Make your own toothpaste or tooth powder
Making your own toothpaste gives you the highest level of control over what ingredients go into your toothpaste, so that you can choose natural mineral-based ingredients to keep eco- and health-unfriendly chemicals out of the environment and your body. And, by making your own, you cut down on the packaging waste associated with store-bought varieties.
How to make your own toothpaste
People have been making their own toothpaste for centuries, and, as more and more consumers look for natural alternatives to conventional products, homemade toothpaste is coming back into the mainstream. Making homemade toothpaste is not time-consuming or difficult, and most of the ingredients are common household items.
- Gather the ingredients you'll need: Some of the most common ingredients in homemade toothpastes and tooth powders are:
- Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate): Cleanses, whitens, deodorizes, and is an abrasive.
- Salt (sodium chloride): Abrasive, adds flavor.
- Essential oils: Added to provide flavor. The most common are wintergreen, peppermint, and cinnamon.
- Glycerin: Used for consistency. Vegetable glycerin's rich, oily texture is derived entirely from vegetable oil. It is hypoallergenic and safe for food and cosmetic purposes. You can find glycerin in the baking aisle of the grocery store.
- Follow a simple toothpaste recipe: You can find homemade toothpaste recipes online at sites like OraMedia, Pioneer Thinking, and Everything2. Or get started with this simple recipe:
- Mix 6 teaspoons baking soda, 1/3 teaspoon salt, 4 teaspoons glycerin, and 15 drops of peppermint or wintergreen extract.
- Consistency should resemble toothpaste. If it is too thick, begin adding water, mixing until you have a thick paste.
- Store toothpaste at room temperature in a covered container. (A small refillable squeeze bottle works well.)
- Follow a simple tooth powder recipe: Tooth powder is just like toothpaste without the wet ingredients. To make tooth powder at home, follow this simple recipe:
- Grind the rind of a lemon or orange in the food processor until it becomes a fine powder.
- Mix 2 tablebspoons of the ground lemon or orange rind with 1/4 cup baking soda and 2 tablespoons salt in the food processor. You'll only need to give it a few seconds to create a fine, blended powder.
- Store in an airtight tin or jar. To use, dip your moistened toothbrush into the mixture and brush as usual.
- Brush with baking soda: For an even easier alternative, you can brush with straight baking soda. To do so, just rinse your toothbrush, shake it dry, dip it into a box of baking soda so that all bristles are covered, and brush as usual.
Making your own toothpaste helps you go green because…
- By not purchasing conventional toothpaste, you are keeping synthetic chemicals, dyes, antibacterial agents, and sweeteners from washing down the drain and into waterways (and keeping them out of your body).
- You avoid the wasteful packaging that holds most toothpastes and gels.
Conventional toothpastes contain a variety of synthetic ingredients used as cleansing and antibacterial agents, as well as to add flavor and color. Studies have shown that the antibacterial agent triclosan acts as an endocrine disruptor and ecological pollutant with the potential to cause health problems in humans, as well as animals living in waterways where triclosan is deposited after disposal down the drain. Triclosan has been found in 55 percent of streams examined in 2002 at levels high enough to disrupt the natural life cycle of frogs.
Parabens—preservatives that prevent the growth of bacteria—are found in about 75 to 90 percent of cosmetic and personal care products. After washing down the drain, these chemicals are discharged through wastewater systems and end up in waterways, where they appear to have estrogenic effects on fish. In humans, parabens can affect the endocrine system, which produces hormones. Acting like estrogen in the body, they increase the risk of breast cancer, with recent studies finding parabens in breast tumors. Parabens have been found in breast milk, blood, and body tissues, and can enter a developing fetus.
When applied to the soft tissues of mouths and gums, many of the chemicals found in conventional toothpastes can be irritating or cause long term harm. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), for example, which is used as a foaming and cleansing agent, is a suspected carcinogen. FD&C Blue 1 has been linked to cell mutation and tumor growth in animal studies. FD&C Green 3 is not permitted in cosmetics used near the eyes, but remains prevalent in oral hygiene products. It’s carcinogenic properties are similar to that of Blue 1. Yellow 5 and 6 have shown similar dangers. Artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin, have also been shown in clinical animal studies to cause a wide range of health problems, including cancer.
Even fluoride, while required in toothpastes endorsed by the American Dental Association (ADA), poses some health issues, namely enamel fluorosis, which can affect children 8 and younger. Enamel fluorosis is an excess mineral deposit of fluoride on developing enamel.
The ADA recommends that we brush two times daily, making toothpaste an ever-present product in our bathroom cabinets. Millions of empty toothpaste tubes and dispensers, therefore, are thrown away each year. Though both typically end up in landfills, the average tube of toothpaste produces about 70 percent less waste than a pump dispenser.