Okay. Corny title of this article aside, I really, really hate going to the dentist. Seriously. I’ll balance on my hands, get a tenth tattoo, schedule five vaccinations in one day, and run a marathon barefoot. No problem.
But I have an overwhelming fear of the dentist.
Why do I hate the dentist? I have receding gums (genetics, not bad habits, really), so getting my teeth cleaned is extremely, awfully, fantastically painful. But not getting my teeth cleaned? The recession happens faster and faster until I drastically lose all of my teeth. Or something. I’m not quite clear on the consequences. I call it deliberate ignorance.
Anyway, finally, I made an appointment and, of course, there was work to be done. To clean down by the gum line, where the roots are exposed for those of us with this kind of recession, the entire jaw needs to be numbed.
I’ll spare you the details, but my jaw hurt for two long weeks. We’re talking deep, aching pain.
What’s an herbalist to do? I began experimenting with herbs, and the results were pretty amazing.
First, oil pulling. I choose coconut oil. I swear by it for treating sensitive teeth and gums; it’s made an amazing difference.
Second, tooth powder. Toothpaste has glycerin in it, which is a natural product (that is, only if you’re buying natural toothpastes from reputable health food stores), but it can coat your teeth. This can be good or bad. Sometimes it helps dull sensitivity, but it can also keep teeth from getting truly clean.
My solution is to brush with an all-natural toothpaste geared toward sensitive teeth, but to then use a tooth powder twice a week for maintenance.
Here’s my recipe, broken down by the benefits of each ingredient.
Four parts clay (white or bentonite). I opt for bentonite, if you can find it. It helps to re-mineralize the teeth, draw toxins from the gums and mouth, and helps protect against (and even heal from) heavy metal toxicity.
One part baking soda. Baking soda is a stain remover, whitener, gentle abrasive, and contains tons of minerals.
One-half part white oak bark powder. For those of us with receding gums, loose teeth, or painful jaws, white oak bark provides huge relief and healing. Oak bark contains tannins which tighten loose teeth and gums, and over time can help the retain the elasticity of the tissue. White oak also contains high levels of minerals — calcium, manganese and zinc — which will strengthen the teeth and jaw over time.
One-half part myrrh gum powder. Myrrh preserves tissue, slowing its deterioration. So, if you have recession or infection problems, this ingredient is a must.
One-half part clove powder. Cloves are powerful pain relievers. In fact, if you have a painful tooth, you can place a few drops of clove oil on the affected area and the pain should quickly vanish. I like clove in this recipe because of its antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal.
Essential Oils: Peppermint and/or cinnamon. To flavor your powder and to freshen your breath, you may choose to throw in a few drops of these popular toothpaste additives. You can also substitute ½ part of either peppermint (or spearmint) or cinnamon powder (or both) instead of the essential oil.
Sweeteners: I like to add a few shakes of stevia powder to my tooth concoction, but xylitol is also a really good choice. It’s often found in tooth preparations and prized not only for its natural sweetness, but also for its ability to keep the ph of your mouth neutral. It's antibacterial and may be able to strengthen and preserve tooth enamel. You can get xylitol powder at most natural food stores. Just add it to suit your taste.
Combine: Combine all the ingredients in a clean jar. Shake or whisk it up. I like to wet my toothbrush, then dip it into the jar itself. For this reason, if you’re making a batch for your household, you might want to give everyone their own jar. This also allows each individual to flavor/sweeten to his or her taste. I've also found this to be a fun project for kids who may be reticent or less-than-enthusiastic about brushing.
All of these ingredients are safe, by the way. It is toothpaste, after all — you're just spitting it out after brushing. Any small amounts swallowed during the brushing process (even by children) are safe.
A note: If you've recently had dental work and you are in pain, one thing I've found to be enormously helpful, is to put one or two drops (only) of goldenseal tincture on the affected tooth or gum. Not only does this seem to relieve pain almost instantly, goldenseal is a strong antibiotic and will protect the sensitive area from bacteria. Discontinue use when the area has healed.