Healthy smiles

When it comes to our appearance, nothing says health more than a bright sparkly smile

Dental hygiene is a crucial part of good health, but are we absorbing toxic substances through our toothpaste? Take a look at the small print on the side of a regular tube of toothpaste and you’ll see ingredients such as fluoride, sodium lauryl sulphate, bleaches and triclosan. If used incorrectly and in large amounts these chemicals can be harmful, even potentially toxic, especially for children. “Some ingredients in toothpaste are questionable,” says Julie Fergusson, a naturopath with Red Seal. “Just read the packets that say ‘do not swallow’.”

If you brush your teeth two or more times per day you are potentially exposing yourself to artificial dyes, flavours, bleaches, fluoride, triclosan and other chemicals at least 720 times each year. Multiply that over a lifetime and it certainly makes you wonder about the possible effect. And it’s not just the chemicals we’re ingesting; it’s also their effect on the environment once we send them down the plug hole.

There are a number of natural alternatives. Weleda’s Calendula Toothpaste is free of sodium lauryl sulphate, fragrances, chemical preservatives, bleaches and fluoride, and includes chalk and fennel oil instead of peppermint oil. Red Seal Herbal Fresh and Phyto Shield Herbal are two locally made toothpastes that use mineral bases such as calcium carbonate and zinc for cleaning and essential oils such as aniseed and eucalyptus for antibacterial purposes and flavour. “Because of its antibacterial and antifungal properties, Red Seal’s Makuna combination helps look after gum health for the whole family,” says clinical nutritionist and dental assistant Lonneke Botello.

Gob stoppers

If you don’t clean your teeth properly you can get gingivitis, a mild but common form of gum disease that causes bad breath and red, swollen and bleeding gums. You can treat gingivitis by having your teeth cleaned by your dentist, as well as daily brushing and flossing.

Left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease, a serious bacterial infection that affects both the gums and bones that support your teeth. It can even cause your teeth to become loose or fall out. Periodontal disease can also affect your general health and wellbeing and has been linked to diabetes, heart diseases and certain kinds of strokes. Gum disease can even delay the time it takes a woman to conceive a baby by an average of two months, according to a new study conducted by Perth’s University of Western Australia.

Brush up: teaching your kids to clean their teeth

• Brush your teeth together; children learn best by watching.

• Get a stool for them to stand on so they can enjoy watching themselves in the mirror.

• Use an age appropriate toothbrush and be mindful of how much toothpaste they’re swallowing.

• Teach them to spit the paste out by putting a waterproof sticker in the bottom of the hand basin and making a game of spitting the paste onto it.

• Show your older kids how to floss. Flossing is a drag, but it is an essential part of a healthy dental routine. Try Gentle Floss Premium Dental Floss, packaged in a plastic-free, paper fibre box, available at www.rubbishfree.co.nz

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