Natural trends in dental care
If you browse through social media on a regular basis, you've probably noticed the rise in natural trends in dental health care. According to data released by Nielsen and the National Marketing Institute in 2014, older millennials were 32 percent more likely to be open to alternative medicine than the general population; meanwhile, younger millennials were 40 percent more likely than the general population. The general preference for alternative medicine is still driving natural dental trends. In addition to your daily oral care routine, some of these inexpensive home remedies may help clean your mouth and whiten your teeth.
Natural Trends in Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables aren’t only good for your overall health, but they can benefit your oral health as well.
Due to the acidity of lemon juice, some people report that it whitens their teeth. While it does help break down a film of plaque, it can wear away at tooth enamel and cause damage to your teeth. Check with your dentist first before using lemon juice or any other natural fruit for cleaning or whitening purposes -- and be sure to rinse thoroughly with water after. Once again, use it as a supplement rather than a replacement to your daily routine of brushing, flossing and rinsing.
Natural healthy foods have been making a big comeback in recent years and members of the public are eagerly learning how to incorporate healthy fruits and vegetables back into their lifestyles. Eating fibrous fruits and vegetables (e.g., carrots, celery and apples) helps hydrate and clean the mouth because these foods have a lot of water. They also help your mouth produce the saliva necessary to wash away harmful acids and food particles that form plaque buildup on your teeth.
While these healthy, nonacidic, hydrating foods are far better than candy, most dental experts agree that eating them doesn't take the place of daily brushing, flossing, rinsing and routinely scheduled dental visits. However, consuming them daily helps keep both your teeth and your body healthy and happy
Top Online Trends
When you search for natural dental trends online, you’ll find recommendations from baking soda, to different oils and beyond.
Baking soda is a mildly abrasive powder which has been used for generations to clean and whiten teeth. Its texture can effectively remove surface stains from your teeth and make them seem whiter. Some apply it as a powder directly to the teeth, while others make a paste with baking soda and water. Some people even mix the baking soda with lemon, but most dentists will recommend that you stay away from lemon juice and other citrus fruits as teeth whiteners. The 'whitening agent' is actually citric acid, which will wear away your enamel. Check with your dentist on whether it's a good idea to try any of the methods. Keeping your dentist in the loop will allow you to use the baking soda safely. You may notice that it helps remove mild plaque buildup, but because baking soda is abrasive, it can cause harm to your teeth if you use it too frequently, brush with it too vigorously or apply it to an already damaged tooth.
Olive, Coconut, Sunflower and Sesame Oil
Oil pulling is an ancient dental technique which comes from Ayurveda, India's traditional medicine system. The ancient practice started trending in the U.S. during the 2010s when celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Shailene Woodley sung its praises after including it in their dental, beauty and wellness routines. Believing that it extracts toxins and reduces inflammation throughout the body, practitioners of oil pulling also claim it helps treat and prevent conditions such as migraines, acne, asthma and diabetes. Additionally, people who use oil pulling regularly testify to how the process cleans and whitens your teeth, freshens your breath and keeps your gums healthy.
Take a small amount of sesame, sunflower, coconut or olive oil and swish it around in your mouth for 20 minutes. This swishing action allows components within the oil to bind with bacteria and toxins in your saliva. After 20 minutes, spit out the oil in a paper towel or a disposable cup so that it can be disposed of. Avoid throwing it down the sink or the toilet because the oil can cause plumbing problems.
The American Dental Association (ADA) currently doesn't recommend oil pulling. Although many practitioners of oil pulling report that it reduces plaque buildup, whitens teeth and helps prevent gingivitis, U.S. dental researchers say that more studies must be conducted to support these claims.
Even some mainstream dental healthcare providers who are skeptical about oil pulling recognize that the technique may have some cleansing benefits. Just swishing water around for several minutes is going to clean out your mouth due to the mechanical movement involved. Additionally, using oil pulling on a consistent basis is one way of paying attention to your oral health. Developing mindfulness about what's going on inside your mouth is beneficial when the daily stresses of life make it tempting to forget about our oral health care.
Most practitioners see little to no harm in oil pulling, as long as it's done in addition to your regular dental care routine (never as a replacement). Perform the oil pulling first, and then brush, floss and rinse with a fluoride mouth rinse as normally advised. If you accidentally swallow the oil, you may get a temporary case of diarrhea or an upset stomach.
Using activated charcoal in toothpaste or powder form has recently been a very popular natural trend. Some claim that it keeps your mouth clean while brightening your teeth. Activated charcoal is a fine black powder generally grounded with a combination of charcoal, coconut shell, olive pits, sawdust, bone char and other materials. The powder is then heated at a high temperature thus making it more porous, also known as “activated.”
Natural cleaning and whitening products with activated charcoal became popular toward the end of the 20th century. However, activated charcoal's medical benefits have been recognized for more than a century. It was first used medically in 1834 when a doctor administered it to save the life of a patient who was dying from mercury poisoning. Nowadays, it's available in a powder or a tooth paste as a natural way to whiten your teeth.
However, like baking soda, charcoal is abrasive even in a paste or powder. If you have cracks or other weaknesses in your enamel or your overall tooth, this product may not be for you. Check with your dentist first and see if they recommend activated charcoal whitening as a supplement to your daily dental routine. Dentists who combine holistic and mainstream dentistry will know which activated charcoal products to recommend, the best procedures for using them and whether you would benefit more from a paste or a powder.
A final note on using activated charcoal as a teeth-whitening technique: The ADA does not yet recommend its use due its abrasive nature and the lack of evidence supporting its benefits. Most dentists who recommend it as a supplement will advise you to use it only a couple of times a week -- in addition to your regular oral care routine and bi-yearly dental checkups.
The concept of using natural tooth-cleaning and whitening products that list clay as the main ingredient are trending as well. They're known to have the same benefits and concerns that come with using charcoal-based dental whiteners and cleaners, so check with your dentist to see if this is a safe option for you-- and if they have a specific brand in mind which they feel confident about.
Do-it-yourself (DIY) Trends to Avoid
When used after consulting your dentist and as a supplement to regular dental care, the items we've listed may make a positive difference in your smile and your confidence. However, we recommend avoiding DIY trends that include modifying or altering the structures of your teeth or mouth. Here are some DIY trends that should be avoided:
- Using dental tools to remove plaque or tartar: Don't use DIY dental kits with tools designed to scrape away tartar. Tartar forms once a sticky film called dental plague stays on your tooth for too long which causes it to harden. It’s rough and carries bacteria which can cause cavities. Using any kind of dental tool at home without proper training is very dangerous because you can cause damage to your teeth and surrounding gum tissues.
- Filling your own teeth: Some individuals have tried filling their teeth at home with natural materials they have collected on websites. It is not recommended to attempt this DIY trend. It's unsafe and can cause further damage to your tooth, which would cost you more to repair rather than consulting with your dentist from the get-go.
- Smoothing out your own chipped tooth: If you find that you have chips on the edge of your teeth that need smoothing out, find a professional dentist to perform the procedure. Attempting this DIY trend could severely damage your tooth and the surrounding gums without proper training.
Getting advice from DIY videos does not compare to a dentists’ qualified experience, so please consult with your dentist with any dental issues that you may have.
Why Care about Your Oral Health?
Now more than ever, dental experts emphasize the link between oral health and overall health. Consistent brushing and flossing can reduce bacteria from spreading to other parts of your body. As a result of a healthy mouth, your body's entire system benefits. Keeping a consistent routine with dental visits can also be to your benefit. By looking at the condition of your teeth and mouth, dental professionals can recognize signs of systemic diseases such as diabetes or HIV. Not only can is there a link between oral health and diabetes and HIV, but according to researchers, there’s evidence that there’s a plausible link between periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s.
There are many individuals who claim that using natural products in their daily oral health routine effectively whitens teeth, assists in preventing plaque buildup and helps maintain healthy gums. However, more research needs to be carried out to fully ensure their benefits to oral care. Before making changes to your oral care routine, be sure to consult with a professional dentist first. Regardless of which trends you choose to follow, it is still highly recommended to use the traditional methods suggested by the ADA -- brushing twice a day, flossing and rinsing with an approved fluoride rinse.
To date, there are no substitutes for six-month checkups with your dentist to get regular cleanings and screenings. Even though some of these natural home methods can leave your teeth feeling and looking whiter, remember that that the results are temporary. For longer-term results, use dental whitening strips with the ADA seal of approval, or get professional in-office or take-home treatments from your dentist. To find out what natural cleaning and whitening procedures work best for you, schedule an appointment with your dentist for a checkup and cleaning first.
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