If you’re looking for natural ingredients to achieve a health mouth, you’ve got more than one product to try. Whichever you choose, don’t forget that it’s not a replacement for brushing, flossing, and essentially mechanically removing sticky plaque (a mixture of food, bacteria, and saliva) from your teeth.
Are Natural Oral Care Products Safe?
Most natural oral care products are safe to use and we’re still learning which natural ingredients work best to help prevent cavities and gum disease and to promote a healthy mouth. Don’t completely ignore your fluoride, though. At the very low doses found in Over-the-counter and prescription toothpastes and varnishes, it protects the surface of the tooth and makes it more resistant to acid attack. When decay starts, the minerals in the surface of the tooth are leached out by acid from bacteria. Fluoride is a mineral that can be reincorporated into the surface of the tooth and make it strong and sound again.
Natural or Herbal Options for a Healthy Mouth
Some of the following natural or herbal substances, including common foods and drinks, can help clean teeth.
- Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
- Peroxide (must be carefully diluted, since it can cause burns to gums at full strength)
- Green tea
- Eucalyptol, menthol, and tea tree oil
- Xylitol gum or lozenges
- Vitamin D
One study suggests that rinsing with green tea extract may help protect your teeth from acid erosion. Another shows it might stop starchy foods, such as crackers or cake, from causing tooth decay. And a third shows that people who regularly drink green tea have healthier gums than those who don’t. Tea can stain the teeth, but the stain can be removed at your regular cleaning visits.
Oils such as eucalyptol, menthol, and tea tree, can help kill bacteria in your mouth and minimize gum inflammation. You’ll find toothpaste and mouthwash with these ingredients.
Xylitol, a natural sugar alcohol that does not cause tooth decay, may actually inhibit bacteria from growing and from adhering to your tooth surface. It’s sold as a gum or lozenge, but it’s not clear just how well it works. One study says it helped cut cavities in adults by only 10%.
Vitamin D may be good for your mouth by helping your body kill bacteria. Studies show you may be more likely to get gum disease if you don’t have enough of it. Some foods and drinks that have vitamin D are eggs, tuna, salmon, and fortified orange juice.
Other Oral Health Supplements
Other supplements that have been shown to improve gum health are:
- Grape seed extract: A powerful antioxidant with 20-50 times the potency of vitamins C and E, naturopaths have been using it for years to help treat other inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and eczema.
- CoQ10: Improves healing. It’s vital to the production of cellular energy and immune system function, and has been used in medicine for congestive heart failure, Parkinson’s and cancer.
- Echinacea: Inhibits enzymes that break down tissue.
- Folic acid: Promotes development of normal gum tissue. It binds to endotoxins (byproducts of bacteria) and renders them neutral. It may help in periodontal disease prevention, and it may help in healing if taken during periodontal treatment.
Oil Pulling is another commonly questioned topic. I think that trying to bind to and dislodge bacteria with hydrophobic oil is a good theory. It’s very unlikely to cause decay and it may very well help prevent it by reducing the number of bacteria in your mouth. But please do it responsibly and don’t neglect mechanically removing bacteria from your mouth by regular brushing and flossing and at least small doses of fluoride to help remineralize early decay.
Yours in oral health,
Whitney Frank, DDS