A couple of months ago, I wrote about my boycott of Tom’s of Maine toothpaste and urged you to join me. The reason behind my boycott is simple – the company switched from manufacturing toothpaste in recyclable metal tubes to using marginally recyclable plastic tubes. The company’s reasoning behind the switch is that consumers prefer plastic tubes that don’t break or crack. This may be practical for sales but is it not environmentally responsible, even though the company is trying to portray it as such, which just irks me.
This started me on a journey of toothpaste research, and many of you have been urging me to post my findings. I appreciate your patience as I ordered ingredients, mixed up new concoctions, and combed the internet for information about toothpaste components. Here are my findings:
Recipe 1 – Peppermint tooth powder
- At first I tried this recipe for tooth powder, which I found on the Mister Roger’s Neighborhood website. I figured if it was a kid’s activity, it would be safe, easy, and tasty. Safe and easy it was. Tasty, not so much.
- The recipe combines 4 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. peppermint extract. You mix this together and keep in an airtight container. Wet your toothbrush, dip into the jar, and brush.
It tasted salty and yucky, though it did seem to do a good job cleaning my teeth. It didn’t get foamy or soapy like other toothpastes. The peppermint was much too light of a flavor for me.
Recipe 2 – Spearmint tooth gel
- 1 tbls. fresh spearmint leaves or ½ tbls. dried
- ¼ cup cold water
- ½ tsp. sunflower oil
- ½ tsp cornstarch
- Several drops (2-4) of pure spearmint essential oil, to taste
- Place mint leaves and water in small saucepan, bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cool for 15 minutes.
- Mix together cornstarch and oil (I used olive oil since I couldn’t find sunflower oil). Stir until smooth.
- Strain mint leaf solution and discard leaves.
- Mix together mint water, cornstarch, and essential oil. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once it reaches a boil, the cornstarch thickens the mixture.
- Spoon into a clean container and use like regular toothpaste.
- Note: Easy to double or triple this recipe. It doesn’t make very much.
I really, really like this recipe. It makes a nice, cooling gel that feels fresh and clean. It does not, however, contain any abrasive agent to scrub teeth (like baking soda). In future batches, I might try including baking soda to see how I like it.
Recipe 3 – Peppermint toothpaste
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 2 tsp. vegetable glycerin
- 2 tsp. hydrogen peroxide
- 1 pinch of stevia
- 4-6 drops peppermint essential oil
- Mix all ingredients together to form a paste. Store in a clean container for up to a month.
I’m pretty happy with this recipe. The stevia is a sweetener that is non-caloric and, some studies show, does not cause cavities like sugar. It makes me a little nervous to use a sweetener in toothpaste, but then, the big brands like Crest and Colgate use sweeteners, too. Use of glycerin on teeth is a bit controversial, too, because some people feel it coats the teeth rather than allows for teeth to be properly cleaned. Then again, most store-bought toothpastes contain glycerin, too.
Where I stand
After my tube of Tom’s toothpaste ran out and I hadn’t yet found a decent substitute, I went ahead and bought a tube of Nature’s Gate natural toothpaste. It does come in a plastic tube, which makes my boycott look a little silly, but at least the company isn’t making noise about how environmentally friendly the plastic is. I will be recycling the tube using the Far West Fibers facilities in Portland, but I know most people don’t have the luxury of recycling toothpaste tube plastic. This was a bandaid measure while I worked to find something better. I’m using just a tiny dab at a time, so hopefully the tube lasts for awhile.
I visited the dentist this week and didn’t come back with my usual clean report card. A filling on a back molar broke loose, so I need a root canal, and I have a couple of cavities. Eek! I’ve had a few cavities in my lifetime, but it’s not usual for me to have several in one visit. So, I’m getting the back molar taken care of on Thursday, and the cavities will be taken care of subsequently.
I talked with them about my oral hygiene routine and asked what I could do differently. The dentist I’m currently seeing is not a green dentist- there’s not one close enough for me to drive to. The dentist wasn’t too worried about the use of natural toothpaste but he does advocate for fluoride use, which I have some concerns about. I’m also to be flossing better. While I get my mouth straightened out, I’ll continue using the Nature’s Gate, then hopefully make the permanent switch to something homemade.
Now that I’ve found a couple recipes that are fairly easy to make and taste good, my next step is to consult with a dentist about homemade toothpaste. Adam recently found an environmentally friendly dentist in Seattle, and I plan to call their office and discuss the merits of homemade toothpaste. I’m specifically interested in talking with an expert about the controversial individual ingredients that appear in store-bought toothpaste (like fluoride, sodium lauryl sulfate, sorbitol, alcohol, and other artificial colors/sweeteners). As I find out more, I’ll post it here. Keep checking back!