Friday, January 2, 2015

Jen's Crunchy Life Experiment: Homemade Toothpaste

I'm very excited to share this particular portion of the experiment with you guys. I love teeth.

Now before I get started, I want to disclose a few things about myself, mainly for the benefit of anyone who might read this post and think "WHAT A QUACK!" I had no idea toothpaste and dental care could ignite such a debate between bloggers and dental professionals and as such, I feel compelled to inform anyone reading this of my experience and qualification level.

1. I am not a dentist, nor do I hold a medical degree of any kind.

2. I was a dental assistant to the best pediatric dentist in the Chicagoland area for many years. I also assisted in general family practice dentistry for a number of years shortly after having my first child. I was required to take classes for assisting, coronal polishing, and sealants, at an accredited community college. I was also mandated to complete yearly refresher courses and as one of the leading providers in his area, my pediatric dentist was constantly implementing new technology and sharing new information with his team.

3. I love teeth, and health, and anything having to do with the human body. I am very open minded and welcome debates, although I must insist they are respectful and considerate. Any assholish comments will be deleted.

All right! So let's move on to the fun stuff :)

We all need to brush our teeth. It's kinda imperative. After finding out Crest embeds plastic in our gums last September, I started to wonder whether or not it was really all that intelligent of me to research the crap out of my food, but blindly purchase my beauty products. Toothpaste was the very first thing I switched out when deciding to take the plunge into the crunchy life experiment. So let's do this.

The Procedure
1. Pick your recipe. My aim was to create something my kids (ages 2 and 8) and husband would like, a very tall order considering each one is inherently picky about tastes and textures. I ended up slightly tweaking a recipe I found online from Wellness MamaLive Simply also has a great recipe.

  • 2 Tablespoons xylitol (this is to sweeten it - be sure to check labels - get the real, 100% birch stuff!)
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil (I get the organic kind from Target. *Bonus* - you can use the jars later!)
  • 1 Tablespoon baking soda
  • 2 Tablespoons bentonite clay 
  • About 5 drops of peppermint essential oil 

2. Mix all the ingredients up. Wellness Mama gets all fancy and incorporates stuff and uses a food processor and only plastic spoons blah blah blah but I just threw that crap into an old glass honey jar and stirred. I had great consistency without adding water, but they say you can add water if it's too chalky.

Some folks get a little nervous using metal spoons to stir because they say bentonite clay shouldn't come into contact with metal as metal diminishes potency. After reading and reading and reading some more, I've found mixing the clay with stainless steel is perfectly fine - in fact, they use stainless steel instruments to remove the clay from the earth for our consumption. All good. Also, bentonite clay is safe on amalgam (metal) fillings, as these fillings are designed to withstand pretty much everything. Awesome.

3. Store your toothpaste. I bought some travel tubes (first picture, above) made of silicone (less leaching = more good). I wash them out between uses so I don't have some old stuff just sitting in there. One travel-size GoToob will last about 3 weeks if you brush twice a day.

Here's a picture of the mixing jar after I filled up my tubes - I wanted to show you for texture reasons. It's really easy to scoop out...very paste-like consistency.

The Cost
I was using this paste for year and years and years:

The cost of this toothpaste per ounce is $0.51.

My kiddos were using this toothpaste:

The cost of this toothpaste per ounce is $0.83.

I added up the ingredients for our homemade toothpaste, divided by recipe usage, and came out to a price of $0.93 per ounce. So when comparing to my old whitening adult paste, I am paying $0.42 more for my homemade product, and when comparing to my kids' old paste, I am paying $0.10 more per ounce for my homemade product. Paying more any way you slice it.

Health Factors
So here's where it gets messy for me, the dental assistant who was taught fluoride and toothpaste are critical for health. I went on my favorite website, EWG's SkinDeep database, and was pretty shocked to see some hefty charges against my favorite toothpaste.

  • Triclosan: Ecotoxicology, Endocrine disruption, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Contamination concerns (CHLOROFORM, DIOXINS), Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Persistence and bioaccumulation
  • Sodium Fluoride: Developmental/reproductive toxicity, Multiple, additive exposure sources, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Occupational hazards, Use restrictions
  • Sodium Hydroxide: Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Use restrictions
  • Propylene Glycol: Enhanced skin absorption, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Use restrictions

Wait wait wait....what? Fluoride? The same stuff I would smear on little kids teeth and make them sit with, holding it in their mouth so it could effectively be absorbed?? There are actual studies showing this may not be safe for our bodies? For our developmental progress? Our allergies? Our endocrine systems? As someone who's consistently battled hormone imbalances her entire life, and has two kids I'm just trying to raise right in this world, this makes me furious. I worked with dentists. I believed in what I was doing. The stuff is in our water, for crying out loud. It can't be toxic!

Oh, but it is. Not only is it responsible for causing fluorosis (which I unfortunately suffer from), but it's also shown as having no positive affect on cavity reduction...none. Honestly blew my, the dental professional. We laughed at the parents who refused fluoride. "Irresponsible," we called them. "Easily-frightened women who refuse to look at science." How the tables have turned. Flaws, forgiven indeed.

And our ingredients? Aside from no crazy chemical toxicity, they have the following benefits:

  • Coconut oil: antibacterial, shown to prevent tooth decay, incredible for your immune system
  • Bentonite clay: absorbs toxins, repairs gums, remineralizes teeth
  • Xylitol: protects teeth, kills sticky, cavity-causing bacteria, promotes growth of healthy bacteria
  • Baking soda: eliminates surface stains, whitens teeth
  • Peppermint oil: freshens breath, reduces plaque bacteria, whitens teeth

Of all the products I've tried and experimented with, this one was by far the most widely-accepted by my kids and husband. My entire family loves this stuff. The flavor is very mild - only a hint of mint. When I make it again I am going to add more peppermint oil.

I pay a little more for it. It's a pain in the butt to stuff tubes and clean green dots off my white sink, but I do it all, and will continue to do so, gladly.

I feel duped, maybe more so with this particular product than any others because this was my profession, my expertise. I taught others the right way to do things and those little cuties trusted me, as did their parents. Am I glad I found a toothpaste my whole family can enjoy, toxin-free? You betcha. But what impacts me the heaviest, what gives me more reason to pause, is the possibility that you, the reader, will learn something. This post won't make up for the hundreds of lives I contaminated with my ignorance, but it might make a difference for one of you. Oysters in the ocean and what have by matters to that one.

Overjoyed to have you with me, and as always, thank you so much for reading. Tune in next week to read about homemade lotion - perfect for these cold, dry winter months!

Miss my other Crunchy Life Experiment Posts? No worries. Check them out in the links below.



  1. I'm not a huge fluoride fan. In the house where I lived till I was 10 and where Angel lived since we got married we had a well, and I'm pretty happy we had our own water source and didn't have to worry about what's added to city water. I also always refused the fluoride rinse at the dentist--in good part because our insurance didn't cover it, and if the insurance didn't think I needed it, I agreed with them.
    And yet, at the same time I appreciate toothpaste and modern dental care--I think the western system of dental care, chemicals and all, has made a huge, huge impact on dental health. All one has to do is hang out in a country where dental/home tooth care is not as common, not necessarily taught culturally from parent to child, and you see a huge difference in the smiles around you. So many of my friends/neighbors/students have missing teeth, black teeth, completely broken off teeth--I think even traditional toothpaste could see better use here.
    Also, your reminded me of a book I read as a kid "The Toothpaste Millionaire"--this was probably 15 years ago, but I guess it made an impression on me--the storyline was about a boy who decided that toothpaste had too much unnecessary stuff in it and decided to make his own baking soda-based toothpaste, I believe his motivation was to save money, though. Don't know why that book stuck with me for so long!

    1. Right! I just started reading up on how fluoride is purposely added to water sources and it makes me a little shaky to think we just accept that sort of answer at face value...and I also thought it was so funny how insurances wouldn't cover the cost of fluoride, yet it was so "important" to dental health.

      I agree with you about our modern dental care - I think the majority of what science does is fantastic and saves lives, if not smiles. Every now and then, though, I find we've been duped into this false sense of security, often scared into thinking if we don't use certain pastes that we'll end up with black (or no!) teeth, and led to believe the stuff we use is safe. And I think you hit the nail on the head with your comment that it's commonly a lack of teaching through the generations that leads to poor oral care in addition to little/no access to dental products. Funny, I read the brushing motion alone (which can be done with sticks, if absolutely necessary), claims much of the plaque that causes cavities. If more people knew that maybe we'd see some healthier smiles all over the place?

      And I think I would love that book~!! Smart kid!! Thanks for stopping by Rach and for your comments - I love the perspective you bring here!

  2. Wow - you are totally going earthy crunchy huh? So I guess the big question - do your teeth feel clean? The coconut oil freaks me out - I tried oil pulling and started just the thought of it in my mouth and gag city. I am pretty impressed though that you are trying all of these rock!

    1. HAHA yes - crunchy all the way! And YES - my teeth actually feel awesome. The coconut oil is masked by the clay, to be honest. The clay I think was the weirdest thing for me to get used to. It's...well...chalky. It leaves a weird chalk on your teeth until you rinse. WEIRD! And THANK YOU girl! So glad to have you reading along!!!

  3. That's awesome - glad you family enjoyed this one. How is the texture compared to regular toothpaste? What tube do you use to put it in? Look at you doing stuff! You have way more gumption and patience than I do that's for sure :) I like my sensodyne though! haha Have a great one Jennifer and keep up the experiments! Take Care -Iva

    1. Thanks Iva :) The texture is pretty damn awesome, if I do say so myself! It is crunchy, but nowhere near as grainy as the stuff they use in the dentist' offices. And it washes out really nicely, which I wasn't expecting for coconut oil! I will absolutely keep you posted in case my teeth turn green or something!! HAHA!