This post has been in my mind for a long time—the better part of a year, in fact. Last November I took the plunge and started eliminating unnecessary chemicals from my body care routine. Most of the adjustment was pretty straightforward for me, since I don’t do much primping anyway, and honestly, the product I was most excited to eliminate was toothpaste.
Believe it or not, once upon a time, I thought I wanted to be a dentist. It was probably around second grade, before dentists started pulling out my baby teeth early, giving me multiple rounds of braces, and trying to choke me with impression putty and oversized bite-wings. Now I have an uneasy detente with dentists at best: I go in every 6 months, and no matter how careful I have been at my tooth care routine, they still scrape at my teeth and complain about the ungodly amount of tartar and bleeding gums and tell me to floss more. Electric toothbrushes, waterpiks, fancy floss, mouthwash, and “professional” grade toothpastes seem to make no lasting impression in my mouth, and over the years the dentist has started ordering tiny preventative fillings in my molars, although nothing to the extent that anesthesia would be required.
I was so fed up with all that ineffectual brushing that it finally crossed my mind to look for alternatives. Not only did I want to avoid fluoride—which is poisonous, after all–but also sodium lauryl sulfate and glycerin. SLS gets put into everything from toothpaste to hand soap to laundry and dish detergent, but its original purpose was degreasing engines; it is readily absorbed through the skin and can interfere with hormones because it mimics estrogen. Glycerin is included in virtually every commercial toothpaste, even the natural ones, mostly for its sweet taste and smooth, slippery texture that makes your teeth feel super-cleen; unfortunately, the coating glycerin leaves on your teeth blocks the enamel’s natural remineralization process and can take up to 27 rinses to remove fully.
After this research, I ended up opting to make my own toothsoap at home. My recipe is based on the one found at Mommypotamus, but over months of use, I have tweaked the recipe slightly to my preferences.
1 T Dr. Bronner’s castile soap, preferably baby mild (unscented) or peppermint
4 T softened or melted coconut oil
2 T olive oil
1 T raw honey
1-2 T calcium bentonite clay
20-40 drops essential oil (e.g.: cinnamon, peppermint, orange/lemon/lime, anise – your choice! Number of drops varies based on potency, so start small and build up.)
In a small bowl, stir up the first four ingredients until homogenous. Add 1 or more tablespoons of clay until desired texture is achieved, and drops of essential oil until desired flavor is achieved. No more than a pea-sized amount is necessary per use.
The clay can be omitted entirely if desired. You can also experiment with small additions of baking soda or food-grade aloe vera gel; however, the baking soda can be harsh for daily use, and aloe-containing toothsoap may need refrigeration. I sometimes add a squeeze of Soothing Salve from Trilight Health if I’m finding myself prone to canker sores (which in my case are linked to hormones).
Source: Slightly adapted from Mommypotamus.
If you follow the link to the original post, you’ll notice that my main deviation is the addition of calcium bentonite clay. This clay is not only a very mild, mineral-rich abrasive, it has detoxifying qualities and has even helped brighten the color of my teeth. Additionally, the clay adds some bulk to the mixture for a more paste-like texture and helps prevent separation; if it is summertime or your bathroom runs warm, however, chances are you will still need to keep a little spoon handy to stir it up every so often.
This toothsoap works so well that my mouth feels totally clean for up to 24 hours. Even after months of use, I still find myself running my tongue over my teeth in amazement at how smooth they feel, even way in the back. My brushing technique and flossing habits have remained the same but my gums are markedly healthier than they have ever been in my life, with no sensitivity, redness or bleeding. As mentioned above, I still get the occasional canker sore due to hormones; when it happens, I just use Alkalol as a mouthwash for a day or two. I’m just starting to notice a small amount of tartar build-up on the back of my lower front teeth, but it has been over 9 months since my last cleaning (due to a change in dental insurance), and for the first time in my life I am kind of excited to go to the dentist and hear what the hygienist has to say about my teeth!
The improvement in my teeth has been so marked that my husband kept complimenting me on the change and eventually asked to try it out himself. He is very sensitive to chemicals and has had negative reactions to some of the super-strength commercial toothpastes I used in previous years, but commented that my homemade toothsoap doesn’t make him want to gag when he brushes way in the back of his mouth. He has now been using it consistently since May, and his biggest complaint was that the last batch I made had too much castile soap in it (all I had at the time was eucalyptus-scented Dr. Bronner’s, which is not the nicest tasting option; a little extra coconut oil balanced the batch better).
I’ve had lots of inquiries from other folks as well, most of whom have already been trying to make conscientious toothpaste choices with brands like Tom’s of Maine (incidentally now owned by Colgate; even their SLS-free/fluoride-free toothpaste contains glycerin and some other undesirable ingredients). One batch of this homemade toothsoap lasts for months and is inexpensive, customizable, and completely edible—feel free to swallow instead of spitting it out! I may still experiment here and there with tooth powders like this one, but at this point, call me a homemade toothsoap evangalist!
As for the rest of my body care overhaul, the deodorant situation is still a work in progress, but I successfully switched out shampoo and conditioner with baking soda and vinegar, face and body wash with cold process bars and castile soap, and lotions with emulsified coconut oil and aloe. I will share more of my thoughts on these changes in another post very soon.