DIY Tooth Powder - Ditch the Plastic Tubes

Cropped black and white pen and ink of old fashioned open cupboard with lady, Lady and Cupboard, by j4p4n,
Cropped black and white pen and ink of old fashioned open cupboard with lady, Lady and Cupboard, by j4p4n,

This recipe is easy, not complicated at all. You won't even need to purchase ingredients at a health food or specialty grocery store. I understand how frustrating that can be. In fact, I'm not too fond of battling traffic to forage for food and provisions. I will, however, share a simple DIY tooth powder recipe. Last updated March 17, 2017

DIY Tooth Powder

I'm going to go ahead and give you the spoiler. Go out and buy yourself a box of baking soda and keep it in a clean dry place in your bathroom. Sprinkle a small amount into the palm of your hand. Dip your moistened toothbrush into the baking soda and brush your teeth. OK, there's your one ingredient DIY tooth powder. Now you can get back to what you were doing. But you might not want to do that! I have some interesting facts about baking soda to share.

Toothpaste tubes: some myths

But first things first: What's so bad about toothpaste tubes? Can't I just toss my old toothpaste tube into the recycling bin? Contrary to common beliefs, toothpaste tubes, according to this site, are made of different kinds of plastics and sometimes aluminum in addition, so they're difficult to recycle because of all the different materials. Quite frankly, most of the time, toothpaste tubes end up in the trash, taking 500-700 years to break down. In the process, they can leach harmful chemicals, which end up in groundwater.

And besides, recycling isn't all it's cracked up to be. Plastic can only be recycled once before ultimately ending up in the landfill, although some new technologies are looming on the horizon to change that. But how many plastic park benches and plastic sculptures do we really need? From an aesthetic point of view, I would think none.

OK, but what about turning recycled plastic bottles into clothing? Unfortunately, fibers from synthetic clothing end up in our oceans.  Meanwhile, sea life ingests these fibers, which can ultimately turn up in our food. Fish à la microfiber, monsieur?

And even if it's BPA- free, is plastic really safe? I have my doubts. Check out thisarticle and the Ecology Center on research behind BPA and other BPA-free plastics. I'm most comfortable avoiding it, but just like many of you, I have some legwork to do before completely ridding our home of all plastic.

Baking soda: some interesting facts

I'm not a big fan of time consuming DIY recipes. So, when I discovered simple baking soda was safe to use, I was thrilled to say the least. At first, I was afraid baking soda would be too abrasive to use in lieu of toothpaste. But after doing some research, I learned it's not.

On the Mohr's Scale of Mineral Hardness, a scale that rates the hardness of all minerals, baking soda is a 2.5. Just to give you an idea of what this means, diamond has a hardness of 10, tooth enamel is a 5, and dentin is a 2.5. Dentin lies just under the surface of tooth enamel and can be exposed along the gum line. So, baking soda has the same hardness as dentin.

But let's dig a little deeper. All toothpastes on the market must be given an RDA value (relativedentin abrasivity). If you take a look at this chart, which compares the RDA of many popular toothpastes, using baking soda as an alternative to toothpaste appears to be quite safe. It's less abrasive than all of the toothpastes listed. That was an eye-opener.

More often than not, applying too much pressure while brushing and over-brushing in the same area are responsible for causing injury to enamel and gum tissue. A helpful tip for sensitive gums is to mix the baking soda with a small amount of water, first.

Benefits to baking soda

Beyond being safe, though, baking soda has some clear benefits. With a pH of 8.3, it reduces the risks of tooth decay (demineralization of enamel occurs at a pH of 5.5) and the bacteria responsible for periodontal pathogens. It's also inexpensive, and there's no plastic packaging to worry about—not to mention microbeads. Here's one additional resource on DIY tooth powder, which attests to the safety of baking soda and contains additional information on oral health in general.

Other options

Even after singing it's praises, though, some people still find baking soda irritating to sensitive gums. There's an interesting and humorous blog post (My Plastic Free Life) about this topic along with information on other toothpaste alternatives.

The author tried using a non-toxic soap in lieu of toothpaste, as some have suggested. It's funny because I had the same response to this method as the author of the blog: I gagged. One option is to simply use a toothbrush without any toothpaste or tooth powder. This is how my twelve-year-old son used to brush his teeth, mostly out of preference.

Although I haven't tried this brand, Aquarian Bath sells tooth powder in metal tins in different varieties. I can vouch for the quality of other products sold on the website, but I haven't tried the tooth powder, yet.

DIY tooth powder - a fancier alternative to straight up baking soda

For now, our family has settled into a slightly dressed up variety of DIY tooth powder. This is how I make it.

About 1/4 cup of baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt (not course)

12 to 15 drops of essential oil of peppermint

I purchase the essential oil of peppermint from Mountain Rose Herbs. Also, just so you know, I'm not affiliated with them in any way. But essential oils are readily available in most natural food stores too. I just don't happen to live near one at the moment, and I trust Mountain Rose Herbs for quality.

Mix all of the above ingredients in a small bowl, making sure to evenly distribute the essential oil of peppermint. Based on my research, I use 3-5 drops of essential oil per 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Since my jar holds around 1/4 cup, which is 4 tablespoons, I use 15-20 drops. Simply adjust amounts for the size of your container.

A funnel is helpful when transferring the tooth powder to its final home. Honestly, I often mix the ingredients in the container itself. Because of the essential oil, make sure to use glass or stainless steel for storage. Other ideas for essential oils are referenced in the post mentioned above.

This seems obvious, but I don't recommend using this recipe with young children. First of all, they probably wouldn't appreciate the taste! But my twelve-year-old likes it fine, now. Secondly, essential oils are a tricky thing with children. Please consult with your dentist or doctor.

Container Options

I did go ahead and purchase a stainless steel shaker for my DIY tooth powder as I wanted to keep the baking soda clean and dry. I also like that the shaker allows me to control the amount of soda being poured, and it closes with a quick turn of the lid.

But mostly, I'm a sucker for attractive containers. This really isn't necessary, though. An empty spice jar or a simple glass jar of any kind would work well too. I tend to buy my spices in bulk and re-use my spice jars. So, believe it or not, I didn't actually have one available. I suggest checking out local thrift stores. I bet they have lots of interesting options for your DIY tooth powder project.

Making a difference

No, I can't solve climate change and plastic pollution by ditching my toothpaste. Just to remind you, almost all plastic products are manufactured from virgin plastic, which is derived from fossil fuels.

But what if many of us picked just one item packaged in plastic to trade out for a non-plastic alternative? I'm guessing that marketing departments would be required to find out why sales were down.

They would bombard us with online questionnaires regarding customer satisfaction for various items we had purchased in the past. What a surprise it would be for marketing departments to learn that we stopped purchasing their products simply because they were packaged in plastic.

Many environmentally friendly companies use plastic packaging, so my intent is not to put worthy companies out of business. Transitioning to alternative packaging is going to take some time and planning, even by the most profitable organizations.

The future

Imagine more companies competing in the sustainable marketplace, with environmentally friendly packaging being just as important as the products themselves. I believe that this is our future.

But we have to start somewhere. We need to let companies know how we feel about the health and environmental risks of plastic. I suggest even writing emails to companies that manufacture products you're particularly fond of, requesting they switch out plastic packaging for glass, metal or paper. I'm beginning to see some of these alternatives in the marketplace.

So, let me know how it goes. Does baking soda work for you? Have you tried other DIY tooth powder recipes? Would you consider contacting the manufacturer of one of your favorite products and request they change their packaging? I would enjoy hearing from you!


*This post is no substitute for good dental or medical care. I'm not a doctor or healthcare professional. This information is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any ailment or disease.