The health of your 32 pearly-whites is an essential component of your daily comfort and wellbeing. Many people suffer from dental issues such as gum disease, tooth decay, mouth ulcers and bad breath, but knowing how to keep your mouth healthy can help to reduce the effects of these ailments and potentially avoid them all together. Here's a list of 3 do's and 3 don'ts to consider when it comes to keeping your teeth in good shape.
1. Oil Pulling
This time-honoured Ayurvedic technique is simple, easy and can have incredible effects on the health of your whole mouth. Initially, the thought of swishing coconut oil back and forth between your teeth may seem a little bizarre, but like anything, you get used to the feeling and it simply becomes part of your daily routine! Traditional practitioners of oil pulling often used sunflower oils and sesame oils as tools to prevent bleeding gums, decay, bad oral odors and cracked lips as well as for strengthening teeth and gums. Several oils can be used for this practice, but coconut oil is the most effective when it comes to removing cavity-causing bacteria. Although there are no peer-reviewed scientific journals that deal with the efficacy of this ancient technique, many people testify to the power of oil pulling as a way to avoid gum diseases and naturally whiten their teeth.
2. Clove Oil
In ancient herbal medicine, cloves were traditionally used to treat infections as they possess strong antiseptic, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties. Clove oil helps to cleanse harmful bacteria from oral cavities as well as assisting in the repair of receding gums and other damaged oral tissue.
For best results, add a few drops of organic clove oil to your coconut oil before practicing oil pulling or apply it to your toothbrush before cleaning your teeth.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away - and as an added bonus, it may also keep the dentist away! You might have heard apples being referred to as "nature's toothbrush", and although biting into a piece of fruit is not a suitable substitute for brushing your teeth, eating an apple will give your teeth and gums a pretty good scrub whenever you don't have a toothbrush handy! Chewing on this fibrous fruit helps to stimulate your gums, reduce the prevalence of cavity-causing bacteria and increases saliva flow within your mouth - which, in turn, decreases acidity, washes away small particles of food, and prevents decay.
1. Sugary & Acidic Food
Avoiding sugary foods will help strengthen your teeth and fight cavities, as sugar is a substantial contributor to tooth decay. The bacteria that form together on your teeth to become plaque use sugar as a form of sustenance, which allows them to multiply faster, causing the plaque grow in size and in thickness. Some of the bacteria are even able to transform sugar into a glue-like substance that they use to fasten themselves to the surface of your teeth, making it harder for the bacteria to get washed away with your saliva.
Foods with a high acidic content can also be harmful to your oral health, as the acid can potentially soften and weaken your tooth enamel. For this reason, try to avoid brushing your teeth immediately after eating acidic foods as it will harm the softened enamel and potentially begin to remove it. Instead, swish your mouth thoroughly with water or eat a non-acidic food before brushing your teeth.
An American study on the link between mouthwash use and certain forms of cancer indicated that people who use conventional mouthwash products regularly may have an increased risk of developing oral cancer.
An abstract from the study reads, "Interviews with 866 patients with cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx and 1249 controls of similar age and sex from the general population in four areas of the United States revealed increased risks associated with the regular use of mouthwash. Risks of oral cancer were elevated by 40% among male and 60% among female mouthwash users, after adjusting for tobacco and alcohol consumption. Risks among both sexes generally increased in proportion to duration and frequency of mouthwash use."
Instead of toxic mouthwash, try oil pulling as mentioned above, or make your own antibacterial mouthwash at home by simply dissolving a couple of teaspoons of sea salt into a glass of warm water.
3. Conventional Toothpaste
There are so many different brands of toothpaste on supermarket shelves these days that it is becoming increasingly difficult to know which products are safe for you and your family. The main issue with most conventional brands of toothpaste is that they contain chemical compounds that are at best, irrelevant to tooth health and at worst, detrimental to your overall wellbeing.
Here are a few of the main offenders -
- SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) or SLES (Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate) - linked to skin irritation, tastebud interference and carcinogenic properties.
- Triclosan - an antibacterial chemical linked to concerns regarding antibiotic resistance and endocrine disruption.
- Artificial Sweeteners - linked to methanol poisoning and completely irrelevant to the process of cleaning teeth.
- Microbeads - little tiny bits of plastic in your mouth. Enough said.
- Fluoride - builds up within the body's tissue over time and is linked to neurological and endocrine dysfunction.
Most health food stores stock natural versions of toothpaste that don't have a long list of nasty ingredients. Alternatively, check out our guide on how to make your own toothpaste!