Oh, flossing. It’s either everyone’s best friend or worst enemy. People become experts at lying and making excuses when the dentist asks that dreaded question: “How often do you floss?” (Unfortunately, they can tell when we lie.) A lot of people don’t feel they have the time or they struggle to reach all the way to the back of their mouth with those flimsy strings. While there are tons of choices when it comes to flossing, some of the choices can get pricey, keeping more people from practicing daily oral hygiene. But what if there were more natural ways to keeping your teeth, gums, and mouth healthy?
Why is flossing important?
We’re told to floss every day and we try to make up for six months of not flossing by at least flossing the day of our dental appointment, but the question is why? Do we know what the dentists see when we don’t floss frequently?
First and foremost, dentists can tell if we haven’t flossed because there will be a buildup of food in between our teeth and gums. Even if you have the most high-tech toothbrush, they can’t always reach in between as well as flossing does. Now, you wouldn’t want to pick at what you ate two weeks ago, so why make your dentist? Flossing after meals will keep your mouth feeling fresh and may even help prevent snacking!
Imagine a sticky film of bacteria built up on your teeth untouched for months, hardening into tartar and causing your teeth to decay and if it reaches the gums can cause diseases. That’s plaque. Sure, proper brushing helps the surface but what about between your teeth and close to the gums? You wouldn’t wash your feet but not clean between your toes, so why do we brush and not clean between our teeth?
If you never floss and then try to floss really quickly before heading off to the dentist, your gums may bleed. Inflamed and sensitive gums are signs of gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease. It’ll also cause gums to recede or leave a bad taste in the mouth. Luckily, it’s easy to treat with brushing and flossing.
It’s easy to talk about, and there are even cheap options for flossing that aren’t the wax threads such as regular toothpicks, but even those can’t reach every crevice. And if looking at other options hurts your wallet, there are other, more natural methods. For those who are a fan of home remedies, this is for you.
Getting Rid of Plaque and Tartar
The things on this list may surprise you because most of them are food. But it’s true, whatever your eat and drink must first go through your mouth (obviously) so while it’s important to take care of your body, it’s equally important to take care of your mouth.
Fruits and Vegetables
We were always told to eat more fruits and vegetables, but who knew the impact they could have on our mouth?
- Orange peels
In a super simple method, take a piece of orange peel and rub the white side on your teeth for two to three minutes then leave it for another two to three minutes before rinsing your mouth with water. These work because they help fight the microorganisms in your mouth!
- Apples, Melons, Carrots, or Celery
Snacking on these an hour or so after meals help clean teeth naturally because they remove food particles, strengthen gums, and remove plaque and tartar!
Eating two or three figs every day is another great way to keep teeth clean because they stimulate the saliva glands, and saliva cleanses the mouth!
- Tomatoes and Strawberries
Chop one of these up until it’s a pulp before applying it directly to the teeth and leave it on for five minutes and then rinse your mouth out with lukewarm water. Because these fruits are high in vitamin C, they help kill bacteria that live in your mouth!
- Lemon Juice
After brushing your teeth as you typically do (or maybe even better if you don’t do it properly), rinse your toothbrush and dip it in lemon juice and rub your teeth and gums and leave it for a minute before rinsing your mouth out. Since lemons are acidic, they help dissolve and remove plaque and tartar. They even help whiten teeth!
- Guava leaves
Wash a couple guava leaves and chew them to a pulp before spitting them out and rinsing your mouth well to reduce tartar and plaque buildup! These leaves are full of anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, which will be very helpful to those who suffer from sensitive gums.
Most of us really enjoy eating so the fact that the things we love to eat can also help our teeth is, well, pretty cool.
- Sesame Seeds
Without swallowing them, chew on some sesame seeds. While the chewed up seeds are still in your mouth, use a dry toothbrush to brush your teeth. As crazy as it sounds to brush your teeth with food, the seeds become a natural scrub as they polish the teeth and remove any plaque and tartar.
- Spicy Foods
Salsa fans, rejoice! Just like the figs, spicy foods increase the amount of saliva that is secreted, helping keep teeth and gums clean.
Alkaline saliva is super important when it comes to fighting bacteria that causes plaque, and hard cheese such as swiss or cheddar help your body produce more! Alkaline saliva also protects your teeth because of the calcium and phosphates.
- Black Tea
Brew a cup of black tea and steep the tea bag until the tea is a rich dark color. Let the tea cool and rinse your mouth with it! It’s full of antioxidants, prevents decay, and promotes enamel!
Other than the obvious tactic of brushing properly, you could also use mouthwash or gargle hydrogen peroxide. Both of these help loosen tartar and freshen breath!
Getting Rid of Gingivitis
Without even realizing it, a lot of us suffer from gingivitis if the only real clean our teeth and gums get is at the dentist. And while we do it to ourselves, it’s extremely simple to cure and prevent. We don’t want red, swollen, and irritated gums that bleed. If ignored, it can become much more serious and even cause tooth loss.
Probably Found in Your Spice Cabinet
These common spices and such are easy to find if you don’t have them in your pantry, and they won’t break your bank either!
That’s right: Salt! We put it in everything, but it’s also great as an antiseptic and antibacterial because it treats swollen and inflamed gums (we’re looking at you, gingivitis), and draws out any infections. Simply mix half a teaspoon in lukewarm water and rinse your mouth twice a day!
Whether you keep it stocked in the pantry at all times or if you’ve never heard of it, turmeric has a ton of healthy properties because it’s full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories and can reduce plaque, swelling, inflammation (thanks a lot, gingivitis), and pain! Mix some turmeric powder and some water to make a paste, put some on a soft toothbrush, and brush your teeth twice a day!
- Baking Soda
Most people keep it in the fridge to keep bad smells away, but it’s also a great home remedy for a lot of things, including gingivitis. It reduces tooth decay and gum disease because it neutralizes acids in the mouth and works as a natural antiseptic to prevent infection. Mix about a ¼ teaspoon of baking soda with some warm water to make a paste and apply it to the gums, leaving it for a minute or two before rinsing off with warm water.
Oil pulling is actually a very common practice because it reduces bacteria, plaque, and strengthens gums. You can use sesame oil or coconut oil; whichever tastes better. Put a tablespoon of your chosen oil on a spoon and swish it in your mouth and through your teeth for roughly fifteen minutes before spitting it out and rinsing your mouth thoroughly with warm water. It works best if you do it before you brush your teeth. (Please, do not gargle or swallow the oil.)
Of course, there’s nothing that could ever truly replace flossing, and your dentist will probably agree. But if you prefer the more natural remedies, these ones found in your kitchen or your local market are a great solution that your mouth (and wallet) can agree on.