Wet your toothbrush and get it good and coated. It’s super abrasive, so your teeth are going to feel really clean.

I guess the moral of this story is that you can add whatever you want to your toothpaste or toothpowder … but keep in mind it’s more for taste and texture, not actual oral hygiene. I will also add that I’ll be on my fourth attempt now as I start using boring ol’ baking soda … with some xylitol to sort of sweeten the deal, mostly just because I have a bunch that I want to use up.

P.S. I am going to again encourage you to not take my word for it on this or any other front, nor that of my doctor and dentist, but to do your own research and talk to your own care providers and come to your own conclusions. There. I feel better.

Next up: Actually, I’m kind of hoping to be inspired this weekend …

10 Responses to In which I ask my doctor and dentist to weigh in on homemade toothpaste

  1. I’m so glad you asked your dentist about that! Thanks! WE are coconuit swishing at our house every once in a while. If your dentist had read any good research on that I’m sure he would have mentioned it.

    • I’m just glad I remembered! He actually went on a minute-long rant over oil pulling, mostly because A) No evidence that it works and 2) a sort of disbelief that anyone would want coconut oil in their mouths for 20 minutes. I’ve never done it, but I know how awesome my teeth feel after using a coconut oil-based toothpaste … and I have a friend who’s all in and totally believes it has helped her teeth. So I don’t know. If something makes you feel better, is there a value in that even if it’s not medically proven to work? I think maybe. Although I will be switching to just baking soda and saving the coconut oil for homemade lotion. I haven’t figured out what to do about the fluoride part of this, though. Our water doesn’t have any, and with my allergies — and zero waste leanings — buying a plastic bottle of swishy stuff doesn’t exactly thrill me.

      • I’ve been oil pulling and using a combination of coconut oil and sea salt with sometimes a hint of baking soda and my teeth and gums have never been in better shape. My dentist has actually commented on it my last two appointments.

        • See, I think that’s really interesting. I don’t do oil pulling, but I like how my teeth feel after I’ve brushed with it. Anyway, thanks for sharing — I might have to try it just to see what happens. Although 20 minutes is more than my attention span will allow. (Does it have to be for 20 minutes? I have no idea.)

  2. Absolutely do NOT use baking soda! Every dentist I have ever had says it is MUCH too abrasive. I lost a great deal of enamel to baking soda.

  3. Hi, a word on Xylitol. There has been a few studied about it’s benefits, and boiling down to the fact that it’s a type of sugar the bacteria in our mouths cannot feed on. Which means that although it’s sweet it promotes good oral hygiene. Here’s a good article on the subject:

    In regards to coconut oil, it’s meant to have disincentive properties which further helps to keep your mouth clean. I brush my teeth with a past made of coconut oil, Xylitol and baking soda which means the last ingredient isn’t too abrasive.
    Interestingly, I find that my teeth don’t stay clean for as long as when I used “Colgate 12-hour” or other manufactured paste, but I simply brush more than twice a day if that’s the case. Did you notice something similar?
    I am yet to add clove/cinnamon to my paste when my current batch runs out. 🙂

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