Charcoal vs. Cheese: An Eco-Friendly Dentist Addresses Dental Health Myths
It seems like the internet offers new solutions for healthy teeth every day. But no matter how hard we try, we still need to go to the dentist.
Health trends in dental hygiene
No doubt you’ve seen videos of influencers brushing their teeth with black paste, or an article listing the 5 ways baking soda will improve your health.
But do any of them work?
Sodium bicarbonate, aka baking soda, has a huge variety of uses. Because baking soda is basic, it neutralizes acidic smells and substances.
That’s why people praise it as a deodorizer – and not just for your arm pits! An open box of baking soda in the fridge (if you have space) can eliminate odors. Additionally, its stink-trapping properties have been praised for reducing or eliminating bad breath.
Baking soda can also help remove stains, which is why some people will brush with it. But while it may remove some surface stains on your teeth, “it doesn’t discolor teeth from the inside,” says Sanam.
“People think they can whiten their teeth with it, but baking soda is very abrasive,” she continues. “It does remove the stains, but it’s very harsh on the enamel, so I strongly don’t recommend using it on your teeth.”
And protecting enamel is vital to good oral health. Enamel is the first line of defense for your teeth, and without healthy enamel, teeth can deteriorate quickly.
But “baking soda in toothpaste does not harm your enamel,” she says.
We all know that plastic is bad for the environment, and we need to reduce our plastic usage. Bamboo toothbrushes are an easy swap for traditional plastic.
But even if bamboo toothbrushes are better for the planet, are they good for your teeth?
“It depends on how you use it,” Sanam says. If you’re not already brushing your teeth correctly, then there will still be plaque. “Bacterial plaque becomes harmful after 48 hours. So if you didn’t brush thoughtfully the old plaque stays, grows, and becomes harmful.”
And keep in mind: your bamboo toothbrush may not be 100 percent free of plastic. Many brands claim to use biodegradable nylon-4 for the bristles, but that’s not always the case.
Be sure to do your research before purchasing a bamboo toothbrush to limit your plastic consumption.
Oil pulling is another hot health trend popping up across the internet. Various websites that focus on holistic treatments claim it removes toxins and plaque, whitens teeth, and encourages healthy gums.
For at least 20 minutes, people need to swish between a teaspoon to a tablespoon of coconut, sesame, or sunflower oil in their mouths. After that, they brush their teeth as normal. And after doing it for a while, people have reported whiter teeth, better breath, and overall healthier mouths.
But no one has conducted a comprehensive study on the effects or benefits of oil pulling. A study published in 2017 concluded that oil pulling is no more effective on oral health than using regular mouth wash.
That study, however, used less than 100 subjects under the age of 18 – not a very representative population. “The evidence of that was weak,” Sanam comments.
If you’re interested in exploring the benefits of oil pulling, Lassus Tandartsen has a partner who specializes in eco-friendly dentistry.
Most of us know about aloe vera as a treatment for sunburns. The tropical plant is famous for its healing and antibacterial properties. It’s also dense in nutrients and makes for a refreshing beverage!
But is it good for your teeth?
“It seems that using toothpaste with aloe vera will cause a reduction in plaque and help with bleeding gums,” says Sanam. “However,” she continues, “compared to toothpaste with fluoride, the outcome isn’t very different.”
So if you want to brush with an aloe vera toothpaste, it won’t be any less harmful for your oral health. But there’s no evidence that it prevents cavities, whereas there is evidence that fluoride does.
Another health trend that hasn’t quite made it to the Netherlands yet is activated charcoal.
Charcoal is naturally efficient at absorbing contaminants, which is why it’s used to filter water. But recently there have been claims that it does wonders for your skin and teeth.
Influencers stare into their cameras with a sparkling smile and flawless skin to promote the sponsored products – but are they good for your oral health?
Similar to baking soda, “we know charcoal toothpaste remove stains, but it does not whiten teeth,” says Sanam.
And, like baking soda, a paste made from activated charcoal powder can be abrasive. It may remove stains from the surface, but it may also damage the enamel!
So what’s best for my teeth?
Maintaining proper oral health is Sanam’s priority. While some of these dental health trends have their benefits, they don’t replace other good oral hygiene practices.
For example, fluoride not only helps prevent cavities, but it can stop a cavity from getting worse. Just enough of the naturally occurring mineral is added to toothpaste to ensure you benefit from its properties.
It has a controversial reputation because in high doses, it can cause health problems. But as long as you don’t consume your toothpaste by the spoonful, you’ll be safe. “The amount of fluoride in toothpaste doesn’t affect your health,” Sanam says. “There have been no large-scale, evidence-based studies done on this subject. But if you have any doubts on this due to medical reasons, please discuss this with a specialist or your dentist.”
Plus, in the Netherlands, there is no fluoride added to the water. As a result, you need to use toothpaste with fluoride if you want to prevent cavities! “In combination with a healthy, low sugar diet of course,” Sanam says. “There are always more factors that play a role in the cavity process. Please consult your dentist.”
Your diet also has a huge affect on your oral health.
One of the most important vitamins for strong, healthy teeth is vitamin D, specifically vitamin D3. “Vitamin D3 plays a role in the improvement of the condition of the gums,” says Sanam.
Lack of vitamin D leads to less collagen production, which means the risk of gum disease increases. We need to be in the sun every day for half an hour in order to get the right amount of vitamin D.
But the Netherlands is infamous for its lack of sunshine. So how do we get enough of the fat-soluble vitamin? “It’s important to get vitamin D from our food,” Sanam tells us. Eggs, salmon, and other fatty fish are great food sources for vitamin D.
And you can’t talk about vitamin D without mentioning calcium. Vitamin D helps bones absorb calcium, which is also necessary for strong teeth.
As long as they contain fat, dairy products are a great source for both vitamin D and calcium. And in case you hadn’t noticed, there is no lack of dairy products in the Netherlands, so your teeth are good to go!
Vitamin C and magnesium are also important for good oral health. While Vitamin C strengthens gum tissue, magnesium helps the body absorb vitamin D.
Vitamin C can be found in all kinds of fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens and potatoes. Magnesium is available in seeds, whole grains, pure chocolate, nuts, and bananas.
But if you don’t have time to shop for and cook fresh produce and meat, supplements are a good source for vitamins and minerals. Keep in mind, however, that they don’t replace a healthy diet! Think of them as support.
And Sanam warns against using generic brands. They may have a lot of other filler ingredients that aren’t as good for you.
Take Care of Your Teeth Right Away!
If you’re looking for a natural way to improve your oral health, this dental therapist recommends a well-balanced diet!
Ultimately, Sanam encourages you to take care of yourself. Because when you take care of your oral health, you improve your overall health.
But don’t forget: a good teeth cleaning and regular brushing help, too. “There is no shame in going to the dentist!” she says.
Make an appointment with Lassus Tandartsen today to improve your oral health.