One of the first things you learn from your parents when you’re a little child is how to brush your teeth. Before you’re able to hold a toothbrush and DIY, Mommy or Daddy will use their fingers to rub some water around a baby’s gums before there are any teeth, just to wash away milk or formula residue. Even as a baby, healthy gums are very important. As tooth buds peak through the gum line, removing baby food residue and milk is now the goal, and on through the toddler years, a baby toothbrush and a pea size dab of toothpaste become the new normal in a child’s life. As years fly by - adolescent, teenager, college student, young adult and adult, what’s the common denominator through these stages of growth and development? A toothbrush and toothpaste.

Picking your toothbrush of choice is simple: manual or electric. But you have a multitude of choices with toothpaste. Your typical commercial toothpaste that you buy in a store most likely contains fluoride, which helps protect the teeth from developing cavities. Most toothpastes also contain artificial flavorings, chemicals, sweeteners and preservatives. But for many who would like some alternatives that are more natural, here are some options to think about.

Sea Salt: Dab your dampened toothbrush into some sea salt and gently brush, or dissolve the sea salt in water first.

Baking Soda: Here’s one of the oldest and most natural toothpaste alternatives. Use as is, mixed with a few drops of essential peppermint oil for a minty fresh feel, or dissolve in water first.

Hydrogen Peroxide: Here’s an ingredient long known for keeping teeth clean and white, and many people use it instead of toothpaste. First dip a toothbrush in Hydrogen Peroxide, then into a dab of baking soda mixed with a little fine sea salt and brush away.

Herbal Tooth Powders: Can be used in lieu of toothpaste, they clean well and can also reduce swelling, inflammation, pain and infection throughout the mouth.

Dry brushing: It’s back to nature, but no minty taste. While ineffective at reducing bad breath, it’s been said that this method may reduce the occurrence of Gum disease.

Brush with pure water: Unexciting but works well for clearing debris from the teeth.

All natural soap: A good choice to try is peppermint Castile, like Dr. Bronner’s.

Tooth Soap: There’s actually a product with this name and it’s all natural.

Coconut oil: A very hip choice these days with millennials into natural products. Coconut oil is anti-fungal and antibacterial.

Oil Pulling: Swish one tablespoon of organic coconut oil around in your mouth for several minutes and spit out. Then brush with plain water or use one of the methods listed above; this method supposedly whitens your teeth, too. Oil Pulling is trendy right now, but the jury is still out as to whether this is a viable alternative.

Oral irrigation: Think the gold standard tool, Waterpik, which shoots a stream of water over and between teeth.

Essential oils: Use a drop or two of peppermint oil on a dampened toothbrush, and feel like you’re back in the 1970’s.

And if you find yourself a surprise overnight guest, or on an unexpected camping trip up a creek with no toothbrush, just like in the movies, you can use your finger as a toothbrush, wet it with some water and swab away. There’s always tomorrow!

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