Humans used tooth powders made of ashes, crushed bones, oyster shells, or even burned bread, for thousands of years.
And it actually wasn’t till around World War I that we started to regularly use a paste made of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda instead of tooth powder.
Why is toothpaste important?
Toothpaste is important for oral hygiene.
Specifically, it is an abrasive that helps in the removal of dental plaque and food from our teeth, as well as helping to suppress halitosis (bad breath).
Toothpaste with fluoride can also help prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Some brands of toothpaste contain additional ingredients, whilst others prefer a natural, organic formula.
Natural and organic toothpaste options
Conventional toothpastes contain artificial additives such as artificial colours, flavours, saccharine and benzoic acid.
Some added whitening toothpastes also contain microbeads which can even get trapped in the gums.
For this reason, some people prefer toothpastes that are made up of more natural ingredients. Salt and baking soda are some go-to natural ingredients that can be used as substitutes or alongside traditional toothpaste.
Salt has natural disinfectant properties, which is why dentists will often recommend gargling with it after a tooth is pulled. Many people recommend using a salt solution for a sore throat.
Salt can also help reduce soreness in the gums, and stimulate saliva production, which is important for promoting strong enamel.
But, salt on its own won’t repair or strengthen teeth, unlike fluoride, which has been shown to do precisely that.
Baking soda is good for teeth aesthetics because it is a very mild abrasive that can help to remove some stains. It also is a mild bleach, so it can neutralise acids that cause cavities.
To use baking soda, mix half a teaspoon with a few drops of water and gently apply it to your teeth with a toothbrush or your fingers, leave for a few minutes only, then rinse. Be aware that leaving baking soda on for too long can erode your teeth’s enamel.
Peppermint can help sooth tooth aches, and research has found that it can combat common bacteria that can lead to cavities and gum disease.
You might also like to try pre-made natural options, such as the Aloe Dent toothpaste. This one is formulated without fluoride. Instead it uses CoQ10, a substance naturally found in our body, but which we have less of as we age. It also contains aloe vera, peppermint oil, and tea tree oil.
Does charcoal toothpaste work?
Activated charcoal is basically carbon that has been treated to make it porous.
The little holes act like magnets for other particles, absorbing them kind of like a sponge. For this reason, activated charcoal is commonly found in water filters.
Charcoal is also even used in hospitals sometimes to assist patients with poisoning, because it is so good at binding to everything, including stains and tartar.
However, no studies have so far shown that charcoal helps prevent dental decay, so dentists typically recommend using it alongside fluoride, or in other combinations, in order to get all the necessary hygiene benefits.
Holland & Barrett’s organic charcoal toothpaste contains natural ingredients such as silica, Icelandic moss, and peppermint oil. It is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Toothpaste options for specific needs
Some people experience a painful sensation when drinking hot soups or biting into ice-cream, whilst others who smoke or drink a lot of coffee may be after extra whitening in their toothpaste.
Others might prefer a gentler toothpaste for their children.
But are these toothpastes worth the extra cost or effort? Most traditional toothpastes, no matter the brand, are largely the same composition of ingredients. So if you do need a different type of toothpaste, the ingredients are worth focusing on.
Natural sensitive toothpaste
Sensitive toothpaste has extra ingredients that may help to desensitise your teeth or protect the exposed dentin in your teeth – the sensitive part.
Also look out for toothpaste that has less abrasives which could otherwise hurt your teeth. And avoid toothpaste with sugars.
For children, apart from the funny animals and characters on their toothpaste, the main difference is the amount of fluoride.
Some children also find the common mint taste a little too strong. So you may wish to consider a Wild Strawberry toothpaste for children, which does not include fluoride, but instead has carrot extract for teeth sensitivity.
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