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A Dental BrushupNow that more and more parents are putting emphasis on organic and nontoxic items for their family, Ray G. Behm, Jr., DDS, who practices natural dentistry in Clearwater, Florida, thinks they should consider the products they use for dental care as well. Most conventional oral-hygiene products contain chemicals, artificial dyes, sweeteners or preservatives—all listed right there on the labels. “The average toothpaste from the grocery store is a toxic soup of artificial sweeteners, sodium laurel sulfate, fluoride and other chemicals,” he says. Behm recommends reading labels to avoid unnecessary chemicals.

What to look for when choosing toothpaste and mouth rinses:

  • Nothing artificial. That includes dyes, sweeteners and preservatives. According to Behm, “Toothpaste is heavily marketed to make people feel they must have it, but commercial toothpaste is toxic. The physical action of brushing, which stimulates the gums and removes particles from between the teeth, is what is beneficial, rather than a mouthful of sweet suds.”
  • Baking soda. It cleans and polishes your teeth with enough scouring action to help remove plaque, but without being so abrasive that it destroys the enamel. Additionally, baking soda helps neutralize acid from fruit juices and carbonated drinks, both of which can eat into tooth enamel.
  • Essential oils. Tea tree oil, green tea extracts and peppermint oil all promote good oral hygiene, along with vitamin C and vitamin E. For healthy gums, Dr. Behm also recommends CoQ10. It comes in capsules; squeeze out the oil and work it into your gums with a soft toothbrush. But check with your doctor before using CoQ10; its safety for children and pregnant women has not been established.
  • No alcohol. Alcohol-based mouth rinses actually dry out mouth tissue, which can cause bad breath and irritations. A blend of echinacea, goldenseal, bloodroot and grapefruit-seed extract inhibits the growth of germs but is gentle, promotes healthy gums and soothes irritations in the mouth. Recent studies at New York University’s College of Dentistry showed that products containing these ingredients are effective in promoting good oral hygiene.
  • Fluoride-free or natural fluoride: your choice. Some natural-dentistry experts argue that the proliferation of fluoridation in water and products for teeth can lead to dental fluorosis in children (where white spots appear on the teeth due to overexposure to fluoride) and health problems later in life. Natural dental products either don’t contain any form of fluoride or use natural fluoride or a sodium fluoride. Holistic dentists believe that natural fluoride is safer because it doesn’t contain the toxins associated with the chemical-based fluoride found in most toothpastes and water supplies.

Which brands offer products that follow these guidelines? Try Tom’s of Maine, Weleda, The Natural Dentist, Jason Naturals and Kiss My Face (the first three offer kid-centric versions).

Natural dentistry, according to Behm, “knows that the mouth is connected to the rest of the body. One can’t stuff the mouth full of toxic metals, materials and chemicals and think it won’t affect the rest of the body. Through a natural, holistic approach to dental care, families can achieve and maintain better health.”

A Better Brush

Recycline’s Preserve toothbrushes (available for kids and adults) are made from 100% recycled plastic, 65% of which comes from recycled Stonyfield Farm yogurt cups. When it’s time to discard toothbrushes (the American Dental Association recommends that they be replaced every three months), Recycline will take them back and recycle them into plastic lumber. Radius toothbrushes, which come with a replaceable head and a renewable-resource handle, consume 1/5 the material of a standard toothbrush.

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