It's been about eighteen months since I last brushed my teeth regularly with commercial toothpaste. And yes my teeth are still here and healthy, and they are actually whiter than before.
The reason I switched to making my own toothpaste was twofold: firstly I didn't want to put more chemicals in my mouth or body, and secondly I couldn't bear the thought of throwing away endless empty tubes or pumps over my lifetime. The thought of this, multiplied by all the people doing the same around the world, fills me with despair - literally. Not to rant too much but where does it all go?!!! I know not everyone will care as much as me, or start making their own, but why aren't the manufacturers finding better ways to package things? Oh yes, I remember, it's all down to money....
Anyway, before I completely lose my train of thought, let's not dwell on the negative. This post is to show how easy it is to make your own toothpaste, with no horrible chemicals, and barely any packaging (just for the ingredients).
The last time I tried to brush my teeth with a regular toothpaste I almost gagged on the Sodium Lauryl Sulphate which by the way, is what also goes into most of your washing/cleaning products to make them lather up. It's what makes your mouth get all foamy when you brush your teeth, and it's not good for your skin, so it's even worse to put in your mouth, where we absorb all sorts of things.
Having researched this subject for a while, I'd first been looking at what was in 'natural' toothpastes in the health food shop, and supermarkets. Many of these seemed to also contain SLS, as well as some other dubious ingredients. There's also the great fluoride debate, which I'm not going to go into in much detail but here's a good piece on the BBC website with differing opinions. Personally I don't want to drink fluoridated water, or have it in my toothpaste.
I also tried my good friend Compton's brand of probiotic toothpaste, Oralive, which is made in the US. I absolutely love his brand, Ascended Health and all his products (I'll be writing a follow up post on these), and while this was a great transition for me, I wanted something that I could source closer to home, for a low cost, and that would be easy for others to make.
So, I started looking at homemade alternatives, which is what I always end up doing! There are many recipes on the web, some as simple as bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and coconut oil, and some with complex lists of herbs and other ingredients.
I tried loads of them! Some were pretty revolting, and others were okay but required me to order lots of ingredients to create the finished product which defeated the point of reducing packaging (I've used these up now). I quite liked an Aloe Vera gel-based recipe but found that it didn't have a long shelf life (even with Vitamin C and E added to preserve), and found that baking soda was far too abrasive for my sensitive teeth, not to mention that I hated the salty taste.
After all these trials, I've finally settled on my favourite recipe, and guess what? It's the simplest!
I have to note here that I haven't got my children onto homemade toothpaste yet, or tried a child-friendly version. They are still on natural tubes. As you can see from the photo, the toothpaste is green, yes GREEN! And trying to convince a child to put green goo in their mouth when they are 11 (too cool to try something outside the norm) and 5 (yuk, what's that?!) is quite difficult! If you have younger children and want to try these recipes, I would get them onto it at a very young age, right from babies if possible, as they will never know any different, and won't have become accustomed to brushing teeth with 'Berry Blast' or 'Bubblegum' flavours! I feel I have a steep climb ahead of me to switch my two over! I'll post an update if I ever achieve the goal and may need to resort to bribery!
(UPDATE: 11-year-old responded well to bribery - new Xbox game! - and is now using the toothpaste! He understands my reasoning behind wasteful plastic packaging, and health aspect of using less chemicals. 5-year-old on the other hand literally gagged when he saw the mixture! He has a strong gag reflex anyway so not quite sure how I'll be getting him to try it!)
So here is the recipe for Cool Mint Clay toothpaste:
2 tablespoons of either green illite, bentonite, or kaolin clay
2 teaspoons horsetail powder
5-6 drops of peppermint essential oil (other options: Spearmint/Clove/Tea Tree depending on taste)
Clay is great for teeth as it very gently abrasive, it is full of minerals and very good at drawing out toxins. Horsetail powder contains silica and can help to rebuild enamel on teeth. We're wrongly conditioned to believe that we need to brush our teeth with harsh abrasive toothpastes to get them cleaner, and coat them with glycerine which prevents remineralisation. This is just my opinion though, backed up by what I've researched on the web. There are many sites that I could link to on this but it's a huge debate so I'll leave you to make up your mind on it and decide if you would prefer to go natural. You can check in with me in a few years if you like to see how my teeth are doing and I'll be the guinea pig!
You could also add a few drops of Oil of Oregano for added tooth and gum healing properties.
Back to the recipe:
Mix the powders together in a bowl, add the essential oil drops and stir well ensuring the essential oils are distributed. Now you could just keep it in powder form and sprinkle a bit of this on your toothbrush but if you prefer a paste, add enough water to get the mixture runny. Transfer to a glass pot/s ready for use. The clay will actually absorb water over the first few hours, so you might find you need to add more later. You can keep hydrating the mixture as often as you need to as you use it.
You need very little of this mixture - a pea-sized dab on your brush is sufficient. Just be aware that your toothbrush bristles will turn green but it won't affect your teeth! You can swallow this mixture if you like, but if you wish to spit do it gently and you'll want to give your sink and wash off each time! Also make sure you swish well with water to make sure you don't have any tiny green particles still lodged between your teeth.
If you prefer a more gel-like paste, you can substitute coconut oil for water. It's a great addition health-wise as the coconut oil has antibacterial/antifungal properties and leaves your teeth feeling wonderfully smooth. I don't find it necessary though as I oil-pull (post to follow) with coconut oil in the evening also before brushing.
I have a big bag of clay, and horsetail powder and probably have enough to make toothpaste for several years so that's a big plus for me as I don't need to worry about packaging! Next on my list to switch to is bamboo toothbrushes...