Healthier ways to brush your teeth
If you have read or already know about the various more or less serious health hazards lurking in commercial toothpastes, you may want to start using alternatives which don't damage your teeth, gums and/or health and (as has happened to others1) might actually reverse existing damage to your teeth and gums.
Ironically, according to several more or less "expert" (incl. a dentist's) opinions I have read, toothpaste is actually not necessary to allow teeth to be properly clean. According to this school of thought, the important thing to help your teeth stay healthy is a good toothbrush combined with proper brushing and flossing, and - apart from any benefits derived for instance from any herbal extracts included - basically, toothpaste provides a pleasant sensation in the mouth. As you will see, I somewhat disagree...
'Dry brushing' is brushing without any toothpaste using a dry toothbrush (but possibly salt and baking soda). Dry brushing is credited with several dental health and healing benefits, including being a very effective bacterial plaque remover, reducing gum bleeding due to gingivitis etc., and this testimonial also reports a tooth-whitening effect.
According to Prevention magazine (September 1997), a study performed with 128 test persons over a six-month period found that thanks to dry-brushing, bacterial plaque build-up on their back teeth dropped by 67% compared with their plaque deposits measured at the beginning of the study. They also showed a 50% reduction in gum bleeding.
According to the same source, one should dry-brush for about 90 seconds using a soft, dry toothbrush (compared to a moistened brush, a dry one appears to more effectively remove plaque build-up). If your toothbrush's bristles feel stiff, run your finger through them before starting the brushing process. Begin on the inner surfaces of your lower teeth, continue with those of your upper teeth and finish by brushing the outer surfaces.
Using plain water
While using water may be preferable over using toothpastes laden with any of the above and is one of the things advised by "toxin expert" Dr. Hulda Clark in her book The Cure For All Diseases2, for maximising the beneficial effects of your toothbrushing sessions I think it's best to add some (or several) of the items listed in the following (as well as other natural, herbal etc. items you feel drawn to use or experiment with).
... are two indispensable, inexpensive and time-honoured mainstays in natural tooth care, treatment and healing (compare for instance salt water toothache remedy). Among other things, salt makes you salivate, with the saliva said to create a natural antibacterial protection for the tooth enamel, and sodium being an alkaline mineral, both salt and (particularly) baking soda help to alkalise your saliva, a welcome trait for most3.
Also compare this very interesting, in fact revealing testimonial about the cavity-healing effect of discontinuing commercial fluoride toothpaste and replacing it with salt water brushing and a salt rinse (waterpik), as well as the highly impressive testimonial "pain under crown gone" featured (as report number 10) under Healing reports & testimonials re the use of xylitol sugar (this person used a salt and baking soda mixture for brushing plus xylitol rinses).
If at all possible, only use sea salt or other natural "full-spectrum" salt containing all the minerals and trace elements and no additives.
A little caveat from Dr. Hulda Clark who also recommends using salt (as salt water)2 but adds that "Salt is corrosive—don't use it for brushing metal teeth [i.e. teeth with metal fillings, crowns etc.]". German toxicity expert Prof. Max Daunderer adds that amalgam from dental fillings is corroded by fluorine (including from fluoridated salt and toothpaste) and by iodised salt, but does not refer to unadulterated salt as an amalgam corrosive agent. Also people with exposed tooth necks (sensitive teeth) may possibly find they react with pain to salt application.7
Much more on using baking soda as toothpaste replacement, tooth powder etc. in Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) in dental & other applications.
Natural soap or special tooth soap
Tooth powder has been used in earlier times and made from various herbal and other substances, and still seems to be widely used in countries such as India. To make your own tooth powder, simply be creative. You can mix in any of the above- and below-mentioned ingredients5 as well as others such as borax powder (one of Dr. Hulda Clark's favourites for non-toxic cleaning around the house), therapeutic essential oils etc. at the proportions of your choosing (one person wrote that she mixes borax powder with baking soda in equal amounts which makes her teeth and mouth feel very clean, with the added bonus that the borax also helped with her candida). Another good addition is MSM which not only helps to fight infection and pain but also to whiten teeth (compare MSM [methylsulfonylmethane]: dental applications).
For "herbal" inspiration have a look at Herbs for strengthening teeth and gums and Gum home remedies and therapeutic mouthwashes, for instance, to see if any of the listed plants could be helpful for your specific needs. Then grind them into a fine powder, use as essential oil etc. Personally, I make use of surplus or old kitchen spices and herbs by adding them to my self-made tooth powder. As long as I add xylitol, it always tastes good, and most all herbs and spices have some beneficial medicinal property.
Self-made toothpaste based on healing earth
If available, use white clay that has been very finely ground (ultrafine). This type is easier on the enamel than for example whiting or whitening (chalk powder) which is popular in England as a tooth powder.
Mix c. 100 g of white clay with boiled water and a pinch of sea salt (adding the water in drops!) until you have a cream-like consistency. Add c. five drops of tea tree or peppermint oil. They are bactericidal and prevent bacteria from breeding in your toothpaste. Nevertheless it's best to only prepare small amounts of this toothpaste.
Regarding white clay, Annie Karl wrote to me that she "was informed by an intuitive healer, several years previously, that white powdered clay and calcium fluoride (tincture) will rebuild bone tissue, including tooth bone. I was informed by another intuitive that brushing the teeth with white powdered clay will make the teeth stronger and more resistant to decay."
Self-made toothpaste based on virgin coconut oil
A powerful germ fighter (see Another tooth-friendly oil? Virgin coconut oil), virgin coconut oil can beautifully replace the somewhat controversial glycerin (compare Dental health prerequisite number 6) as a basis of self-made toothpaste. Add for instance some natural antimicrobial flavouring agent (such as essential rosemary oil), xylitol (see below) and baking soda, and you have a delicious toothpaste look-alike which is super healthy for teeth and gums and lasts "forever".
Tooth powder, commercial
(ready-made medicinal herb formulas etc.)
If you decide on using any commercial tooth powder, I would make sure it is made from all natural ingredients. There are a number of brands of toothpowder on offer, often with widely varying ingredients, incl. powders based on ground charcoal and red pepper (capsicum).
Good tooth/gum powders both self-made and store-bought can be highly therapeutic, among other cure reports, see this powerful gum healing testimonial involving herbal toothpowders which helped to quickly erase all symptoms of chronic periodontitis after several teeth had already been lost. For ready-made tooth/gum powders, also compare Herbal, plant-derived and similar products that may help with teeth and/or gum problems.
This wonderful cavity- and gum-disease-fighting sweetener has been successfully used for brushing teeth as well. Among other beneficial effects, xylitol makes you salivate, saliva being an important tooth ally (compare Tooth remineralisation & demineralisation, saliva & pH). Xylitol added to your own homemade toothpaste or powder makes for a wonderfully sweet taste and takes away much or all of the unpleasant taste and/or bitterness of the other ingredients you may be using. The same of course applies if you use a commercial tooth powder (Indian tooth powder etc.). Background to this amazing substance at Xylitol - the dental miracle sugar and Rinsing and brushing teeth with straight xylitol sugar has healed tooth decay and periodontal diseases.
among other characteristics has some medicinal properties when used topically (eg anti-inflammatory, relieving pain and swelling) and historically has been applied to treat a number of illnesses such as bone fractures (hence its name "knitbone"). A widely publicised article on the internet goes so far as to maintain that using comfrey root (externally) and organic eggshells (internally)8 will regrow teeth.
Eggshell does seem to positively affect carious teeth (see the results obtained in rats mentioned under Dentinal fluid transport - revolutionary theory of natural caries resistance and cariogenesis) and modern research has confirmed that "comfrey can influence the course of bone ailments" (Wikipedia). Personally I sometimes use finely ground up comfrey root as part of a self-made toothpowder (eg mixing it with xylitol, magnesium chloride, green clay and baking soda and holding it in the mouth as long as possible). Note: since comfrey also contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids which are toxic to the liver, even topical application should not be constant (never use internally!).
Magnesium chloride ("magnesium oil")
Due to soil depletion and/or poor dietary habits, magnesium, a vital constituent of teeth and bones essential for proper calcium utilisation and metabolism, is frequently lacking in people's body.
Among other properties, magnesium helps keep calcium "in solution" (when there is too much calcium intake without properly matched magnesium ingestion, calcifications in joints and muscles are likely to occur, although Vitamin K2 and D should also play a role).
This property is the likely reason for anecdotal reports according to which using magnesium oil for tooth brushing has prevented any and all buildup of plaque over several years' observation and made teeth stronger and whiter (so-called magnesium oil is simply magnesium chloride powder which when mixed with water has an oil-like consistency).
Since magnesium chloride is extremely bitter, personally I mix it together with xylitol and whatever other ingredients I may currently be using in my self-made tooth powder (such as comfrey root, baking soda, green clay etc.) In addition to its local benefits (alkaline, preventing calcium deposits on the teeth), at least some of the magnesium should also reach the bloodstream in this manner. (Generally the easiest and perhaps fastest way to increase your systemic magnesium levels may be applying magnesium oil to your skin, taking Epsom salt baths or using a simple plaster to apply magnesium powder to your skin for some days.)
Hydrogen peroxide food grade (H2O2)
In her book The Cure For All Diseases, Dr. Hulda Clark also advises: "Or brush with hydrogen peroxide food grade, not the regular variety. ... Don’t use hydrogen peroxide, however, if you have metal in your mouth because it will leach out some of the metal." Dr. Clark also recommends hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash as an alternative to (aluminium-free) salt water2. Also compare this Testimonial: hydrogen peroxide and baking soda heal periodontitis where surgery failed to help.
Warning: I recently came across a person's testimonial who after brushing their teeth for over half a year using hydrogen peroxide developed serious tooth decay in eleven teeth. This may be due to H2O2 (at least in stronger concentrations and/or with prolonged exposure) being able to penetrate the enamel and possibly "blast away" some of its constituents, thus damaging the enamel and opening a pathway for germs to enter. It could also be due to the fact that when mixing hydrogen peroxide with "normal" tap water you are likely to6 get an acidic solution (pH lower than 7, with [at least stronger] acids being well-known for leaching minerals from your enamel). My own experience with using hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash somewhat confirms that H2O2 is indeed able to penetrate a weakened tooth (I experienced a short moment of pain after the solution touched a filed-down tooth - a former bridge pillar). While hydrogen peroxide may only be able to attack already structurally weakened teeth (as in my case), it may still be wisest to only add small amounts of H2O2 to any self-made toothpaste while otherwise reserving its use for mouthwashes, fighting gum disease, sterilizing tooth brushes etc. where it can be a very potent healer/help indeed.
1 See Testimonials
2 Quote: "Don't use toothpaste, not even health-food varieties", see Dr. Hulda Clark's instructions for brushing teeth and natural mouth care.
3 Compare Demineralisation-Remineralisation.
4 Also compare this dramatic chronic periodontitis cure testimonial thanks to switching to bar soap.
5 Baking soda would be a favourite, compare Baking soda as tooth powder for cleaning teeth.
6 This depends on your local water's pH, Germany for instance allows the pH of tap water to range from 6.5 to 9.5 (7 being neutral).
7 For an excellent remedy for tooth neck sensitivity, see Rinsing mouth and brushing teeth with xylitol sugar.
8 More on integrating eggshell into your tooth-friendly regimen under Foods rich in minerals & trace elements (scroll to Eggshells).