Your smile is one of the first things people notice about you—and troubled teeth and gums are good indicator of increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and depression. Here are some safe solutions for healthy gums, fresh breath, and a whiter smile.
Whiten teeth gently.
Watch out for toothpastes with abrasive ingredients and chemical bleaches; they can scratch tooth enamel and lead to sensitivity. Look for toothpaste with baking soda, silica or calcium carbonate, to lighten stains while keeping tooth enamel strong.
Smile-worthy choices: Jason Naturals Powersmile Plus; Nature’s Answer PerioBrite; Coral Incorporated Coral White; Kiss My Face Whitening Aloe Vera Toothpaste; Nature’s Gate Whitening Gel; Tom’s of Maine Simply White.
Freshen breath, naturally.
Mainstream mouthwashes contain artificial flavors, colors, preservatives and grain alcohol, which can irritate mouth and gum tissue. Look for products with witch hazel, a natural astringent; tea tree oil, to gently fight bacteria; aloe vera, to soothe mouth and gum tissue; and pure essential oils like peppermint, fennel, or cinnamon to freshen breath.
Smile-worthy choices: Thursday Plantation Tea Tree Mouthwash; Tom’s of Maine Wicked Fresh; Nature’s Answer PerioWash; Jason Naturals Healthy Mouth Mouthwash; Kiss My Face Vanilla-Mint Breath Blast; The Natural Dentist Healthy Teeth Rinse; Dessert Essence Tea Tree Oil Mouthwash.
Soothe sensitive teeth and gums.
Tooth-grinding, gum recession, vigorous brushing, age, or long-term use of harsh mouthwash or whitening products can damage gums, wear away enamel, and cause tooth sensitivity. Look for natural toothpaste with potassium to reduce sensitivity; aloe vera and neem to soothe mouth tissue; and CoQ10 to heal gums. Or try topical drops or ointments with clove oil and other analgesic ingredients to diminish pain while healing mouth tissue.
Smile-worthy choices: Tom’s of Maine Natural Sensitive Care; Nature’s Answer Perio-Rub topical gum ointment; Kiss My Face Sensitive Aloe Vera Toothpaste; The Natural Dentist Anti-gingivitis Rinse; Jason Naturals Oral Comfort Plus CoQ10 Toothpaste; Himalaya Organique Neem Toothpaste.
Some parents choose fluoride for kids’ toothpaste, but it may not be safe for very young children who might swallow it. Products that prevent plaque and tartar build-up are safer bets. And look for those with tea tree oil or xylitol (a natural sugar alcohol), to gently block bacteria growth in the mouth and prevent cavities. Xylitol is also available in gum and mouth rinses.
Smile-worthy choices: Thursday Plantation Tea Tree Toothpaste; Tom’s of Maine Silly Strawberry Fluoride Toothpaste; Kiss My Face Tartar Control Toothpaste; The Natural Dentist Groovy Grape Cavity Zapper.
Use the right tools.
Swap your hard-bristled brush for one with soft, rounded bristles, to gently clean teeth and massage gums. If your mouth is sensitive, look for a brush with a flexible handle, to reduce impact on enamel and gums. For babies and kids, look for toothbrushes made from extra-soft bristles and BPA-free handles. For your own toothbrush, consider one that’s made from recycled materials, or has a replaceable head—so you don’t have to toss the whole brush when bristles wear out. And don’t forget to floss; choose those made with beeswax or plant wax, tea tree oil and other essential oils, instead of petrochemical waxes and artificial flavors.
Smile-worthy choices: Radius Scuba Brush with flexible handle; Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil Floss; Fuch’s Eco-Tech Replaceable Head Toothbrush; Radius Source Toothbrush with Replaceable Heads.
Clean and freshen between meals.
Brushing is best, but not always an option. Look for chewing gums made with peelu or xylitol, to slow bacterial growth and remove food particles from the teeth. Toothpicks and chewing sticks—designed to replicate the frayed twigs traditionally used as toothbrushes in Africa, India, and other countries—help remove food particles from teeth and gums between meals. In some studies, regular use of chewing sticks was as effective as brushing.
Smile-worthy choices: Thursday Plantation Tea Tree Chewing Sticks; Xlear Spry Xylitol Gum; Tea Tree Therapy Cinnamon Toothpicks; Nature’s Gate Peelu Chewing Gum.
Freshen, soothe and protect from within.
Supplements can help troubled teeth. Vitamins A, C and D, calcium, and trace minerals are important for tooth and gum health. Probiotics combat bacteria in the mouth that lead to decay and bad breath, especially when they’re applied topically. Parsley has long been used to freshen breath, and one recent study also found that green tea was very effective in reducing volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs), which cause bad breath.
Smile-worthy choices: Rainbow Light Mint Asure parsley seed capsules; Nature’s Plus Opti-Fresh parsley seed capsules; Garden of Life Probiotic Smile Mints.
Eat yogurt to banish bad breath. Researchers found that eating 6 ounces of yogurt a day reduced levels of odor-causing compounds, such as hydrogen sulfide, in the mouth. Study participants ate three ounces of yogurt twice daily for six weeks. Odiferous compounds, namely hydrogen sulfide, decreased in 80% of participants. Results suggest that the active bacteria in yogurt, specifically Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus (also available in probiotic supplements) have a beneficial effect on odor-causing bacteria in the mouth.
aw good buys
Spry Green Tea Gum combines the natural sweetener xylitol with green tea. Chewing this gum after meals for 5 minutes can reduce tooth decay. while freshening your breath.
Doctor’s Best High Absorption COQ10 includes the herbal extract bioperine to enhance the absorption of CoQ10, shown to promote gum health.
The Vitamin Shoppe Green Tea Extract. Just add to water or your favorite beverage for all the antioxidant flavonoids and breath-freshening power of green tea.