If you're looking for natural ingredients to keep your gums and teeth healthy, you've got more than one product to try. Whichever you choose, don't forget that it's not a replacement for brushing, flossing, or rinsing with a mouthwash. You've still got to stick with those good habits to protect your smile.
Safe and Effective?
Natural oral care products typically are safe to use, says Wenyuan Shi, PhD, chair of oral biology at the UCLA School of Dentistry.
Overall, we're still learning which natural ingredients work best to help prevent cavities and gum disease. Fluoride definitely helps you avoid cavities, though. All toothpastes with the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance have it.
Peroxide, Tea, and Oils
Some natural or herbal substances, including common foods and drinks, can help clean teeth.
Look for these in your pharmacy or grocery store:
Baking soda can help fight tooth decay and peroxide can help fight off certain bacteria, Shi says. On the downside, you need to mix peroxide with water to weaken it. If you use it at full strength, you might burn your gums.
One study suggests that rinsing with green tea extract may help keep your teeth from getting eroded. Another shows it might stop starchy foods, such as crackers or cake, from causing tooth decay. And a third shows that people who regularly drink green tea have healthier gums than those who don't.
Oils such as eucalyptol, menthol, and tea tree, can help kill bacteria in your mouth. This keeps your gums from getting inflamed. You'll find toothpaste and mouthwash with these ingredients.
Xylitol, an alcohol used in place of sugar, may help limit your tooth decay, Shi says. It's sold as a gum or lozenge, but it's not clear just how well it works. One study says it helped cut cavities in adults by only 10%. It can also help dry mouth by boosting saliva.
Some foods and drinks that have vitamin D are eggs, tuna, salmon, and fortified orange juice.
Remember, your dentist can help point you to the natural ingredients that are best for you.