Homemade Toothpaste Recipes Put to the Test
When you stop to think about it, conventional store-bought toothpaste does leave a lot to be desired. It's very foamy, it's sickly sweet and it's loaded with stuff most of us don't recognize, like sodium lauryl sulfate. Of all these characteristics, it's the last—chemical content—that most anti-toothpaste crusaders object to. They'd rather soap up their choppers with something they know and trust, such as baking soda. For those who aren’t so distrusting of the American Dental Association and the products it endorses, a homemade toothpaste recipe might be a good fallback for when you run out of the brand name stuff that's usually in your bathroom.
But before we get to the results of the "tooth cleaning experience," please be aware that none of these recipes is presented here as a recommendation—not for fighting cavities nor oral hygiene nor improving your love life. And definitely do not use any of these concoctions on a child's teeth without the express consent of your pediatrician. If you really want to clean your own teeth with homemade paste for the long term, please get the go ahead from your dentist first.
Plain baking soda
Mix powder with a bit of water to create a paste.
Extremely salty, gritty, and generally not so nice. Leaves the mouth feeling clean but adds a faintly metallic finish to the teeth.
Good ol' baking soda really has been proven to clean teeth, which is why it's a popular additive in commercial toothpastes. It's also the main ingredient in virtually every homemade toothpaste mix (although there are some real doozies out there, such as one made exclusively with herbs; summer teeth, anyone?). Don't use an old box of baking soda that's been sitting in your fridge absorbing odors for the last year or two, no matter how desperate you are.
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. fine sea salt
1 drop essential oil (spearmint, peppermint, orange, cinnamon, etc.)
Mix ingredients with a small amount of water to form a thick paste.
Generally better than plain baking soda but significantly saltier. Peppermint oil adds some mintiness and a slight tingle on the lips.
Use your favorite essential oil to "flavor" this super-salty mix. Salt is purported to whiten teeth as well as add some cleaning power to a toothpaste mix. The one thing it adds for sure is—you guessed it—saltiness. Be sure to use finely ground salt to prevent scratching the teeth and gums.
2 tbsp. dried lemon or orange rind
¼ cup baking soda
2 tsp. fine salt
Grind the rinds to a fine powder in a food processor. Add baking soda and salt and blend thoroughly. Store as a dry mix, applying small amount to a wet toothbrush for each brushing.
The lemon imparts a faint but pleasant flavor and noticeably counters the saltiness and of the baking soda and salt. Same slightly metallic finish as with the plain baking soda toothpaste.
I used lemon rind, but orange would likely work just as well. This is my overall favorite in terms of experience. However, I would certainly ask my dentist before brushing my teeth every day with ingredients from a citrus fruit.
Hydrogen peroxide (3%) topical solution
Add a few drops of hydrogen peroxide to plain baking soda to form a paste.
Less gritty and salty than baking soda alone but also a bit foamy, and not in a good way. Tingles the edges of the gums almost to the point of stinging. Foaming sensation seems to linger after rinsing. Mild but unpleasant aftertaste, along with persistent mild tingling.
Hydrogen peroxide (3%), the solution that comes in a brown plastic bottle at every drugstore, is commonly used as a "debriding" mouthwash (when mixed with water) to help remove natural secretions that can aggravate a sore mouth. It's also purported to be a homespun method for whitening teeth. In any application, hydrogen peroxide should not be ingested. High concentrations of hydrogen peroxide are used in rocket fuel. Guess that explains the foaming.
Pure liquid castile soap (such as Dr. Bronner's), straight up.
Only slightly more pleasant than cleaning your teeth with a belt sander.
Hard-core backpackers know well that you can use Dr. Bronner's pure castile soap to clean your teeth, along with pretty much anything else in the natural world. And it's not really that bad. But if kids in the 50s were threatened with a mouthful of Dr. Bronner's, they'd never swear within miles of their parents. After using it every day on a long camping trip, you do get a little used to it. And it does seem to clean your teeth, although the taste is something to be experienced rather than described.
The Best Experience
After testing the above 5 formulas, I thought it would interesting to go back to my regular brand name toothpaste to see how it compared. The results were mixed. The commercial stuff's mouthfeel was far superior—smooth and creamy instead of gritty and gaggingly salty. The tingle was much nicer than with the peroxide formula, and the mintiness was strong yet balanced. However, the foaminess seemed excessive after the generally flat homemade pastes, and the flavor and aftertaste were truly saccharine. In the end, I might be switching to a less sweet commercial toothpaste, maybe even a baking soda blend. I will not, however, be trying anything flavored with fennel or clove, which I consider to be wholly untoothsome in an oral cleaning product.
Philip Schmidt writes for networx.com.
Updated March 21, 2018.
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