Over the past 10 years I’ve been slowly transitioning towards a more sustainable lifestyle rooted in holistic wellness practices and nature wisdom. So when I read Holistic Dental Care by Nadine Artemis, founder of my favourite beauty brand Living Libations, I was both alarmed and fascinated. I was shocked to learn how out-of-date (and oftentimes harmful) conventional dentistry has become. And awed to discover the complex connection between diet and oral health. I felt empowered by the simple ways we can have agency over our own dental destiny.
Below I share my natural, toxin-free, holistic dental routine. Inspired by Nadine’s self-dentistry research, this routine has not only improved my oral health (ask my dentist!), but also balanced my oral microbiome, reduced my gum sensitivities and given me a deeper connection with my mouth and digestion. And honestly, my mouth just feels a heck of a lot cleaner.
Here are the 5 steps I follow as part of my morning and evening bathroom routines:
1. Salt Rinse
I start off by rinsing my mouth with a gentle saltwater solution to create a neutral environment for brushing. This is especially important for anyone who has eaten within 60 minutes of brushing, particularly citrus and high-acid foods. When acids are in the mouth, they weaken the enamel of the tooth, the outer layer. If you brush while the enamel is weakened, you can damage this enamel layer of the tooth. Salt makes the pH of the mouth alkaline, neutralizing the acidity and starting the remineralization process of the enamel. It also eliminates harmful microbes in the mouth.
Fill a mason jar with 1 part salt to 16 parts filtered, almost boiling water to create a brine. I guesstimate the proportions. If the brine is too strong for you, try mixing in a drop of essential oil. Take a few sips, swish and spit. Repeat once or twice. Store your brine in the bathroom for future use.
2. Tongue Scraping
My favourite part of the routine, I picked up this ancient habit when I started practicing ayurveda in India. People there have been tongue scraping for over 2000 years. Scraping gently removes the coating that accumulates on the tongue, which is made up of microbes and mucus that migrate up the alimentary canal. I find that this practice has made me more aware of my health by observing the variations on my tongue every morning. If I’m coming down with a cold or have eaten poorly, it shows.
Scrape your tongue from back to front, rinse and repeat until your tongue is clean. Usually 3-4 scrapes is enough. I use this stainless steel scraper from Amazon. Stainless steel because it’s impervious to bacteria, easy to clean and won’t rust or tarnish. It pretty much lasts forever.
3. Dry Brushing the Teeth and Gums
I spend 3-5 minutes gently brushing my teeth and gums with a soft-bristled toothbrush, currently the Dr. Tung’s Ionic Toothbrush, which has sadly been discontinued. I’m planning to replace it with this one in a few months.
After learning how toxic conventional toothpastes actually are, I no longer touch them. My husband’s Sensodyne literally says in the description “if swallowed, call a poison control centre or get medical help right away”. How is this even legal?
So anyway, now I alternate morning and evening with a dab of Happy Gums Cleansing Clay Toothpaste and a drop of Happy Gum Drops Tooth Serum on my dry toothbrush head. These healthy alternatives are made from carefully-selected natural ingredients like essential oils and clays. They last for ages despite their small size and they come in recyclable packaging – double win!
I take my time to gently brush in a downward motion along the gum line from tooth to tooth until I’ve done the entire front and back of my teeth. Next I brush back and forth along the tops. A lot like this. It’s a very different style of brushing from how I wildly ravaged my gums over the past 30 years before learning the proper technique.
Using a dry toothbrush may seem odd at first, but within a few days it will feel completely normal.
I floss every evening to remove anything and everything from between my teeth that my toothbrush missed or can’t get to. I’m obsessed with Dr. Tung’s Smart Floss, which feels so gentle and glides nicely between my teeth. It also comes in recyclable paper packaging. I dab a single drop of my Happy Gum Drops Tooth Serum on my finger and run it along my length of floss for extra microbe-fighting superpowers. Then I set off on my way, gliding my infused strand into every nook and crevice that could be hiding food and plaque buildup. Using these products has made flossing feel like less of a chore and more like self care.
Bonus points: Flossing is linked to heart health. According to Dr. Stephen Sinatra, an Integrative Cardiologist, cardiovascular risks increase with gum disease and infections. Researchers have found that otherwise healthy people with serious periodontal disease double their risk of having a fatal heart attack and triple their risk of having a stroke. As Nadine explains in detail in Holistic Dental Care, the link between oral health and our organ systems is so much greater than we ever thought possible only a few decades ago.
5. Salt Rinse (again)
A final salt rinse helps flush out any leftover particles and bacteria that you loosened up in the previous steps. It also reduces inflammation in your gums and soft tissues, reduces swelling, promotes healing and discourages the growth of bacteria.
Want to do more for your oral health? Discover new ways to nourish your teeth from the inside out in my article about herbal infusions.