Dentistry has typically been thought of as a very invasive medical field. No wonder, since the word dentist invokes thoughts of drills, x-rays, mercury fillings, toxic chemicals, not to mention fear and pain. None of these images bring to mind a whole-earth or eco-friendly approach to a beautiful smile.
Oral health is extremely important to general health. Heart disease, stroke, problem pregnancies, fibromyalgia and diabetes are just some of the health issues that have a connection to poor oral health.
The green movement is on the forefront of consciousness minded people focused on wanting our planet to be a safer place for everyone. Going green should incorporate every aspect of our life. Let’s explore how your dentist and you can incorporate oral health into the green movement that results in a more earth and body friendly approach.
There are really two areas we need to explore. One is how you can help your daily oral care be more eco-friendly for your body and our planet and how your dentist can be involved with the same goal.
Is your dentist green?
As a profession, we have come a long way since the 70s and 80s. Safety of ingredients in consumer products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash, still has a ways to go. But those offered in dental practices for treatment have been hotly debated and have resulted in many improvements. Dental offices today have access to state-of-the-art technology to minimize toxic pollution in their environment and therefore, you the patient. Some of the ways this can impact you includes:
- Digital x-rays can reduce radiation exposure from as low as 20 percent to as high as 80 percent compared to the old-fashioned x-ray units.
- Contaminated water from dental unit hoses have been replaced with purifying equipment to prevent bacteria being shared between patients through the drill.
- Drills are quieter.
- Virtually every dentist offers non-mercury fillings.
- Mercury taken out of the old fillings are safely disposed, so as not to contaminate our waterways.
- Choices are offered for instrument sterilization that uses steam instead of toxic chemicals.
- Counter tops can be disinfected with biodegradable products instead of toxic ones.
- Modern air purifiers are used to clean the office air from mercury vapor and other toxic chemicals.
- Office atmosphere can be made to help you relax with soothing music available at every dental chair, lavender eye pillows to relax you, and acupressure to minimize pain.
There are dentists who are already whole-earth and patient friendly. If yours is not, then you can suggest within reason, ways he or she can improve on their approach or look for another dentist.
To find a dentist that can best serve you and our planet, you do have to check around by calling and enquiring how they practice. Below are some questions you can ask:
- Do you use digital x-ray equipment to take radiographs?
- Do you use air purifiers in treatment rooms?
- What do you use to sterilize instruments?
- What do you use to clean counter tops?
- Do you offer non-mercury fillings?
- Do you have purifying equipment to prevent crosscontaminations while using the drill with water?
- How do you dispose of old mercury filling scraps?
Once these questions are answered to your satisfaction, you can make an appointment and determine how you feel in the office. If the atmosphere makes you feel relaxed and at home, then that’s the dentist for you.
Whole-earth approach to dental home care
Not only can commercial dental products affect our planet, but of course our bodies.
Did you know most commercial toothpaste have a warning on the back to keep out of reach of children under the age of six?
Did you know some very popular brands of toothpaste found in health food stores are in aluminum tubes? With use and wear of squeezing and rolling up the tube, small cracks can result in the inner lining of the tube that can result in leaching of aluminum into the paste.
Did you know the mouth is one of the fastest ways to absorb anything into the body?
These are important questions that most consumers are not aware of, or their answers.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate our personal care products. They only regulate drugs and food or any one ingredient that a claim is made for in an over-the-counter product. Other than that, companies are on their own to add any ingredient they want to our personal care products, which includes our toothpaste and mouthwash.
Many people mistake the American Dental Association (ADA) seal on their toothpaste or mouthwash for approval of the whole product. However, the seal, similar to the FDA, is only for fluoride or another ingredient that claims were made about. The fluoride must be re-tested by the ADA to make sure it is the proper type for the teeth and in the right percentage.
Believe it or not, there are environmentally friendly dental products. You can even make your own, with a recipe contained in this article. To buy a body environment friendly product, you want to make sure the following ingredients are missing from it:
- Sodium Laurel Sulfate —This industrial detergent can dry the tissues and cause allergies. Two studies report it causes outbreaks of canker sores. It’s usually used as a foaming agent in most shampoos, bubble bath, soaps and other similar products.
- Artificial sweeteners—Toothpaste is used regularly, even everyday for years from childhood into old age. As we continue to absorb potentially toxic ingredients, negative health issues could result. For example, some artificial sweeteners like saccharin have been on and off the FDA’s banned list of ingredients. Saccharin is the most common artificial sweetener used in chewing gum, toothpaste and mouthwash. Although the FDA has taken it off the banned list, this non-nutritive sweetener has not been allowed in Canada since the 1970s.
- Antibiotics —Triclosan and other antibiotics are added to some brands to fight gum disease. The Center for Disease Control reports that repeated use of antibiotics in personal care products and prescriptions, may lead to bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
- Abrasives —Some abrasives are so harsh they actually cause sensitivity to teeth.
- Aluminum tube —You can easily tell if a tube is made of aluminum in that it rolls up easily.
- Herbal ingredients—Most herbs act like drugs and will have some side effects. Before buying into the claims made on the package of natural products, look up the herbal ingredients in your toothpaste or mouthwash by visiting reputable Web sites such as University of Maryland Alternative Medicine (http://www.umm.edu/ altmed/)and Medline Plus (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginformation.html)
You can either search for a brand that meets the recommendations made above, or you may want to make your own.
Making Your Own Toothpaste & Mouthwash
The recipe below is one option. You need to realize that the shelf life is quite different from store bought. You will need to frequently remake your toothpaste daily or weekly.
Mix the following and place into a clean, reusable or recyclable container that is easy to dispense from. Keep in the refrigerator and use within one week:
- 3 parts baking soda (the cleanser)
- 1 part sea salt (abrasive)
- 3 –4 drops xylitol (sweetener)
- 3 tsp glycerin (sold at most grocery stores, gives it the paste consistency)
- Your favorite flavoring such as cinnamon, etc. (optional)
- Food coloring (optional)
Mix thoroughly until the baking soda and salt are dissolved. Use boiling water to help dissolve the baking soda and salt. After it reaches room temperature, add the other ingredients. Store in refrigerator and use within one week.
- 1 cup distilled water
- 2 TBS baking soda
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 3–4 drops xylitol
- Your favorite flavoring such as cinnamon, etc. (optional)