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Brush Your Teeth the Wise Woman Way
Brush Your Teeth the Wise Woman Way

One good habit that most of us have is brushing our teeth morning and night. And what a large selection of toothbrushes and toothpastes we have to choose from. Is there a difference? Of course.

Every time I leave the dentist after my regular tooth cleaning, I am handed a new (plastic) toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste. The message is clear: "Throw your toothbrush away every few months and always brush your teeth with toothpaste."

I refuse the proffered gift. I'd rather not contribute to the growing mess of plastic waste. It's true that you and I now consume a credit card's worth of plastic (five grams) every week. Yuck.

And have you ever read the ingredients in toothpaste?  When I did, I realized that I would never consume most of the things I was brushing my teeth with. And I am consuming them if I use  toothpaste, even if I don't swallow it. Artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, and essential oils are not on my dinner table; why was I putting them on my teeth, in my mouth? Double yuck.

Weston Price is famous for showing the beautiful teeth of people who don't use toothpaste or toothbrushes (though chew sticks are common). Of course, they have no access to white sugar or white flour or any processed food of any kind. Could I just ditch the whole tooth brushing routine? As one dentist pointed out to me: "You don't have the genetics of those indigenous people. Your ancestors have been living on white flour for generations. You need modern dentistry. You need to brush your teeth. And floss too!"

Many indigenous people use special twigs as "chew sticks" for dental hygiene. They break a twig in half, splay and soften the broken end by chewing on it, then use the splayed end as a brush to remove plaque and invigorate the gums. All the better if the twig is from a tree with antibacterial properties, or an aromatic shrub like neem, tea tree, manuka, sumac, or sweet birch.

Where I live — the Northeastern part of North American — twigs of staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) or twigs of cavity-fighting xylitol-rich sweet birch (Betula nigra) were used.

Oak, dogwood, and maple twigs were used in other areas.

Bedouins use antiseptic arak twigs.

And in India, Pakistan, most Arabian countries, and several African countries., you can brush your teeth with a miswak twig, which is naturally high in anti-cavity fluoride.

Pine needles and pine twigs make excellent toothbrushes. In addition to removing debris and plaque, they kill bacteria, and freshen the breath.

Aromatic shrubs with brushy leaves or twigs – like rosemary, tulsi, thyme, and lavender – are antibacterial and breath freshening.

Twigs from aromatic trees – like bay, cinnamon, and sassafras – also counter bacterial growth in the mouth and scent the breath.

If I don't use a naturally antibacterial chew stick, but a toothbrush, what could I put on it to help my teeth stay healthy? I don't want to use essential oils as antibacterials.

My dentist said she could order an organic, essential-oil-free toothpaste from Germany. But it cost so much I figured it would be better to skip toothpaste altogether. (And she said that would actually be fine, as the brushing itself does the majority of the work.)

The druggist at the local pharmacy recommended hydrogen peroxide, and the bottle told me that it would "debride" my teeth.

My neighbor said she preferred baking soda and sea salt.

I wondered which easy-to-find-or-grow herbs could be used for oral health and well-scrubbed teeth?

Antibacterial herbs can help prevent gum disease and tooth decay.

Astringent herbs can tighten gum tissues.

Three herbs combine these properties and have a long history of use in oral health: echinacea (Echinacea augustifolia, E. purpura), garden sage (Salvia officinalis), and yarrow (Achillea millefolium).

Yarrow is the most common, growing wild in Eurasia, North America, China, and some parts of Africa. A bottle of my own yarrow tincture, made in 100 proof vodka from fresh flowering plants (white flowers, not yellow or red), now resides in my bathroom. If yarrow doesn't grow in your area, you can easily grow sage and make a 100 proof vodka tincture of the fresh leaves at any time. A drop or two of tincture on my toothbrush is all it takes.

After brushing – with or without a dentifrice – a splash of pine needle, mint, rosemary, or sage vinegar in water makes a wonderful antibacterial mouth wash.

Even my dentist commented on the improvement in my oral health, especially the health of my gums, since I stop using toothpaste. and hundreds of others have had the same glowing report from their dentists.

So, just say "no" to toothpaste. And replace that plastic brush with one made of bamboo, too.

Green blessings are everywhere.

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