Saturday, April 6, 2013

Brush your teeth with roots!

I recently started seeing a new dentist and just had my initial appointment last week. 

He thoroughly looked at my digital x-rays, talked about my dental goals, looked in my mouth and basically did all those things that dentists tend to do. 

The bad news: I have some old fillings I need to replace and a back molar that is chipped which he said he would just file down a bit. 

The good news: He was really impressed with my dental health and remarked that my gums were especially healthy. 

Then came the big question. 

"So do you use a Sonicare toothbrush or a regular manual toothbrush?" 

Uh-oh. I was kind of hoping to avoid this. 

In the past I've had some negative interactions with dentists who weren't so keen on my alternative dental lifestyle so I was a bit nervous to respond. But, he did say he was impressed with my dental health, so I just went for it. 

"Actually, I don't use either." 

His head snapped around, definitely interested. "Well, what do you use?" 

"For the past year and a half I've mostly used a licorice root."

His eyes lit up and we continued to have a lively conversation about the merit of using roots and branches as toothbrushes. I even promised to bring him a licorice root so he can try it out himself. Needless to say I am very happy with the open attitude of my new dentist! 

And, since I've now used a licorice root for a long time with great results I thought I would share this simple toothbrush technique with all of you. 

Using Natural Toothbrushes
As I alluded to above, there are many different roots and branches that were traditionally used as toothbrushes. I've only used licorice roots (Glycyrrhiza glabra). 

Besides forming a great "brush" for cleaning the teeth, licorice root has also been shown to kill the bacteria that can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. 

It also has a sweet taste that I personally find enjoyable. 

To use a licorice root as a toothbrush I first select the best-looking root. Over time you get an eye for this. I am basically looking for one that is not too thick and fairly straight without a lot of "branches". 

Then I simply chew on one end lightly until the outer root bark comes loose. I discard the root bark and continue to chew lightly. Pretty soon the root fibers will come loose and it will resemble a brush. Total chewing time is about one minute. 

Sometimes the roots are far too thick for this method and those I save for other uses. 

Once the root is properly prepared, I gently rub it over each tooth and gum line. 

Once I am done brushing, I cut off the part that has been used, and then continue with the same method the next time around. 

And for full disclosure on my dental health I also use this mouthwash 1-3 times per week, floss regularly, and I have a stellar diet that is high in nutrients and low in toxins (like sugar and processed foods). 

My dentist verified that licorice root toothbrushes are working well for my mouth. However, I can't guarantee that it will work as well for yours. Of course it's a good idea to get check ups to make sure. 

Licorice taken in high amounts can lead to increased blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure or are susceptible to high blood pressure you may want to have your blood pressure monitored regularly to make sure this small amount of licorice isn't causing problems for you. 

Where to buy licorice root
I highly suggest buying your licorice root at Humboldt Herbals. You can also find them at Frontier and Starwest Botanicals


Linda Ursin said...

I have to try this :) and I have a bunch of roots in one of my herb cupboards upstairs.

I find most synthetic toothbrushes too hard, and I don't like the strong taste of commercial toothpaste.

I don't use mouthwash, I don't floss (because of crowded teeth) and my diet isn't stellar (yet), but I've always had healthy teeth.

At 41 I only have 4 fillings; two from being stupid and not taking care of them when I was younger, and two from not paying attention to the changes brought on by pregnancy.

Humboldt Herbals said...

Thanks for the tips Rosalee! Just wanted to add that you can also buy whole licorice roots by the ounce from Humboldt Herbals:

Shelagh Drew said...

Yes, thank you for the tips. They are most interesting.
I have a tip for everyone as well. You can get licorice root at most health food stores, saving wait time and shipping costs to purchased them.

Blaire Allison said...

Great info -- exactly what I've been looking for! Any chance you have a video showing how you

Anonymous said...

My husband is West African and this is how he grew up caring for his teeth (chewing on and scrubbing his teeth with a small root- probably not licorice, though?!).

forest grace said...

i have licorice root but it is cut diagonally so probably not a good choice .. maybe i can rub it across my teeth and gums. thank you rosalee !

murielle nuphar muwgli said...

I used roots in Morocco and Egypt too, it s very common to see people chew and then give away their bright smile there! I don t remember the name of the roots I used, but if my memory is wright I think it was from an acacia species?
Had no idea licorice would do the same, thanks for the tip.

Simchah said...

Thanks for the tips, Rosalee! What other roots could be used as a natural toothbrush?
All the best,

Rosalee de la Forêt said...

Hi Simchah,

Many different roots are used all around the world. I have only used licorice myself but know that neem, willow and birch are also used.

Eva said...

In my child hood my grandmother told me to use neem roots to clean my teeth.....but now due to busy life i miss it. today your article remind me and i like to start it again

thanks Rosalee

Moriah Jordan Miller said...

I have used the miswak and licorice root to clean my teeth. I have to say that I do prefer licorice.

The miswak did an excellent job, and the roots I received were very thin and easy to use with my teeth. They bristled excellently. However, it wasn't very local (a Middle Eastern plant) and the taste wasn't very "herbal" tasting, or sweet..almost like a spice? It made my tongue and lips tingle. Not necessarily bad, but a definite contrast between the natural toothpastes I had been using.

I love using licorice since it's local (something I could grow!), tastes sweet, has many benefits, helps with the lungs (something my family could use), and, heck, I love licorice! lol

Along with licorice root I will do an activated charcoal treatment with my mouth. (Charcoal Pulling) That helps whiten my teeth and pulls toxins out of my mouth. I plan to do this along with oil pulling.

I'll look into your herbal mouthwash! That's one thing I would love to add, and something I do miss, although I never really did it in the past either.

Do you have any advice on natural floss? I don't like using waxed floss, since I feel that it might be sticking to my teeth. I want to avoid flouride and other chemicals, so I'll use a tea tree oil floss as an alternative, but I am curious to know if there is a truly natural way to floss your teeth.

Thank you for this info! It's greatly appreciated, there's not much info out there about it.

Anthony Burdge Jessica Burke said...

Great ideas. Personally, I don't like the flavor of licorice root and am concerned about it raising BP.

However, I champion the idea of ditching conventionally marketed toothpaste & toothbrushes. First, to anyone who has issues with mass market toothbrushes, but like me, can't handle licorice, I cannot recommend the company POH highly enough. They sell *the* softest toothbrushes on the market, are made in the US & are also a steal at only $1 a pop. Even their regular, non soft brushes are softer than the softest mass produced brush.

Second, the moment I found out that soap agents and sweeteners were in conventional toothpaste, I started looking for something else. Also, I used to struggle with overly sensitive teeth-- serious pain my dentist said was leftovers from a good decade of bulimia. I used the sensitive pastes on the market, only to have the issue get worse.

Then I decided to make my own. I'm an herbalist, so I made some toothpowders that I really couldn't stomach. Then I hit on a recipe that I can use AND one that eliminated my sensitive teeth issues as well as halted any other dental problems. The recipe is simple baking soda with some essential oils. I have a small, 1/4 oz container that I make for myself and one for my husband. Into that I combine 1-2tbsp of baking soda, 5-6 drops of peppermint oil, 1 drop of myrrh oil, 1 drop of sage oil, and 3 drops of lemon oil. Use as much as 9 drops of peppermint if you want a more minty flavor. Combine 1 tsp of water at a time until you get the desired consistency.

I've been using it for 4 maybe 5 years now. We had some bad times with both hubby & I were out of work, without any $ to visit a dentist. So when we finally went back last year, I had one minor issue from a tooth that had gotten chipped. Hubby had some more problems, but again from an old crown that fell out. Otherwise, the dentist was amazed at how good our teeth were, how little tartar buildup & how 2 people who hadn't been to a dentist in more than 5 years had teeth in such good condition. Hubby doesn't floss & I do whenever I remember. I'm convinced it's the switchover to healthier alternatives to conventional.


Rosalee de la Forêt said...

Great ideas, thanks for sharing.

I just wanted to add that both my husband and I have used licorice root toothbrushes exclusively for years now and neither of us have high blood pressure. The amount used is so small that I really doubt anyone would see their blood pressure rise as a result.

But of course, if you don't like the taste, then it's not a good choice.

Alfred Coil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ginny Hall said...

This is a very old thread, so not sure you will ever see this but, if you do -- how often do you "brush" with licorice root? Morning and evening, like a regular tooth brushing routine?

Rosalee de la Forêt said...

Yep, just like a normal routine.