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I’ve always been a firm believer in dental health, so you can imagine my surprise when I learned that the conventional toothpastes, mouthwashes, and flosses I was using were likely cleaning my teeth but killing my oral microbiome, which could negatively impact my overall health. What the heck!
As per usual, I did a deep dive into a natural dental routine that’d not only keep my pearly whites shining, but also prioritize the health of “good” bacteria in my mouth. The switchover was actually easier than I expected!
With a few swaps from conventional products to natural ones, you can make the same beneficial change.
In this post, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about your oral microbiome plus how to properly care for it. Let’s get started!
First of all, what is the Oral Microbiome?
A hot health topic today is the gut microbiome since many studies have linked one’s gut health to his/her propensity for disease and mood disorders. Now, some researchers even refer to the gut as a “second brain”! It’s that important.
A less-discussed but increasingly popular notion is that the mouth contains a special, perfectly balanced microbiome of its own. The oral microbiome consists of “the collective genomes of microorganisms that reside in the oral cavity. Many researchers believe that the characterisation of [the] oral microbiome is an essential step in understanding oral health and systemic diseases.”
Thus, it’s becoming increasingly clear that you should be caring not only for your gut microbiome, but also for your oral mircrobiome.
Unfortunately, the standard toothpastes, mouthwashes, dental flosses, and teeth whitening systems are not doing any favors for comprehensive oral health. That’s why it’s important to take gentler, more natural steps to revive it!
How, you ask? Here are some tips…
How to Bring Your Oral Microbiome Back to Life!
1. Ditch your commercial mouthwash.
Once I learned that popular mouthwashes by brands like Listerine and Oral-B act like bombs in your mouth killing both bad and good bacteria off, I said goodbye to my once beloved mouthwashes and opted for a new routine.
Now, I engage in a process called “oil pulling” 3-4 times per week. Oil pulling “is an age-old remedy rooted in Ayurvedic medicine that uses natural substances to clean and detoxify teeth and gums. It has the added effect of whitening teeth naturally and evidence even shows that it may be beneficial for gum health and that certain oils may help fight harmful bacteria in the mouth!”
Thus, oil pulling does what commercial mouthwashes can’t: It fights off bad bacteria without obliterating all good bacteria, so good bacteria have the chance to multiply and thrive.
After reading an article about oil pulling by Ayurvedic expert Sahara Rose, I opted to use coconut oil for my routine. Coconut oil is an excellent choice because it possesses anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties; I like this brand.
At first, I began by swishing two tablespoons in my mouth for about five minutes. Even though the oil is tasteless, it took some getting used to. Now, I’ve worked up to 10-15 minutes several nights each week. The longer and more frequent, the better!
When oil pulling, you can just go about your business. No need to stand in the bathroom the entire time! I like to oil pull right when I get home while unpacking my bag, tidying up, and/or meal prepping.
FYI: When finished, be sure not to spit the oil down the sink because it can clog your drain! (I learned this the hard way…) Spitting it in a trash can is best.
Since I’ve been doing this, I’ve noticed that my teeth have gotten whiter and my digestion has improved. Sahara Rose explains the ability of oil pulling to boost digestion:
. . . digestion begins the moment food touches our lips. As we eat food, our tongues detect its micro- and macronutrients and tell our bodies what enzymes are necessary for digestion. If the surface of your tongue isn’t clean, it isn’t going to know what’s what in that 20-ingredient salad! If the tongue is unable to accurately dictate what we are consuming, as a result our digestive system will not appropriately break down nutrients.
Really, you can’t go wrong with oil pulling. It’s a “win” on so many fronts, so just try it out for yourself!
2. Say “SEE YA!” to your old toothpaste.
Similarly, popular toothpastes contain good bacteria destroyers and chemicals like aluminum hydroxide, aspartame, carrageenan, DEA (diethanolamine), flavorings, fluoride, food coloring, formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, parabens, potassium sorbate, propylene glycol, sodium benzoate, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium saccharin, titanium dioxide, and triclosan. Gross!
Dr. Alvin Danenberg, D.D.S. and author of Crazy-Good Living: Healthy Gums, Healthy Gut, Healthy Life, explains that the claims made by commercial toothpaste manufacturers are misleading and confusing:
Most conventional toothpastes in the marketplace include chemicals that are harsh to the teeth and gums. While these chemicals may make toothpaste ‘feel smooth’ or ‘taste good’ or ‘help to whiten teeth’ or ‘coat the teeth to prevent decay’, these chemicals are unhealthy overall. Toothpaste companies will not share the truth of these potentially harmful chemicals with you.
According to Dr. Danenberg, toothpaste is not even necessary because “the mechanical cleaning with dental floss and various sized brushes will adequately clean your teeth.”
Still, I find tooth brushing to be satisfying. I’m not willing to give it up!
In his interview on the Primal Blueprint podcast (it’s a great one, by the way. Definitely worth a listen!), Danenberg says that he brushes with a homemade concoction of coconut oil + baking soda. This mix does the trick without the harshness of the chemicals and additives in commercial pastes.
If you’re not into the whole DIY thing, there are natural, fluoride-free, mineral toothpastes that also work like a charm.
My favorite natural dental care brand is Dr. Brite. This line was created by two concerned doctors—a cancer surgeon and a dentist—who were both extremely worried about the toxicity of conventional toothpastes, mouthwashes, etc. Because of that, Dr. Brite prioritizes the best ingredients!
If you’re more of a mint person, fear not! They also sell a mint chip toothpaste.
And, good news! If the aforementioned oil pulling routine just isn’t for you, Dr. Brite makes gentle mouthwashes, as well! Many of their mouthwashes are also EWG-verified.
3. Toss those conventional teeth-whitening strips.
Instead, opt for a cleaner diet.
Both Dr. Danenberg and Dr. Steven Lin, D.D.S. and author of The Dental Diet, advocate for dental optimization through diet optimization. (To hear Dr. Steven Lin’s thoughts in greater detail, check out this excellent podcast episode.)
Dentist Weston A. Price was the first to make the connection between diet and dental health. Through his research of and exposure to primitive tribes, he discovered that their access to sugar-laden, highly processed foods severely and negatively impacted their dental health:
. . . physical degeneration occurred in children of native parents who had adopted the white man’s diet; while mixed race children whose parents had consumed traditional foods were born with wide handsome faces and straight teeth.
The diet recommendations by Danenberg, Lin, and Price are all quite similar; each dentist places a focus on whole, organic, sugar-free, unprocessed foods. (Click here to view Weston A. Price’s detailed diet recommendations.)
But wait…there’s more! When you eat in a way that improves your dental health, you’ll also enhance your overall health! Thus, caring for the oral microbiome is synonymous with caring for your body in general.
If you reeeeeally want a quick whitening fix, make sure to use a natural alternative that’s free from chemicals and peroxides. Primal Life Organics makes an excellent product!
4. Cast aside your name brand floss.
A study in Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology from January 2019 suggests a link between Oral-B Glide dental floss with elevated levels of toxic PFAS chemicals in the body. PFAS are water- and grease-proof substances that have been linked with numerous health problems.
If all-natural dental floss exists, why not use that instead? My favorite is RADIUS’ 100% vegan mint floss.
If flossing has never been your thing, you may want to try my new obsession: reusable dental picks! These are great to keep in your purse/bag/backpack for those occasions when whipping out dental floss is frowned upon. They even come with a handy carrying case. What’s not to love?!
5. Use a regular ol’ spoon as a tongue scraper.
Did you know that the collection of bad bacteria on the back of your tongue may be the cause of your bad breath?
That’s why tongue scraping is oh-so important (and addictive!).
Instead of buying a fancy contraption, you can use a regular ol’ spoon for this. Simply turn it upside down and (gently!) scrape your tongue a few times (from the back to the front). When finished, use the spoon as it’s intended to be used; scoop up any goop from your tongue and rinse it down the drain.
If you want to buy a fancy contraption, check out this one.
Whew! All of the above can feel overwhelming! But really, by spending only $30-40, you can replace all of your good-bacteria-destroying oral products with those that’ll promote true dental and overall health.
Bottom line: After just a few simple swaps, you’ll be on the road to prioritizing the health of your oral microbiome and your teeth/gums! What are you waiting for…?!
Have comments or questions? Share your thoughts below!
⇒ Wanna ditch fad diets and health myths forever? I provide expert coaching through a foolproof formula: self-awareness + sustainable habits + simple swaps = lifelong WELLth! Click here to learn more!
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