I know, I know. I’m being a dirty hippie again.
But hear me out. You just might go for this one.
I don’t know about you, but I have always HATED toothpaste. Hated. it. The overly-minty-fakeness of it, the soapy weird feeling in my mouth, the slimy residue left over… disgusting. I used to rinse my mouth an excessive amount after brushing to get every last trace of paste out of there, probably bordering on a level of obsessive compulsion. Ask my mother, or any ex-boyfriend of mine and they will tell you — I cannot stand the taste, smell, feeling, or any other presence of toothpaste.
Pre-Hubs‘ll even tell you that I especially can’t stand even looking at someone who’s brushing their teeth AND THEN TRYING TO SIMULTANEOUSLY TALK — because they might swallow a bit of paste which GROSSES ME THE FREAK OUT. (He knows not to do this.)
I’m starting to find it amazing that I actually found a man to marry my weirdness.
So for as long as I can remember, I’ve been using the least-chemically-fake type of toothpaste I can find. For the past couple years, that’s been this brand of natural paste. I… liked it as much as I could possibly like a toothpaste. Which is, as you’ve probably gathered, not a whole lot. But it was flavored with natural peppermint oil, and had minimal ingredients (no fluoride, of course, more on that later), and didn’t foam up in my mouth very much — BARF! UGHH! Sorry. That’s a bad mental image for me, the paste foam.
But I stopped using even the natural toothpaste.
Well… we just ran out of it.
So I went without — and to my surprise, my teeth felt just as clean as they did with the paste.
It’s been proven that brushing with no toothpaste is just as effective — and actually, may be even more effective — than brushing with toothpaste. So, I see no problem with my new paste-less oral hygiene regimen. And I think everyone should try it.
Um, what if you’re not a complete weirdo and actually enjoy toothpaste?
Well then, you might want to know what’s actually in that stuff you’re scrubbing all up in your grill multiple times a day. Most toothpaste is filled with awful things like sodium laurel sulphate and artificial sweeteners — both carcinogenic — and all kinds of petrochemicals and other nasty stuff.
Even “natural” toothpastes often contain glycerin, which is really not good for your teeth because it creates a filmy barrier that prevents minerals from strengthening teeth and could actually promote cavities — and it takes up to 27 rinses to get it off! (says Rami Nagel, author of Cure Tooth Decay: Heal and Prevent Cavities with Nutrition.)
And most toothpaste contains fluoride, a toxic industrial waste product that actually does not inhibit dental cavities, but does poison you slowly. Fluoride can give you all kinds of fun things like cystic acne, infertility, bone disease, and cancer, to name a few. Good thing they’re dumping that into our water supply, huh?
But what if your mouth is smelly?
Well, my mouth/breath doesn’t generally smell. Why? Because I don’t eat a bunch of crap that rots in there.
Seriously. If you read Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by my main man, Wes, you’ll see that populations of indigenous people who did not consume a modern western diet of processed foods were shown to have virtually no dental caries, or cavities. And those native peoples weren’t even brushing their teeth, much less using toothpaste.
I’m also pretty sure their breath didn’t smell that bad. I’ve noticed that since eating a traditional diet and avoiding processed foods, I don’t feel any sort of need to resort to the “minty freshness” of toothpaste or mints. My mouth just doesn’t get rank halfway through the day the way it used to. I don’t even have morning breath — and neither does Pre-Husband.
Yeah, well, if you’ve been chowing down cloves of garlic or something and are really stinking up the place, I doubt paste-less brushing is gonna cut it.
Maybe true. For those times when I’ve eaten something that is really lingering in my mouth, I just sprinkle a little good-ol’-fashioned aluminum-free baking soda onto my brush, and scrub away the smell.
And no, that stuff actually isn’t bad for your teeth. Even my totally mainstream dentist advises using it, and dispels the myth that baking soda causes enamel erosion:
For years the dental profession thought that baking soda was abrasive and shouldn’t be used, but research has now shown that this was incorrect because baking soda dissolves rapidly in the mouth and has only beneficial effects on the teeth. Turns out Grandma was right after all on using baking soda to clean your teeth.
-My dentist’s email newsletter. Nice work advocating natural dental care, Doc.
It’s salty-tasting, but it’s way, way more preferable to me than nasty, expensive toothpaste. And you get used to it — really.
So there you have it, friends. There’s really no need for the paste. It’s gross, pricey, usually filled with things that are bad, and your teeth will get cleaner and healthier without it.
What do you think?
Would you consider going pasteless? Share your thoughts below!
I get a really good organic brand for my husband, that has baking soda and essential oils, because he has it in his head that if it’s going to work, it must come out of a tube. LOL. For myself and our children, I make homemade: coconut oil, baking soda, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, peppermint essential oil, and a bit of stevia. We just mash it up to our liking and brush away! The kids can’t even stand to use “the old kind” of toothpaste any more- and my teenage daughter swears it makes her teeth so much whiter. 🙂
@GS, did you get the recipe for this DIY toothpaste somewhere, or have you posted it on a blog, et al? It sounds like a great recipe and I’d like to know the details if you’re willing to share them!
Yep, as soon as the last of my Tom’s Of Maine toothpaste is gone (which will be soon), I will be going only baking soda. My brain feels like I need to use “something”, so baking soda it will be. We did this off and on as a kid, anyway, so it’s not a real stretch for me. And when I had cancer 5 years ago, the baking soda and salt water rinses to keep the mouth sores at bay (yeah, I did the chemo route) wasn’t so bad either.
Tanja Guven says
Coconut oil, baking soda, mint oil, hydrogen peroxide and trace mineral solution make the best toothpaste if you mix them together.
Em, as someone who works for a dentist (although I’m NOT a dentist, let’s keep that in mind) who is committed to a natural and holistic approach to dentistry, I agree with you…partly. For most people, toothpaste isn’t necessarily doing much. The good comes from the actual BRUSHING, bristles pointed at a 45 degree angle up/down into your gum line (I promise this won’t brush away your gums…gum recession is caused by excessive forces on your teeth. I promise. But that’s a whole different story…) I will say though, that there are people who because of their body composition and/or dietary choices, have a mouth that has a tendency towards the acidic. This can be dangerous and breeds the type of bacteria that causes caries (cavities). For those people, using a natural toothpaste with baking soda, or even a homemade concoction with baking soda, mineral water, and a pinch of salt, is almost NECESSARY to balance the acidity.
Now…how do you feel about floss?! Most dentists, if they could pick between brushing your teeth only or flossing your teeth only, would pick flossing. 🙂
Joy at The Liberated Kitchen says
Great comment! I have gone in phases of using baking soda but lately have not and my kids have not. We always tended to cavities but since changing our diet (GAPS) and no longer using toothpaste we’ve had our best dental checkups ever.
Both kids’ “watch spots” have been a non-issue all year, where they used to have to go in every three months to monitor (and sometimes fill) cavities. I honestly can’t say how good they are about flossing, but their teeth look so much better!
I do floss religiously, more than I used to. I used to have problems flossing and brushing because of a very sensitive gag reflex, but changing my diet has changed that, too! I brush probably 1/4 as often as I used to, though (I had horrible bad breath), and I floss daily. My dentist changed my cleaning schedule to annual instead of every 6 months, things looked so good!
That’s a really good point, Shammy! I could totally see how the baking soda could help neutralize pH in the mouth. So you’re basically saying that most people could get away with using nothing on their toothbrush, but some people with a more acidic environment in their mouth should include baking soda for the alkalinity? Makes sense. I use it maybe 3 or 4 times a week. Is the salt for extra minerals? I’ll try to add that in too. And the 45 degree angle technique! Thanks.
Oh and as for flossing? Haha. I like to do it because the thought of stuff stuck between my teeth also grosses me out. I’m kind of on the fence as to how necessary it is if your diet is free of processed foods though, since people used to not get cavities like, ever, before industrialization of the food supply. But I’ll still do it. Actually, I’ll go do it right now! 😀 xo
They make a toothbrush that flosses while you brush. I use this without toothpaste. It really does get in between my teeth and they look better.
Sorry, the taste of baking soda makes me want to yak! I use just a tiny dab (smaller than pea sized) of natural toothpaste, or some homemade herbal tooth powder, and I’ve been water pic-ing after so that gives them an extra rinse. I sometimes oil pull with coconut oil, too. Rami’s a tooth-nazi, but he’s probably right (don’t tell him I posted the brownie recipe below). Oh – as for bad breath, that’s more related to gut health than clean teeth, for most folks.
YaY! So glad i’m not the only closet toothpaste hater… i use it every few times i brush and also sometimes baking soda but don’t care for that either…. i resorted to children’s bubble gum toothpaste the last few years because it tastes better and seems less ‘foamy’… toothpaste has always been nasty to me too!
I’ve always hated the minty residue too!!! Especially in the morning. In fact I always use a more mild toothpaste in the morning for this reason. Mint and the morning just don’t go together in my mind (or mouth!).
I have only used natural fluoride-free toothpastes for years (the truly natural variety), although something I have switched to doing recently is brushing with a mixture of sweet almond oil, and peppermint and spearmint essential oils. It’s amazing for your gums. I had some gum issues last year, and this recipe really helped them clear up. And I’m still doing it. It’s good for everyone, although obviously it is a STRONG minty flavor, which I don’t like so much. It fades really quickly, though – unlike those fake minty toothpastes!
Ki Vick says
I brush with salt water.Just dip the brush into warm salt water, brush well, then rinse with the warm salt water. Works wonders. I tried a homemade toothpaste with baking soda and coconut oil, but I didn’t care for it. The regular baking soda breaks my mouth out in little sores and a rash (I have a severe metal allergy) and aluminum free baking soda is so expensive. Plus, it’s nasty. So I just skip it and use salt water. Every now and again I oil pull too, but mostly just salt water.
Tami Lewis says
i haven’t used toothpaste in years. i do use one i make myself, baking soda and coconut oil, and it leaves my teeth feeling super smooth. and you are so right- since i don’t eat crap i don’t have that bad taste or smell. good for you!!
Joy at The Liberated Kitchen says
After years of terrible bad breath and being told I needed to brush more thoroughly, try new toothpastes and mouthwashes, scrape my tongue, etc… I changed my diet. I used to have terrible breath within a half hour of brushing and my teeth and mouth were always covered in a nasty slime. Now, as long as I stay away from sugar and grains, my breath is fine and my mouth is uncoated.
I notice that using toothpaste dries my mouth out and brings back bad breath (of a different sort). So I don’t use it, either. Our whole family has been sans toothpaste for about a year now and have had our BEST dental checkups ever!
Same deal with deoderant. Changing my diet took care of the smell.
I see your point, but indigenous peoples also had teeth covered with “moss” according to Weston Price – not exactly something I want for my teeth. Maybe tooth powders would be a good alternative?
Haha! Yeah… I know. But they also weren’t brushing whatsoever. I’m pretty sure we can avoid the “moss” if we brush with plain water, or if you want more remineralizing, I think tooth powders would be a good alternative. Rami Nagel recommends them in his book, Cure Tooth Decay. I might make my own soon out of eggshells and stuff.
its probably been 8 or 9 years that i have been using either tree tea oil or baking soda to brush my teeth with.
kelly v says
I couldn’t do the baking soda thing…didn’t like the feel or taste. I switched to a tooth soap and really like the outcome. My teeth look and feel cleaner.
Tooth soap?? Where do you find that and what does it look like?
I got mine from Rose of Sharon Acres and love it!
We’ve used the Jason powersmile, but then switched to A Vogel Echinacea Toothpaste and like it. Ingredients are: Aqua (Water), Sorbitol, Calcium carbonate, Silica, Alcohol, Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice extract), Potentilla erecta (Tormentil extract), Astragalus gummifer (Tragacanth gum), Mentha piperita (Peppermint oil), Echinacea purpurea (Coneflower extract), Vaccinium myrtillus (Bilberry extract), Acacia catechu, Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary oil), Limonene, Eucalyptus globulus (Eucalyptus globulus oil), Linalool. Sometimes, I use a mix of alum. free baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves & coconut oil instead.
Practical question: for those if you who make your own, what do you keep it in between brushings? Do you mix it in a little bowl. or what?
Would it work To mix baking soda with water (just enough to cover the soda) and then keep it in a squeeze bottle next to the sink? What have you all tried that works? It’s gotta be practical for there to be a chance of the family using it.
I’ve been changing toothpaste habits lately but haven’t gone all natural yet as I have very sensitive teeth and when I’ve gone without toothpaste or used plain herbal my teeth start to hurt again. I have gone fluoride free but would be grateful for natural suggestions to ease pain of sensitivity. I dont eat much sugar as this makes sensitivity worse, as does citrus.
I make my own “paste” which consists of a 1:1 ratio of virgin coconut oil and baking soda. I mix it together well and them scrape it into a jar with a screw-on lid. It works great, my teeth feel silky clean and they are whiter then ever—not artificially “bleached” white, just natural teeth white. I’ve also found that there is less tarter buildup since using this recipe. Hs anyone else tried this?
Almost forgot, since the best way to dispense this coconut/baking soda paste is to dip your toothbrush into the jar, I suggest a seperate covered jar for each family member.
I have switched from t’paste to straight coconut oil. So happy!
Susan W says
I’ve been using baking soda – sodium bicarbonate, (if you want to be technical) for awhile now. At one point, I added some neem powder to the mix: tastes very bitter but did a really good job as a dentifrice.
In India, it is said that the people would take the twigs of the neem tree, crush the ends so the natural antiseptic qualities of the oil of the neem tree and would brush their teeth with that.
In the Middle East, the miswak twigs are used for the same thing. In fact, you can still buy the miswak twigs for tooth brushing to the day. Very likely that the miswak and the neem tree are the same tree. 😉
Stacy @Stacy Makes Cents says
Very interesting Emily…as always. 🙂 Something to get me thinking – we love Toms of Maine, but I’m weird and actually like brushing my teeth. LOL
Lindsay Lewis says
I almost never use toothpaste. Only if I have Yuck Mouth (yes, it’s capitalized) from eating the occasional not-so-wholesome foods. And I don’t really floss that often either. Sometimes I forget to brush my daughter’s teeth and I start to get all freaked out and feel guilty because I’ve always been taught that you have to brush your teeth at least twice a day for at least two minutes, and I’m sorry but what 2 year old is going to let you brush their teeth for a whole TWO MINUTES??? Then I remember that she eats a lot of good food, and still nurses, so she probably doesn’t have much in the way of bad bacteria in her mouth anyhow. *sigh of relief* 😀
Lori Hora says
We stopped using traditional toothpaste a long time ago. Inspired Living sells a non-floride toothpaste that we have been using for quite a while. They also sell tooth soap but no one liked using it here at my house. They sell two different flavors – mint and lemon. They also sell a tooth polishing product that I really like a lot.
Therese - Artistta says
We stopped using toothpaste at least 6 months ago now and I for one haven’t missed it. I agree that a healthier, more traditional diet makes a huge difference in your overall breath issues. I don’t use a plain tooth brush, but instead use coconut oil with a little baking soda mixed in. Originally I started with this recipe (http://artistta.blogspot.com/2011/04/closer-look-at-glyerin-and-whether-its.html) which I shared on my sight.
If people love the minting fresh flavor, try some peppermint extract or oil mixed with a little oil and baking soda.
Another great bonus to not using toothpaste… it saves you money and in a serious way. When natural toothpaste was getting to me $5-$8 a tube, I thought “this is ridiculous” and who wants to spend their money that way, especially if you have a family and can go through a lot of toothpaste.
Fun post to read and I certainly don’t think you are weird, of course us real foodies are kind of in a league of our own. 😀
I love that you joke about being a dirty hippie. I think it’s the only way, as a fellow minimal-showering, no-toothpaste-using, no-deodorant-wearing [GASP!] and (yet!) amazingly clean and nice-smelling dirty hippie.
As for toothpaste, I used to use the 1:1(ish) extra-virgin unrefined coconut oil/baking soda (with some clove essential oil for anti-bacterial power).
Then I switched to castille soap (Dr. Bronner’s, to be exact).
Then I started oil pulling with the same coconut oil or organic extra-virgin olive oil, and in between I just scrub my teetch.
Diet has everything to do with it, methinks. Just like diet has a lot to do with body odor, hair quality, skin quality…you know, most everything.
Keep on rockin’ the butter.
Violet Folklore says
Very excited about discovering your blog tonight!
A few years ago I took an awesome holistic dental care workshop at the Northern California Women’s Herbal Symposium with a woman named Rupam Henry. I was interested in how to heal the one cavity I have (goddamn uneducated vegan pregnancy) but ended up learning so much that changed the way I think about tooth and bone health.
I am now a bone broth making, butter slurping, carnivorous mama doing everything I can to educate people about traditional nutrition, and dental care is a big part of that.
I usually use no toothpaste at all, but occasionally I use a special “tooth soap” that Rupam makes and sells on her website. It contains none of the bad stuff in commercial (even “natural”) toothpastes, and no glycerin either. Allow me to quote her…
“‘One-Drop-Only’ is based on a mineral-rich soap without a foaming agent (magnesium, potassium and calcium) and with added essential oil of myrrh and stabilized oxygen to bring circulation to the gum tissue, reducing pockets and inflammation.
Next I added Himalayan crystal salt dissolved in water to bring 84 trace minerals to dentin and enamel. Flower essences, like almond, snapdragon and self-heal etc. to strengthen enamel, dentin, bone and gum-tissue. Flower essence of Jasmine to assist self-expression and issues related to imbalances of the throat and mouth.”
You can find out more here: http://rupamherbals.com/holisitic-health/dental/one-drop-only-dental-soap-tooth-elixir/
So, there’s another option.
I’m stoked to learn that baking soda does not erode enamel. Thanks for bringing that bit of information to me.
Despite my stellar (if I do say so myself) diet and near-obsessive oral hygiene habits (Queen of Flossing, right here), I noticed last week that my front teeth are turning translucent at the tips. I was freaked out. My preliminary research has led me to a sad conclusion: the acidity in the fermented herbal drinks I’ve been buying and making this summer may be causing this. I was just getting into my flow with lacto-fermenting, and am disheartened to have to let it lapse for a while. Any suggestions or advice? I started taking coral calcium and upped my raw milk intake right away and cut out the fermented drinks, for now.
Thanks for the killer website and helpful information!
I have the same problem!! just came across this looking for an answer.
I stopped using toothpaste about 5 or 6 weeks ago, and yesterday noticed the tips of my top row were becoming transparent/translucent.
I would like to note that occasionally I would put a drop or two of cinnamon oil on the toothbrush if I felt a need for a more fresh feeling.
My current plan since not finding a satisfactory answer is to go back to toothpaste for a little while and see what happens.
Laura Snell says
I’m new here, and read the about me section to find out what a pre-hubs is, but I didn’t find out!
Hahah oh dear! That’s because I recently updated it. Pre-Hubs is my used-to-be-fiance, now husband. I just hated the word “fiance.” Blech. 🙂
I’ve been using baking soda for years, because I don’t like toothpaste, or anything mint, in the morning (not to mention the chemicals and expense).
Hell yeah! I’m over toothpaste! I’m in the same situation where I just ran out of my last bit of Jasön and I’m SO over it. Thank you very much for your story. I just like to know sometimes that I am truly not the only crazy <3. AND I really need ANOTHER reason to clean up my diet :).
Thank you for this article! I’ve been completely toothpaste less for five years, and over time I have been getting less and less cavities. Part it may be due to the pact that I used to constantly eat sweets, but the point is I have a very healthy mouth and I find toothpaste disgusting.
Always glad to find a fellow paste-hater! lol
Thanks for your article! I got inspired by an article (and by some friend couples who have also made important decisions like these in their lives) and I now use no soap or toothpaste. So far, never felt cleaner! For one, I brush with warm water three times per day.
However one disagreement I have with the naturalism movement is that we don’t talk about how expensive it is: I don’t want to replace toothpaste with expensive aluminum-free baking soda, or “regular” foods with expensive “organic” food. I think compromise is important. Doing farmers’ markets and freezing vegetables/making preserves, using water over any product at all, etc.
I like to live by a principle of restraint: if a “health” food is more expensive than its “non-heath” counterpart then I’ll go without.
I think the real victory will come when, rather than me paying a premium to get “organic” or “natural” products, all the corporations get out of the way and I can buy everything I need cheap directly from the farmers and producers in my city.
Jill Hinton says
That’s a great thought, but when out comes to carrying it out, I think it compromises your values instead of your budget. Going organic isn’t just trend or fad, its the healthiest type of food that is guaranteed to be natural and GMO, antibiotic, and pesticide free. Not to mention the studies that show how much more nutritious organic food is, or how we really don’t have any proof whatsoever that conventional farming and food processing is safe longterm. Also, organic food typically isn’t that expensive if you buy it from farmers directly, like you said, but keep in mind that every certified organic farm has to pay loads of strict, expensive fees annually that conventional farmers don’t have to pay. Hence, much more expensive, comparatively.
I agree with you partly, though– every customer must choose wisely what they can make a priority with their given budget.
Studies actually do not show that it’s more nutritious, but whatever.
i’ve used saltwater to brush for probably 3 years now.
This was a great post. I firmly agree with tooth paste being a waste of time. I hated toothpaste growing up as well and also mouth wash hahaha.
I’ve stopped using it too since the last month. I’ve been in a “material/modern-unnecessary-stuff/capitalism detatchment” quest, and the good thing is that i’m having really nice results. I’ve made a test for three days without using toothpaste to see if i was going to get a bad breath, and for one month without using toothpaste, i didn’t get any strange smell coming from my mouth. I even ask people if they’re feeling any bad breath from my mouth, but the answer is always “no”, “i can’t feel anything”, “all normal”.
All we need to do is the regular “mechanical” mouth cleaning with toothbrush and dental floss, and there will be no problems.
But i think your weirdness isn’t so hardcore as mine: I use sodium bicarbonate instead of shampoo and vinegar as hair conditioner (my allergy is gone,and my hair is really nice and shiny, and my head doesn’t smell vinegar, believe me). I don’t use any soap, just wash my body hard with sponge and water (i don’t stink, it’s a fact). And i got rid of my bed, and now sleep on the floor, and among other advantages, my backpain is gone 🙂
Well, nice post.
Yes, I think the mechanical action of scrubbing seems to be what does most of the cleaning, anyway!
Oh, I am impressed with your crunchiness. I’ve done the “no-poo” thing (didn’t do so well with that), but avoiding soap, that’s ambitious. 😉
Do you recommend chewing a sugar-free gum? 🙂
I don’t chew gum, personally. But sugary gums leave a gross film on my teeth, so I guess I’d opt for sugar-free if I were to make the choice!
I get a reaction from most artificial sweetners. Untill now I haven’t bothered about my toothpaste because I spit it out & my reaction to sorbitol used to be quite mild, but it is getting worse & I have been looking at other brands for weeks to find one without artificial sweetners, but with little success (@ least in my area).
I already use 1/2 bicarb for my washing powder… & keep large boxes of it for various other reasons… I will definatelatly try brushing with bicarb or nothing! Sounds way better than gagging & then coughing for 10 – 15 minutes as my chest & sinuses recover from the toothpaste.
(Aspatemine & MSG would case me to also spend 3 days in bed with a migraine worse than natural childbirth. Which is why this reaction seems mild, but as I write it down, it doesn’t seem so very mild anymore.)
looks like someone like me exists in this world,i stopped using tooth paste long back,i cant even bear the smell of it,i feel like digusting if i watch someone brushes infront of me,dont know how to handle the situation in future,i usually dont move to new places because of this problem,i cant share this problem with anyone,because it looks funny,wierd to others,but for me,this is the most important drawback of me from my childhood