Traditional toothpaste just not doing it for ya, but you don’t want to resort to scraping your teeth with a tree root like you’re on “Survivor”? Then you might be interested in a toothpaste alternative.
There are plenty of available alternatives to toothpaste that are growing in popularity. Even TikTok stars and beauty bloggers are jumping on the trend and made the idea more mainstream, citing health benefits and less waste.
But is there any real merit to going the alternative route? Is it just a fad, or does ditching the minty stuff do you good?
Let’s take a look at some contenders for the teeth-cleaning crown!
If you’re ready to ditch the tubes and try something different, which one should you plump for? What’s going to clean your chompers and give you that Hollywood smile — and maybe save you a bit of cash, too?
Let’s take a look!
1. Baking soda
Let’s kick off with the most commonly-chosen alternative — baking soda, aka sodium bicarbonate. It’s cheap! It’s mildly abrasive, which means that it boots all that nasty plaque off your teeth! It might reduce cavity-causing bacteria! And it whitens your teeth! What’s not to love?
Well, there are a couple of things to consider before you go to the supermarket, and throw eighteen boxes into your cart. One is that it might not whiten teeth quite as well as a lot of beauty bloggers think — in fact, possibly not as well as regular toothpastes. And it doesn’t have fluoride, so you might be at higher risk of developing cavities. Oh, and it tastes like butt.
Baking soda is a viable alternative to toothpaste, but if you’re prone to cavities, or not keen on the taste, it might be wise to keep it to an occasional use.
2. Coconut oil
Heard of oil pulling? It’s a dental care trend, though certainly not a recent one. The technique has been used in India for thousands of years. It basically comes down to treating coconut oil like a mouthwash, except that you’re swishing a teaspoon of it around your mouth for about 15 minutes, making sure you draw it through all the gaps in your teeth. Spit it out, and you’re done!
On the bright side, some small studies show that coconut oil’s antimicrobial properties could be pretty awesome for reducing plaque and gingivitis. Hurrah! On the downside, there isn’t too much research on the subject, which means that it’s fairly unknown as to how it might affect your long-term dental health. One to watch.
3. Sea salt
Salt has many good uses, including cleansing, so it’s a logical step to assume that it’ll kill off all that bacteria in your mouth. And on the whole, it seems to be pretty correct — salt raises the pH in your mouth, making it a deeply uncomfortable living situation for all those pesky microbes.
But it’s a double-edged sword. Salt can work pretty well because it’s abrasive, scraping all the harmful stuff off your teeth… but, it can do its job a little too well, damaging the enamel on your teeth. Plus, you don’t really want to ingest more salt than you need to.
4. Soap (no, really)
Yup, such a thing as tooth soap actually exists, and you can buy it in stores or online.
When you buy it, it’ll often look almost like a deodorant stick — all you need to do is wet your toothbrush, rub it over the surface of the soap a few times until it starts to bubble, then clean your teeth just as you would with regular toothpaste. It’ll foam up way more than you think! Fans love that it’s nonabrasive, and often less chemical-tasting than regular toothpaste.
But does it work? It’ll certainly keep your teeth looking pretty sparkly as usual — but again, there’s usually no fluoride in its ingredients. Great if you’re trying to avoid it, but if you’re prone to cavities, it means that you miss out on that recommended protection.
Whaaaa-? Isn’t that the stuff we use to bleach hair? Why the heck would you want to put peroxide in your heckin’ mouth?
Well, if you’ve ever used a whitening toothpaste or had a whitening treatment carried out by your dentist, the chances are that you’ve already had a peroxide party in your mouth. It’s one of the critical ingredients of those toothpastes that promise to give you a gleaming smile, so some choose to cut out the middleman, and use peroxide to clean their teeth. One important note, though: Be sure it’s diluted before trying to use it in your mouth.
If you’re using it responsibly (and it’s a very good idea to check out correct measurements before you start putting it in your mouth), it’ll certainly get those teeth gleaming. But you’ve got to be careful not to keep it on your teeth too long, or it can cause damage. It also doesn’t provide too much in the way of dental protection.
6. Herbal powders
Want to go away from the chemicals and scrub your fangs with something that’s a bit more natural? Herbal tooth powders might be the option for you!
Tooth powders might sound like something pretty recent, but this is what your ancestors were probably using in order to keep their teeth shiny. We’ve moved away from using crushed oyster shells and chalk (ew?), but head into your nearest store, and you’ll likely find tooth powders made from baking soda, charcoal, or salt. Or you can try making your own, with a drop or two of essential oils to make it taste a bit more appetizing.
And it might even be better for you than toothpaste! The more abrasive nature of the powder means that it’s a great way to dislodge plaque from your teeth. The downside? It can be a little too abrasive — and that’s why no tooth powders have currently been approved by the ADA, as it can do unintended damage to your enamel. Use with care!
Another popular alternative, charcoal, is probably the choice of your favorite wellness-obsessed celeb *coughGwynethcough.* But is it any good?
First, it’s important to note that we’re talking about charcoal-infused toothpastes here. You really don’t want to go scrubbing actual charcoal onto your teeth, because it’s abrasive as heck, gets stuck in your gums, and generally doesn’t taste super nice? But when safely contained in a toothpaste, it’s fairly fine to use — and fans claim that, contrary to logic, it’s great for whitening your teeth!
But… here comes science to be a Debbie Downer. Despite its fans, scientists haven’t found much evidence that charcoal actually whitens any better than a regular toothpaste. It can also leave little black specks and flecks in the gaps between your teeth, which is a little unsightly. So, you can use charcoal toothpaste… but it may not yield the amazing results you might’ve been expecting.
It’s easy to see why cinnamon-infused products, such as toothpastes and powders, are a popular choice with people seeking something different from the usual. After all, if you’re not a fan of mint, cinnamon gives you that fresh, autumnal feeling of cleanliness in your mouth! And cinnamon is known to be anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory. Sounds like a good choice, right?
Well, kinda. There are many mainstream toothpastes which contain cinnamon, and those can be absolutely fine for you. But if you’re thinking of making your own DIY powders or pastes, cinnamon needs to be handled with care — use too much, or too frequently, and you could actually incur burns to the inside of your mouth! That’s not the kind of cinnamon challenge we’re into.
9. Clays (bentonite and kaolin)
Clay? As in, putting actual dirt on your teeth?
Yep, that’s right! Though it’s not like the clay soil you can dig up in your yard (seriously, don’t do that), and you won’t be using it in its raw form — phew! Bentonite clay is a volcanic clay, while kaolin clay is a fine substance that has been used in cosmetics for decades. The theory is that they’re both fine enough to use on your teeth. The clay granules are mildly abrasive, so they scrape the pesky plaque off your teeth, leaving you with a naturally-clean mouth. Bentonite fans even claim that the minerals contained within it help to give you a nifty detox while you brush.
However, there’s not enough research on the effects of clay yet, whether positive or negative. And there’s that all-important lack of fluoride to consider. But in time, it could prove to be an option worth trying long-term.
If you can’t find an alternative to toothpaste that satisfies your needs, there’s always the bare-bones option of bristles and water.
Some nonfans of toothpaste claim that a toothbrush is all you need. After all, many teeth cleaners are often lauded for their level of abrasiveness, which takes plaque and bacteria off the surface of your teeth. But most of the work is done by the brush itself, and not the toothpaste.
Again, consider if you might need the protective elements found in toothpaste, such as fluoride. But if that’s not a concern, try simply brushing with nothing but some good ol’ H2O.
On first impressions, it might be hard to imagine why you’d even want to try out an alternative to toothpaste — after all, we’ve been using this stuff most of our lives, right? Do we really want to go back to ye olden days, when dental treatment mostly consisted of ripping out your chompers with a big pair of pliers? Surely, toothpaste helps us avoid such a sad fate?
Well, toothpaste alternatives have mostly gained popularity because of concerns about some ingredients in traditional toothpastes. Ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulfate (commonly used in household cleaning products) and titanium dioxide have been declared safe by toothpaste boffins, but some people just don’t like the thought of having unknown chemicals in their mouths. Even fluoride, often regarded as our teeth’s BFF, has people concerned, even though the National Institutes of Health says that you’d have to ingest a lot of it to cause any damage.
Reminder: There’s a good reason why so many traditional toothpastes contain fluoride — it really is the best thing for protecting your teeth. The American Dental Association strongly recommends using it to prevent cavities, and has declared it safe. So, if you’re unfriending your normal toothpaste, remember that you do run a higher risk of tooth decay — be extra vigilant, and step away from the sugar!
So, you’ve decided on an alternative to toothpaste. How do you use it?
It’s really going to depend on which method you chose. Some of our alternatives, such as baking soda, salt, and clay, come in the form of powders. And, powders are usually pretty simple! All you need to do is:
- Wet your toothbrush.
- Sprinkle the recommended amount of powder onto the brush.
- Brush your teeth as you normally would.
Not too much of a big life change, right?
And of course, it’s also worth checking that you’re doing it right with a toothpaste too, especially if you’ve chosen a charcoal or cinnamon product. You can try:
- wetting your toothbrush
- using a pearl-sized amount of paste
- angling your brush at a 45-degree angle, and brushing in small, circular motions
What if you’ve been using your new alternative to traditional toothpaste, but something feels a bit wrong? Your mouth feels a little funky, or generally just not as awesome as you were hoping for.
Sometimes, an alternative toothpaste just isn’t going to be for you. It might be that an ingredient is irritating your mouth, or causing problems that only switching to another alternative — or even returning to your old brand — could fix. It’s best to go and get your chompers checked out if you notice any of the following:
- sensitive teeth or gums
- bleeding after brushing or flossing
- receding gums
- dry mouth
- loose teeth
- bumps or sores
It’s totally valid to fancy a change in your morning brushing routine, whether it’s because you’re tired of the same old boring mintiness, or because you’re worried about what might be lurking in that innocent-looking tube. But it’s also worth weighing up the pros and cons — if you know you’re prone to cavities and plaque, is it wise to give up the protection that fluoride gives you?
But if you’re keen to give it a try, there’s a wide variety of toothpaste alternatives, and could find one that will suit you. Whether it’s baking soda or charcoal for their whitening properties, or the traditional methods of coconut oil or clay, there’s a toothpaste alternative that might get you smiling. Use them correctly, and keep an eye out for any changes which may need attention.