Why a healthy mouth means so much more than just white teeth and fresh breath.
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As the owner of a slightly bewildered endocrine system (read: raging autoimmune disorder), it is in my best interests to avoid disruptive, and potentially toxic ingredients wherever possible.
I tend to take a somewhat selective approach to this lifestyle - playing roulette when it suits me. Either I’m completely militant when it comes to certain ingredients, formulas or foods; or I plead ignorance.
I can’t resist a Chilli Marg, or cheeky choccie bar, while my poor, overloaded liver looks on in terror. Balance is the entire basis of my ill-advised argument.
As a wild combination of Pisces and INFP (the ‘mediator’), I’m a sensitive soul inside and out. A rashy gal if you will, whether it be from stress or a new washing powder.
So it goes without saying, I’m fully in the militant camp on the ingredients list when it comes to beauty and wellness. A mere whiff of artificial fragrance and my eczema flares, or Sodium Laurel Sulfate and Mt Vesuvius makes an unwelcome home on my face.
'Clean' beauty is taking over my shelf - hunting out the most gentle formulas for everything from cleansers to exfoliants. I’m dodging toxins on the daily. So it was only a matter of time before I’d investigate my toothpaste.
I’m ashamed to admit it wasn’t the health benefits, but the visual appearance of the tube that first drew me into the world of natural oral care - like a moth to a flame when it comes to good branding.
Perhaps that is intentional when it comes to oral health? While newer skincare brands equally prioritise visual identity with formulaic performance, toothpaste has long been lagging behind, sticking to a traditionally jarring colour palette of red, blue and white.
Slick packaging easily grabs the attention of a younger generation, where wellness and natural ingredients have ditched their hippy-leaning persona and become cool.
Enter Australian-born brands like Gem and Keeko, bringing the spotlight to a new movement; oral care and the importance of the oral microbiome.
Like the gut, the oral microbiome relies on a delicate balance of good and bad bacteria in the mouth, with harsh mouthwashes and minty fresh toothpaste often laden with chemicals to eliminate all bacteria - not just the bad kind.
In our quest for a squeaky clean smile, we’ve developed sensitivities, inflammation and ulcers instead.
And it doesn’t just stop with your mouth. An unbalanced oral microbiome has been linked to the development of a wide range of diseases including IBS, Parkinson's, arthritis, colorectal and pancreatic cancers, and even Alzheimer’s in recent research, suggests Science Journal.
It’s alarming information, so why aren’t we talking about it more?
Gem’s range of delicious toothpastes and mouthwashes are free of toxic ingredients, and rich in oral probiotics, while tasting delicious and sitting pretty on your bathroom vanity.
All Gem products are Australian made and free of parabens, triclosan, SLS and BS.
While various circumstances can throw your microbiome off, like eating too much sugar, the flu, or dehydration, a long-term imbalance can lead to pathogens manifesting both in our mouths and ultimately in our internal systems; increasing potential disease and autoimmune symptoms.
On the flip side, an abundance of good microbes can actually help increase our health. They can also transform the nitrate we consume from fruits and vegetables into nitric oxide, which supports healthy blood pressure as our own digestive system is unable to break down the enzymes.
Think of the mouth as the gateway to optimum health, when those defences are down or weakened, harmful bacteria colonise the mouth and take control.
Just like a probiotic for your gut, adding an oral probiotic can restore the fine balance in your mouth, and boost the good bacteria essential for preventing disease.
A healthy oral microbiome helps to remineralise the tooth (ie strengthen it from decay), carry oxygen to the gums and efficiently remove waste from entering our internal organs. Thankfully, it is nowhere near as complicated or lengthy as trying to heal your gut, which can take months of restrictive eating.
Both Gem and Keeko avoid potentially toxic ingredients found in most toothpastes (horrifyingly also found in some toilet cleaner and paints), such as Triclosan, a pesticide that has been banned in soap and body wash by the FDA in the US. Known for its antibacterial properties, Triclosan wipes out all bacteria - and you guessed it, leads to an unbalanced microbiome.
Having tried to avoid SLS (Sodium Laurel Sulfate) for the better part of a year, I was shocked to discover it in my humble toothpaste. Used to wash away debris, and give you that fresh foamy feeling when you brush, SLS can lead to irritation and organ toxicity, and is used as an insecticide. The list goes on.
Choose everyday oral essentials that are stylish, plastic neutral certified, and kinder to the planet.
Keeko is a certified plastic neutral brand.
Natural toothpaste and oral care products can help to avoid these harmful ingredients while still leaving your mouth feeling fresh (although with a little less froth). Look for a brand which adds nourishing ingredients to help restore your microbiome, including oral probiotics.
Avoiding refined sugars, staying hydrated and reviewing your mouth wash (watch out for chlorhexidine in particular) can all work in conjunction to improve your oral health. I’ve dabbled on and off with tongue scraping - brilliant for cleansing your mouth, but a habit I regularly forget about.
However, I’m determined to find balance and create the perfect oral care routine. Up next on my microbiome journey; oil pulling. It’s a work in progress, but I’ll be happily shining my pearly whites in no time.