Dental Hygiene
Toothpaste Ingredients

This is an extract of Dr Paul Keyes’ findings on why, what and how to use natural ingredients in dental hygiene. It’s a bit technical at some times we agree but try to read through it and you will get the big picture.Especially the ingredient part is pretty convincing if you ask us

Ah and by the way a Dentifrice is a paste, liquid or powder used to help maintain good oral hygiene (Wikipedia)

Why use a dentifrice?

The primary dental health benefits attained by using a dentifrice are derived from its potential to do the following: to disorganize, disperse, detoxify, and thereby decontaminate the pathogenic bacterial bio-films that colonize tooth-surfaces and gingival crevices

The mechanical action of brushing, flossing, tooth-picking, mouth-rinsing, and conventional irrigation can reduce bacterial bio-films somewhat, but these methods have no bactericidal action, per se.

If a person’s mouth has not been contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms, intensive self-care measures are not necessary. However, since reliable methods for assessing bacterial risk factors in the mouth are not readily available, it seems prudent to use a self-care regimen that has a reliable anti-infective potential

The pathogenic bacteria that colonize one's teeth are acquired largely by the transfer of contaminated saliva from another person’s mouth usually by kissing. Adequate usage of the products listed below will kill many of these microorganisms, if they have been transferred

The secondary benefits are cosmetic: to remove stains from tooth surfaces – to keep tooth surfaces white – pleasing to the eyes. Unfortunately these benefits are the ones most highly advertised. To find a good example of this with audio accompaniment bring up the web site on Kolynos dentifrice. Somehow the manufactures got off track.

dental hygiene


Over the centuries by trying different substances for “tooth-cleaning” people have found some that have made their teeth and gums look and feel better. Some very beneficial combinations have been formulated without any understanding of the therapeutic properties of the ingredients used.

In the material that follows I have tried to provide a little insight into the therapeutic potential of some of these substances. Properly used they equal and often surpass the formulations found in many commercial dentifrices. They may not be as tasty or as convenient to use, but they can be far superior therapeutically

Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)

A product used for many years by itself or in combination with other ingredients has several excellent properties. As a soft crystalline substance that dissolves readily, it has a mild abrasive potential. In solution it will kill on contact all of the motile microorganisms associated with periodontal infections, e.g. spirochetes, motile rods, etc

It will also kill other disease related bacteria. It will also neutralize and detoxify the bacterial acids and toxins that form in plaques (bacterial biofilms). I would put this inexpensive, readily available, product at the very top of the list of potentially beneficial dentifrice-ingredients.

Sodium chloride (table salt)

Like baking soda, salt has been used for many years as a dentifrice, alone or in combination. When used alone it is rather stingy and unless milled, rather grainy. It is not highly abrasive, contrary to some opinions

In solution at higher concentrations it will kill on contact all motile microorganisms associated with periodontal infections. However, its antibacterial potential, while good, is not as powerful as that of sodium bicarbonate, and it will not detoxify bacterial byproducts. In higher concentrations it will reduce edema in the gingival tissues and stimulate circulation.


Glycerin has an antibacterial potential, which is not well recognized. When living bacterial dental plaque is examined with a phase contrast microscope, all of the motile microorganisms (spirochetes, amoebae, motile rods, tricohmonads, etc) can be seen actively moving about

If a drop of glycerin is added to the solution in which the bacterial are living, all motility instantly ceases. In the scientific literature some of the antibacterial properties of glycerin have been described.

Hydrogen Peroxide

When hydrogen peroxide comes into contact with dentobacterial plaques, it breaks down very rapidly into oxygen and water. This breakdown, which causes the foaming action, is caused by an enzyme (catalase)

This foaming action does two things: It helps to disorganize and disperse the bacterial bio-films growing on tooth surfaces, and it reveals places where bacteria are located. When used as an ingredient in dentifrices, it has little, if any, bactericidal action. It breaks down too rapidly.


Vinegar is another product that has been used for dental hygiene for many years. A half strength solution of vinegar (apple cider for taste) will pickle all of the motile bacteria mentioned above, and it will help to dissolve deposits of calculus

For persons whose dental hygiene does not reduce the buildup of bacterial plaques adequately, some of this buildup may harden into calculus.Brushing several times a week with a vinegar solution can help to prevent calculus formation.

Cranberry juice

Unsweetened cranberry juice can be used as mouthwash and as a solution for brushing one's teeth. It will kill all motile bacteria on contact and help to disintegrate plaques. Since it is somewhat acidic, probably it should not be used more than a few times a week. It is pleasant to use and can be swallowed

This juice can be used as a rinse and then swallowed. Brushing the teeth with cranberry juice leaves the teeth and mouth feeling very fresh and clean

After brushing one can rinse again and expectorate or swallow the juice. For the care of handicapped persons who cannot manage conventional oral hygiene measures, this could be a pleasant solution for caregivers to use. It is tasty and can be swallowed.

Neutrogena Soap (unscented)

About 25 years ago a dentist on the West Coast called my attention to the use of unscented Neutrogena soap as an ingredient in a homemade dentifrice. When a solution of this soap comes into contact with the motile microorganisms in plaques all motility ceases rapidly. To use, rub dry or moisten bristles over a bar of this soap. The unscented type tastes soapy. The scented tastes awful.

Weak solution of sodium hypochlorite (e.g. Clorox)

One teaspoon in a pint of water provides a very powerful irrigation solution (DO NOT INGEST!!). The taste is very unpleasant, but it can be very beneficial in the maintenance-regimen for persons who have been treated for periodontal diseases. Brushing the teeth with baking soda after using thissolution will rapidly neutralize its taste. Then one can rinse with a pleasant tasting mouthwash

There are numerous ways the ingredients mentioned above may be used alone or in combination. With their antibacterial potentials they can be very beneficial therapeutically, if properly applied to tooth surfaces and gingival crevices. They will help to control the bacterial populations that cannot be removed mechanically with irrigation, brushing, flossing, or tooth picking.

Over the years when I was lecturing, I asked thousands of dentists and hygienists to raise their hands if they had ever seen destructive periodontal disease in person who had regularly brushed with salt and/or soda. I have never seen a hand! And although I have not seen many such cases, the periodontal health in these patients has always been excellent.I have photographs of a lady who was 95 at the time I saw her. She lived to be over 100.

Regards, Dr. Paul H. Keyes

Dr. Keyes is the founder of the International Dental Health Foundation Education: D.D.S., University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine (1941); B.A., University of Rochester (1944); M.S. in Anatomy, University of Rochester (1945); Fellowship in Orthodontics, Harvard UniversitySchool of Dental Medicine (1948).

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