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Oral Nutrition—From the Dentist Chair to the Powder Room

by Steve Myers Comments

The portal of good health and nutrition is the mouth. Food begins to breakdown in the oral cavity (thanks to saliva), and scientists have linked healthy gums to a healthy body. Simple fluoride toothpaste, simple mouthwash and simple floss are basic oral care, but many people are asking more of their oral care products, and natural, herbal-based options are satisfying this desire to use toxin-free and multi-beneficial toothpastes and washes.

David Villarreal, biocompatible dentist and founder of Estrella Brite products, confirmed the importance of oral cavity in overall health. “If you were to go and buy a horse, the first thing the veterinarian will do is look into the horse’s mouth, and that lets her see what their overall health is like," he remarked, noting modern medicine tends to treat the body in pieces rather than as a whole.  “In Western medicine, we have regressed by decapitating the patient and letting the dentist do his thing and the physician do his, separate from each other."

The American Dental Association (ADA) has reported on the links between periodontitis and systemic health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, pneumonia and stroke, as well as pregnancy problems, such as early delivery and low birth weight. The group was quick to point out the links are just associations, as no true causality has been established, meaning no one yet knows for certain if periodontitis and other diseases are consequences of other factors, or if gum problems cause these other diseases, or vice versa.

While the dental community has rallied around these disease associations to show the public the importance of consistent, quality dental care, there are more divided discussions of other areas of oral health, such as fluoride. Where ADA has long supported fluoridation of public drinking water and backs the safety of fluoride in toothpaste for both adults and children—it contends the FDA warning for children swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste is unnecessary—another subset of dental health care providers argue overuse and exposure to fluoride can lead to fluorosis, which normally presents as brown spots or white streaks on teeth in children during tooth-forming years. Some also argue fluoride is not an essential ingredient, and healthy teeth can be maintained without it.

Dakshina Vamzetti, president of Auromere Ayurvedic Imports, noted many herbs can handle the task of cleaning teeth and removing unwanted compounds that can cause cavities and other oral health problems. “The astringent and antibacterial action of the Ayurvedic herbal ingredients in the Auromere formula deters that unsightly and sticky plaque formation, which, if not removed regularly, can lead to cavities and gum inflammation," she said. “Brushing with Auromere leaves the mouth squeaky clean between meals, and brushing after each meal and upon waking in the morning will keep the mouth plaque and tartar-free, preventing cavity formation, without the dangers of fluorosis and other ill-effects that can be caused by excess fluoride."

Tea tree is a popular antiseptic used in fluoride-free oral care products. In it slow-abrasion whitening toothpaste, Tea Tree Therapy features tea tree oil distilled from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia to  inhibit the growth of decay and plaque-causing bacteria. Naturally occurring dicalcium phosphate and silica provide the whitening power.

The Dessert Essence line of dental care products features tea tree oil and Ayurveda. The line’s Natural Tea Tree Oil and Neem Toothpaste spotlight the bark of the neem tree for its history as the toothbrush tree in India. The product also contains baking soda to help combat plague build up.

Vamzetti further explained Ayurvedic herbs, such as found in Auromere’s oral care products, have been traditionally used for thousands of years for the care of teeth and gums.  “In ancient times, these herbs were blended into various tooth powders, or the twigs were chewed on to form brushes to scrub the teeth clean, as in the case of neem," she noted. “Today we use extracts from these herbs blended into the toothpaste or mouthwash."

Thursday Plantation, a Country Life partner, also offers a fluoride- and sugar-free toothpaste based on the antibacterial tea tree oil.  This is also the active ingredient in the company’s mouthwash, which utilizes xylitol for sweetness.

Xylitol has surfaced recently in dental-care chewing gum, as it can not only replace sugar or other sweeteners that may promote tooth decay, but it also creates an unwelcome environment for bacteria that contribute to tooth decay, according to Xlear Inc., which makes numerous such gums under its Spry line. Xlear also makes an oral rinse and both fluoride and non-fluoride toothpastes based on the xylitol platform, with secondary ingredients such as the botanicals stevia, Aloe vera and parsley seed oil.

Essential oils from botanicals have been the trend in the natural health set for some time, and it is gaining recognition beyond the co-op shelves, as people begin to learn about and question the contents of the average toothpaste and mouthwash. “Common toothpaste and mouthwashes are filled with all types of chemicals," Villarreal warned, reiterating the mouth is like a sponge, and whatever oral-care products are used will affect overall health. “Essential oils infuse the mouth with oxygen; what that does is  kill only the anaerobic bacteria—they don’t like oxygen, and are the major cause for bad breath, periodontal disease, gingivitis, periodontal  pockets, cavities, etc.—and leave the aerobic (good) bacteria to do their thing." He added most mouth rinses dry out the mouth, making bad breath worse, a theory supported by a 2007 published trial (J Dent Res. 2007;86(Spec Iss A):1863).

Among the chemicals Villarreal noted is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a commonly used foaming agent that is still found even in natural toothpastes, albeit from coconuts or another natural source. However, Villarreal contends SLS is dangerous no matter the source, synthetic or natural. “We don’t need a foaming agent," he said, “My clients have gotten used to not having a foaming agent, and actually like SLS-free oral care."

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