It’s been almost 3 months since I switched from tooth paste to tooth powder, which seems like a good time for an update.
My teeth feel as clean as they did when I used toothpaste and I’ve gotten used to the salty taste. I’ve brushed with regular toothpaste once or twice when I was worried about bad breath (and didn’t have any mouth wash) and it now amazes me how much it foams! After getting used to the powder, toothpaste seems needlessly messy and strong-tasting. I highly recommend tooth powder over toothpaste. It’s cheaper, especially if you make your own, and involves some very simple ingredients. I also haven’t had trouble with canker sores since starting dropping toothpaste.
According to Wikipedia, pre-made toothpaste didn’t become popular until after World War I. Before that, toothpaste was considered snake oil and many people made their own tooth powder. In part, the popularity of tooth powder must have been due to convenience. Without the now-ubiquitous collapsable tube, toothpaste would have been difficult to use, especially when you were running low.
Once toothpaste caught on, tooth powder basically disappeared. I haven’t been able to find any tooth powders in regular stores like CVS (a drugstore) or Kroger (a grocery store) even though they have entire aisles of slightly different toothpastes. Luckily, the small container that I got in September is still going strong. I’ve used about a third of it, including some waste figuring out how to get it on the toothbrush. I recommend wetting the brush and then just tapping some powder on. The water makes the powder stick to the bristles, so the powder doesn’t fall off when you start brushing.
If you’re worried about bad breath, I’d also use mouth wash. I’ve heard that gargling with salt water can replace mouth wash, but it doesn’t sound very fun. Beyond bad breath, another potential concern is fluoridation. If you drink city water, you’re probably getting plenty already.
I found some recipes online for toothpaste made by mixing tooth powder (bought or homemade) with flavorful oils and hydrogen peroxide. In general, I think that’s probably overkill. If you don’t have any major dental problems, you can make simple tooth powder by mixing one part baking soda with one part sea salt (the larger crystals in sea salt help it stick to your brush and act as an abrasive). You might want to start with buying a small container of tooth powder so that you’ll have the bottle. The little spout at the top helps get the tooth powder onto the brush and not all over the counter.
If your water isn’t fluoridated (because you drink mostly bottled water or have a well) or you have a history of tooth problems, you could try mixing sodium fluoride into your tooth paste with a ratio of 1 part of sodium fluoride to every 10 of your tooth paste. This emulates the amount of fluoride in US toothpaste (between 1000 and 1100 ppm). However, be aware that fluoride is mildly toxic and can cause staining of the teeth if you get too much.
If you try it out, let me know how it works for you!