The following article is syndicated from Holistic Dental Care: The Complete Guide to Healthy Teeth and Gums and all credit is given to its original author, Nadine Artemis.
If you are like me, raised in contemporary North American culture, you’ve been told since you were a toddler about the importance of brushing your teeth and visiting the dentist for a twice-a-year-checkup. Your parents showed you how to brush (hopefully), and if they were diligent, they may even have showed you how to floss. By the time you were a teenager and had the hang of it, you may have already had cavities and other dental issues, especially if you ate a typical teenager’s diet.
What I discovered in my research on dental self-care — having teeth, this is a subject that interests me greatly — is that we were not really set up for successful oral care as children, and the reason is simple: our parents, even our dentists, were less than knowledgeable about how to care for and feed our teeth and gums. Even if we brushed, flossed, and went to the dentist every six months as prescribed, we still got cavities and maybe even had root canals, extractions, and other invasive procedures. We did the best we could without knowing the whole story.
When you became an adult and no longer had your parents to take you to the dentist’s office, you probably made excuses to avoid the dental chair. I did; it seemed better to not know what was going on in my mouth. Perhaps I was instinctively rebelling against orthodontic contraptions, my nose cautious about the antiseptic ethers, and my mouth recoiling from the strange taste of fluoride, metal, and foam. Yet, without wisdom serving my rebellion, my avoidance led to oral entropy, and hence made a trip to the dentist inevitable.
I also grew up thinking that one needs medical doctors to take care of the body and dentists to take care of the mouth. So, like many people, I believed that the mouth was separate from the rest of the body. As I became aware of this curious “disconnect” between how we think about the mouth and body, I was struck by the way Western medicine and dentistry treat the symptoms instead of the sources or causes of body imbalances. This system of treating symptoms creates a perpetual loop of appointments, medications, surgeries, scaling, bridges, crowns, and fillings that never question or fix the core underlying causes of the imbalance. Treating the decay instead of correcting the sources may explain the statistic that ninety percent of sixty-year-olds have sixty-three percent of their teeth missing, filled, or decayed. 1 Thankfully, the light went bright, and I unearthed myself from this deeply embedded cultural mouth-body split. I began to understand and feel the inherent, innate desire of the body to recalibrate and regenerate, and I knew that must include the teeth.
Perhaps you already have a good sense of what works in oral care. You may have had your mercury fillings removed. You may know about the dangers of fluoride, and you may love to floss. As a good oral care ambassador in pursuit of oral care self-sufficiency, you know the worthiness of each tooth, so naturally you are surprised when you receive reports from your dentist of receding gums or a cavity.
So now what? You can avoid the dentist without ignoring your teeth. You can bypass the dentist’s office, not because you are afraid to go, but because you understand your oral ecology, and you are free of decay. All you need is a little more wisdom, and you can keep your teeth strong and beautiful, and avoid dental stress.
It is a matter of learning a few new habits and a new daily maintenance routine that involves some simple at-home procedures that your childhood dentist knew nothing about.
Successful Self-Dentistry in Eight Steps
You may have been brushing your teeth the same way for ten, twenty, forty, or eighty years. If so, it’s time to breathe freshness into your oral care routine! When you follow the Successful Self-Dentistry protocol every day, you will be amazed at how effective it is at preventing decay, gum bleeding, inflammation, and even the onset of colds.
Ideally these steps are completed morning and night, because plaque begins to rebuild within six hours of brushing. After two to four days of neglect, gum tissue sends warnings to your immune system that something is up, and the immune system responds by sending white blood cells to help out. This causes a breakdown of the collagen fibers that hold teeth to the jawbone. Within a week or two of neglect, biofilm forms bacterial colonies. This is when the gums may start to bleed, especially when flossing.
The Successful Self-Dentistry protocol will keep your mouth, teeth, gums, and saliva in such pristine condition that every day your teeth will feel as clean and smooth as if you’ve been to the dental hygienist for a cleaning.
Step 1: The Salt Rinse
Most people have salt in their homes, so you can start with this effective step right away. Salt eliminates microbes and makes the pH of the mouth alkaline, creating a neutral environment for brushing. A salt rinse comes in handy after a meal, when it is less than ideal to brush your teeth. It is especially important after you have eaten citrus or other high-acid foods to neutralize the acidity right away.
Get a Mason jar with a tightly fitting lid and a shot glass for each member of your family. Mix one ounce of salt and sixteen ounces of hot—almost boiling—springwater or nonfluoridated, nonchlorinated water. The hot water activates and dissolves the salt into brine. A drop of an essential oil may be added and shaken, not stirred, into your brine. To use the saltwater rinse, pour yourself a shot glass of the mixture, swish, swish, swish, and spit.
Step 2: Scraping the Tongue
Say goodbye to morning breath: the coating of the tongue is home to many microbes and mucus that migrate up from the alimentary canal, especially at night. Scraping the tongue gently removes the coating, improving your overall oral health. It will also improve the taste of food and sweeten your breath. You will find that with improved nutrition, there will be less to scrape.
You can buy a tongue scraper at any health food store, or you can use the edge of a spoon. Simply scrape your tongue from back to front, and you will see the plaque being removed. Rinse the scraper in hot water, and continue scraping until your tongue is clean, usually in two or three scrapes. You may also add one drop of an essential oil or combination serum to the scraper.
Step 3: Brushing the Gums
This is very important, so pay special attention. Use a dry, soft-bristled manual toothbrush for this step, and always brush the gums toward the teeth using an extra light touch over the gum line (the union of teeth and gums). Add a tiny drop of neem oil with a drop of an essential oil or combination serum to your dry toothbrush. Move the brush from the gums toward the teeth — downward on the top teeth, and upward on the bottom teeth. Brush as gently as you can.
Take a moment to be mindful about this step. Sit down on the toilet seat or on the edge of the bathtub and relax. You can even go outside or brush with a friend. Make it fun! The old days of standing over the sink with the water running while spitting out mouthfuls of foaming sodium laurel sulfate are over.
This is when I use my favorite light-activated ionic toothbrush. This brush creates negative ions in the saliva that draw away forty percent of plaque. Just by ionizing and alkalinizing the saliva in the mouth, the reduction in the amount of plaque is incredible.
Step 4: Polishing the Teeth
Polishing the teeth ensures that any leftover plaque as well as any staining is removed, while also giving you smooth, slippery teeth that you will enjoy gliding your tongue over.
A round-headed electric brush works best. I have tried a wide variety of electric brushes, and I think that inexpensive rechargeable brushes do the job very well. Small round-headed electric brushes easily reach areas that are not effectively reached by a manual brush. Add one drop of an essential oil or combination serum and a dash of tooth polish to your brush and run it over your teeth. You want to focus on the teeth and avoid the gums. To make a very effective homemade tooth polish, combine equal amounts of salt and baking soda. The sticky plaque and biofilm will be removed in one to two minutes.
Step 5: Checking the Gum Lines
This step is very important, as the health of the gums is directly related to the health of the teeth. The gums hold the teeth in place and keep the teeth strong. The gums also cover thousands of tiny filaments that attach the tooth to the jaw, so take good care of this area.
Check the inner and outer gum lines with your tongue, feeling for rough patches of plaque buildup. You will often find that there is plaque right at the gum line, or sulcus. There are rubber-tipped gum tools and sulcus brushes designed specifically for this area. Apply a drop of an essential oil or combination serum to either tool and gently go over the gum line, on both the inside and the outside of each tooth.
Step 6: Flossing
Now you are ready to floss. Integrative cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra authored an article titled “A Mouth-Heart Connection” that describes the powerful relationship between the health of the heart and the gums:
“Over the past two decades, various researchers have demonstrated that cardiovascular risks increase in tandem with the severity of gum infections. According to Thomas E. Rams, DDS, MHS, expert and author on the microbiology of gum disease, people [who are] otherwise in good health who develop serious periodontal disease double their risk of fatal heart attack and triple their risk of stroke. Since an estimated 54 million people have some form of periodontal disease, it’s no wonder cardiovascular disease is the number-one killer in the United States.”
Consider flossing part of a heart-healthy lifestyle. If you dislike flossing, you are in for a pleasant surprise: when you add an essential oil to the floss, it is fun and refreshing. You can feel the potent plant oils cleaning between your teeth. If you already like flossing, you are going to enjoy it even more.
Pull off a long strand of floss. Put a single drop of essential oil on your index finger, and run the floss between your thumb and index finger to coat it with the oil. Wind the floss around your fingers and slide it in between your teeth, up and down, back and forth. Take care to move the floss in the interstices and around the necks of the teeth where food and plaque build up.
Step 7: Final Rinse
Swish and rinse with one more shot of your handy-dandy mouth-rinse brine: swish, swish, swish, and spit. The salt water and essential oils will coat your entire mouth, discouraging the growth of bacteria and nurturing the tissue. You can also alternate mouth rinses: brine, magnesium, or iodine.
Step 8: Extra Gum Care
For this step you will need an oral irrigator, which is a blunt-ended syringe. I really like the VitaPick irrigator because it is like a mini showerhead that flushes out the gum line, irrigating places that flossing, brushing, and scraping can’t reach. This irrigator has a finer spray than a Waterpik, and it will rinse out the microbes that you may have missed in previous steps.
Pour a small amount of your homemade saltwater mouthwash along with one drop of an essential oil into your shot glass. To fill the irrigator, draw the mixture from the shot glass up into the syringe. Then flush the sulci and interstices of each tooth, and take extra care in areas that need special attention. This will dissolve remaining biofilm and microbes while revitalizing the gum tissue. Lastly, massage another drop of the oil onto the gums to soothe tissue, fortify microbial protection, and freshen your breath.
Huggins offers a great tip to treat very inflamed gums: thoroughly and vigorously swish with salt water every hour for two days. He recommends half a teaspoon of purified salt in a glass of warm water. On the half hour, rinse with sodium ascorbate vitamin C powder. Note that this is not ascorbate or ascorbic acid, the acid form of vitamin C, which is acidic with a pH of 1. Huggins explained that salt kills the bacteria and vitamin C rebalances electrons in the mouth; unhealthy tissue is saturated with protons while healthy tissue is saturated with electrons.
That is the protocol in eight simple steps. You can start right away with just salt and baking soda if you don’t have the other items on hand. If you follow these steps daily — hopefully twice a day — you will notice a remarkable difference in your oral ecology.
We often fear the unknown, so get to know your mouth. Get a dental mirror with a light or an intraoral camera and get yourself acquainted with those back molars. And remember to get clean in between.
Review of the Eight Steps
- Keep a saltwater solution where you brush your teeth. Add a drop of an essential oil or combination serum. Start with a saltwater rinse before brushing.
- Scrape the tongue two or three times.
- Brush the gums, paying special attention to brushing from gums toward the teeth and using special care over the gum line. Use a soft, dry brush and apply a tiny drop of neem oil with a drop of an essential oil or combination serum.
- Polish the teeth with a dry round-headed electric toothbrush. Add a drop of essential oil with a dash of homemade tooth polish.
- Clean the gum lines of any remaining plaque by using a rubber-tipped gum tool or sulcus brush with a drop of an essential oil or combination serum.
- Floss! Even better, floss two times. Apply a drop of an essential oil or combination serum to the floss.
- Use a salt rinse or alternative mouth rinses. Vigorously swish, and then spit.
- Use the oral irrigator to rinse the gum pockets with salt water and essential oil. Massage a drop of oil or serum into the gum line and any sensitive areas.
From Holistic Dental Care: The Complete Guide to Healthy Teeth and Gums by Nadine Artemis, published by North Atlantic Books, copyright © 2013. Reprinted by permission of publisher.
If you are feeling inspired to take on board some (or all) of these holistic dental tips, Living Libations are offering our readers 15% off any Living Libations order; simply use code THEFULLEST at checkout! If you’re looking to dive deeper, you can also pick up the book Holistic Dental Care: The Complete Guide to Healthy Teeth and Gums here or listen to her on our pod episode.
Nadine Artemis is the founder of cult clean beauty brand, Living Libations. Nadine has dedicated her life to helping us tap into nature’s bounty to find peace and longevity, helping thousands of women heal their bodies and define their definition of beauty. She is a walking encyclopedia of research-based wisdom and brings a refreshing perspective to all of areas of well-being including dental, breast, and suncare health.