We know the secret to dental care lies with the basics: Brushing teeth twice daily, flossing and regular dental visits. While there has always been an interest in natural home remedies among some patients, there has been a significant rise in recent years.
Unfortunately, many of these natural solutions are not effective and even worse, some could be harmful. Here are oral hygiene home remedies that actually work if you’re looking for some to recommend for patients who want to balance professional dental care with homemade solutions:
Salt water rinse for pain relief Mix about ½ tsp. of table salt into a glass of lukewarm water. Take a sip and swish around in your mouth, then spit out. Rinsing with salt water can ease minor pain, soothe inflamed gums and reduce the amount of bacteria in the mouth.
Oil pulling An ancient oral hygiene technique, oil pulling, involves swishing oil around in your mouth for about 15-20 minutes. Oil pulling helps to reduce plaque, bad breath and gingivitis. Although many types of oils will work, sunflower, sesame and coconut oils are the most commonly used. Coconut oil offers the added benefit of lauric acid, which is known for its anti-microbial properties. After swishing the oil around, spit it out in the trash (to avoid clogging your pipes), rinse with water and spit out, then brush your teeth as usual.
Natural mouthwashes Natural mouthwashes can reduce bacteria for a cleaner mouth and fresher breath. There are many varieties sold over the counter, but many patients opt for creating their own at home. Essential oils such as tea tree and wintergreen can be used when making mouthwashes to fight inflammation and reduce bad breath in adults. For a milder and more kid-friendly mouthwash, peppermint oil can be used in adolescents over the age of 6.
Tongue scraping As dental hygienists, we know the power of gentle tongue scraping to reduce bacteria in the mouth. Tongue scraping is a remedy for bad breath by helping to remove dead cells and food particles. It only takes a few minutes a day and is most effective in conjunction with brushing the tongue.
Natural toothpastes It's becoming more common for patients to gravitate toward natural oral hygiene products as opposed to the chemicals in some of the most popular toothpastes. Some patients even make their own toothpaste at home. Licorice, clove and peppermint essential oils are natural antibacterial agents that can be used in a DIY paste to freshen breath and keep teeth and gums healthy.
Green tea Drinking green tea is a little-known home remedy that can be used to boost oral health and fight gum disease. Green tea is loaded with abundant levels of the antioxidants, including catechin, a known agent that provides significant benefits to the body.
Encourage your patients to share what remedies they are using at home. Some patients may be reluctant to share their DIY methods in fear that it may not be well-received by their dental professional. It’s important that we create a welcoming environment to continue to educate patients interested in natural home remedies on how their efforts and ours can work together for quality care.