Shave my legs. Take a hot shower. Put on lipstick. Wear a really great swimsuit (one-piece please ). Curl my hair. Wear heels. These are just a few of the things that make the HealthyWay gang feel sexy—no bump and grind required. One of my favorites that I can do essentially anywhere? (Although in a piping hot shower is my fave.) Brushing my teeth. Yes: Scrubbing my pearly whites, gargling with just the right mouthwash, spitting with abandon, and running my tongue between my just-brushed-teeth and upper lip will have me saying Ahh every time. It’s an instant ego boost, whether it’ll be followed by the commute to work or a makeout sesh. Oral care is a matter of personal pride for me. I’ve never had a cavity, and come on—doesn’t the thought of a minty-fresh kiss put a little pep in your step? Taking good care of your teeth, tongue, and beyond isn’t what we typically think of when we clear our calendars for #selfcare, but I love shopping for oral care products and putting them to good use, especially when they’re eco-friendly or come from companies that are doing their part to make the world (and my mouth) a better place.
But First: Don’t genetics determine who’s enjoying the cavity-free life?
According to Oksana Boyechko, DMD, of Shingle Springs Dental, “Genetics can certainly play a role in determining a person’s likelihood to develop any number of health issues. But when it comes to oral health, as much as we’d like to believe it’s out of our control, genetics isn’t as significant to our oral health as the way we treat our gums and teeth over a lifespan.” She goes on to say, “Daily habits like brushing and flossing, and the foods and beverages we choose to eat, have the highest probability of determining whether we develop tooth decay or periodontal disease.” Here’s what Boyechko and another ladyboss dentist, Samantha Rawdin, DMD, a prosthodontist with Gallery57 Dental in NYC, think of my favorite finds (plus the alternatives Rawdin recommends for the picks that aren’t exactly what the doctor would order).
1. A Toothbrush Made From…Yogurt Cups
I discovered Preserve’s “Made with LOVE and recycled yogurt cups” toothbrushes during a leisurely Trader Joe’s stroll and am completely smitten with them. Of course I appreciate that they make use of waste, but beyond that, the streamlined design is aesthetically appealing (I’m not a fan of bionic-looking toothbrushes with seemingly unnecessary bells and whistles), and Preserve is a B Corp that makes its products in the U.S. The brush features a curved handle for “those hard-to-reach places,” and based on my experience, it really works. That said, I’ve always been a medium bristle kinda gal. So what are the dentists’ thoughts on this pick? Rawdin says, “Honestly, any toothbrush that will remove plaque is good in my book. I tend to steer away from recommending anything other than soft toothbrushes for my patients as I find that harder toothbrushes tend to cause more gum recession.” This is the official stance of the American Dental Association, too, but Rawdin says if gum recession hasn’t been an issue for me, I can stick with what works. The good news for everyone? Preserve makes soft and ultra soft toothbrushes, too. “I also love that Preserve uses recycled plastic—good for your teeth AND the environment!” says Rawdin. Already a fan of another type of toothbrush? Boyechko recommends switching it up:
When patients are trying to decide between different toothbrushes, like a manual one versus an electric brush or a variety of brush shapes, I like to say you don’t have to pick just one brush. You can vary it up every day, like using a manual brush in the morning and an electric one at night, and even change the brush head every other week if you’d like. That way you’ll ensure you’re getting all the advantages from the different toothbrushes, rather than feel like you’re limiting yourself to just one style.
If you haven’t tried a Preserve brush yet, go for it! They’re very reasonably priced (we’re talking under $3) and you’ll feel good about your purchase—just be sure to reach for one that’s soft or ultra soft so the experience is nice for your gums, too. [products ids=’1078154,1078152,1078150′ type=full]
2. Toothpaste With a Dash of Blue Green Algae
My sister, Emersyn D., a healthcare design strategist who’s en route to becoming a physician assistant (and is five years a vegan) turned me onto JĀSÖN products a number of years ago. JĀSÖN’s code of honor promises wholesome, effective products that are free from parabens, phthalates, harsh sulfates, and artificial colors and are never tested on animals. JĀSÖN’s parent company, Hain Celestial, has also paired with CARE to help fund an afterschool program for girls in rural Guatemala, meaning purchasing toothpaste from their lineup contributes to something even bigger than self-care. So—which of their flavors is my favorite? I’ve been jamming on Sea Fresh Anti-Cavity & Strengthening Gel in Deep Sea Spearmint, which contains blue green algae, aloe vera gel, spearmint and parsley extracts, and (ding, ding, ding! we have a winner!) fluoride. Rawdin’s take?
This is not a toothpaste I have tried myself, but I am a fan of JĀSÖN products and the fact that it contains fluoride is really all I need to know! Your toothpaste absolutely should contain fluoride. I know this can be a controversial topic, but fluoride is the number one reason the cavity rate has decreased in the U.S. There are no scientific studies to support that fluoride has any adverse effects when used appropriately, but there IS overwhelming evidence as to its benefit. The addition of CoQ10, algae, and aloe have no proven benefit, but certainly won’t hurt the teeth.
JĀSÖN does offer an impressive array of fluoride-free toothpastes, but don’t miss out on all that tooth-strengthening goodness when you can choose from three fluoridated options: Tea Tree Oil & Cinnamon, Powerful Peppermint, and of course my fave, Deep Sea Spearmint.
3. Mouthwash Formulated With Spearmint Oil and Grapefruit Seed Extract
Do you derive inexplicable pleasure from purchasing matching products? Me too, which is why my mouthwash-of-the-moment is also from JĀSÖN. Sea Fresh Strengthening Sea Spearmint Mouthwash—which includes grapefruit seed and perilla seed extracts—tastes refreshingly mojito-like. Plus, the tube of toothpaste and matching mouthwash bottle look so cute together! I’ve used JĀSÖN’s Total Protection Sea Salt Mouth Rinse in Cool Mint in the past, but it was a bit too salty for my liking. The Sea Spearmint variety is the perfect alternative: minty enough to remind us of the Listerine that Mom and Dad might’ve used during our childhoods, but decidedly more wholesome feeling, given the citrus notes and alcohol-free formulation. [products ids=’1078158,1078161′ type=full]
4. Something Bubbly
I used to have an epic soda habit (we’re talking a pack a day at its worst), but thanks to the advent of naturally flavored sparkling waters being sold in cans everywhere, I’ve been able to leave my soda chugging days behind me. My current faves are LaCroix apricot (the moscato of sparkling waters) and Original New York Seltzer watermelon (sweet summertime, summertime in a can). A bottle of S.Pellegrino with dinner never hurt anyone either. But are sparkling water options really that much better than soda for our teeth? Rawdin shares some interesting information:
These are fine, but ideally should be drunk only at meal times. The reason being the sodium bicarbonate that makes the bubbles in the drinks actually makes these beverages acidic. So, if you’re sipping on them all day long, you’re constantly exposing your teeth to acid, which can slowly erode the enamel—the hard, white outer layer of your teeth—over time.
Sweetener free: good. Nursing my non-alcoholic bubbly from after-my-coffee o’clock to EOD: something to reconsider.
5. More on Bubbles
Or, gum, that is. While I grew up on sticks of Fruit Stripe and mouthfuls of grape Bubble Yum, 2018 finds me devoted to peppermint Ice Breakers Ice Cubes. (Though the summer snow cone glitter gum—yes you read that right—limited edition is worth a Target run, too.) Is this the best gum, though, or would my teeth appreciate a different pick? “If you’re going to chew gum, make sure it’s sugar-free, like this one,” says Rawdin. “Ice Breakers actually contains xylitol, as do many of the others sugar-free gums on the market. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol sweetener which actually helps to prevent cavities.” Rawdin says she tries to steer clear of gum that contains aspartame as a sweetener. “Anything with the ADA seal of approval—gum, toothbrushes, toothpaste, et cetera—is always a safe bet.” Touchdown
6. A Trusty Water Bottle
The U.S. cavity rate hasn’t decreased because of fluoridated oral care products alone. In many areas, tap water is fluoridated too, which means a trusty reusable water bottle will allow you to treat yourself to refreshing sips that are good for your teeth while minimizing the waste associated with single-use water bottles. Rawdin says the amount of fluoride in tap water is “low enough to not affect you systemically, even if you’re drinking a lot of water during the day, but just a few parts per million of fluoride in the water is enough to help protect your teeth.” “Plus,” she says, “drinking water helps to keep your mouth hydrated. A dry mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria and can cause cavities to arise much more quickly.” My on-the-go go-to is my Contigo Autoseal West Loop Stainless Steel Travel Mug in Polar White (of course). I’ve clicked the lock into place and tossed this trusty mug in my purses and backpacks many times over the past year and never experienced a leak. Note that the vacuum seal mechanism in the lid can be unlatched and dishwashed, while the mug itself has to be washed by hand. To find out if the water in your area is fluoridated, check out this handy map from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And if your water isn’t fluoridated, Rawdin says you should be sure your toothpaste and mouthwash are. [products ids=’1078164,1078166,1078169,1078172′ type=full]
7. Time to Strip
Not that kind of stripping! Unless you want to, in which case, go for it knowing you can do pretty much whatever after applying Crest Whitestrips: another one of my favorite finds. I love to get my sparkle on when I have a special event or vacay coming up. Of this pick, Rawdin says:
These are very effective and safe. The biggest risk to using these or any whitening product is residual sensitivity. Typically the sensitivity is short lived and any over-the-counter pain killer will help. There are also whitening methods that your dentist can provide for you which tend to work a bit more quickly, such as an in office whitening session or custom whitening trays. The best option will depend on your budget and what fits best with your lifestyle.
8. A Handy Floss Alternative
Don’t forget to floss!—the battle cry of many a dentist, I’m sure. My dirty little secret? As much as I love brushing my teeth, I’ve always hated flossing. It feels eternally clumsy, and I’ve never developed a regular flossing routine. That said, I am a huge fan of Plackers—even more so now that I know they’re recyclable (though, as a Plackers team member says, “We would suggest asking your local municipality regarding how to properly prepare flosser picks to make them acceptable for pick up as the bags and the flossers are composed of different materials”). While some dentists are adamant that flossing is far superior to using Plackers, Rawdin says,
These are great, especially for patients who don’t like using string/ribbon floss! One is not better than the other, but you do need to work a little harder with the Plackers to achieve the same benefit as regular floss. The goal is to get the floss on either side of the little triangle of tissue between the teeth and to hug the floss against the tooth to clean out the small space between the tooth and the gum.
So, instead of Placker shaming, let’s embrace using them the right way so we can take advantage of an affordable and recyclable option that’s here to make oral care a little easier.
9. A Brand New Retainer
My sis and I both endured the American rite of passage that is having braces. I wore my clear retainer faithfully until it cracked a few years ago (admittedly it was looking worse for the wear way before that). I decided to get a Hawley retainer—one of the metal and acrylic ones (blue sparkles FTW) that will last for ages but potentially cost you more than $500 even if you have dental insurance, since orthodontic care typically isn’t covered for members over 18. Emersyn says she settled on new clear retainers after exploring a number of options. “My teeth have shifted over the years due to not wearing the retainers faithfully and ultimately losing them. A few front teeth are more crooked than I would like, and I later learned that my midline and bite had also shifted. I had seen ads for Smile Direct Club and looked into their plans, but I was wary of doing something orthodontic via mailer boxes, plus I was going to have to get a small permanent retainer behind my front two teeth removed to do it.” “I then went to an orthodontist and she said I would be a good candidate for Invisalign. I had a consultation and received pricing for an Invisalign package, but it was way out of my budget as a young professional, especially knowing I was about to return to school,” she shares. “I asked about retainers to hold my teeth in place for the time being. The two options were metal and plastic or clear plastic. The metal and plastic has a longer lifespan but was far more expensive, so I opted for the clear plastic retainers. These have a lifespan of about a year and I believe they were $50 each, which I paid out of pocket.” Rawdin says, “I see at least a couple patients a week with this issue!” While she notes that Invisalign or Smile Direct Club are good options if you want your teeth to be straightened, she says a new retainer is the perfect option if you’re looking to maintain the position of your teeth and prevent them from moving in the future. Retainer lost or looking less than hygienic? Talk to your dentist or orthodontist about an investment that’s right for your budget and will keep your teeth right where you want them to be.
10. A Good “Tung” Scraper
This pick is from my sis and is one that I look forward to trying in the future, especially because it comes from a company that uses only natural ingredients (“mostly wildcrafted and organic”), demonstrates a long-term commitment to sourcing recyclable and biodegradable materials, and has “strong ethical values: Ethical & honest, cruelty-free, no child labor, no discrimination.” “The tongue scraper I use is Dr. Tung’s,” Emersyn says. She purchased it at a local herbs and supplements store after trying a copper tongue scraper that rusted almost immediately. “I’ve had the Dr. Tung’s scraper for about six months now and love it. I became curious about tongue scraping when I was reading about different Ayurvedic remedies and looking into oil pulling. I scrape my tongue once a day after brushing my teeth at night. I love that the tongue scraper helps get rid of bad breath and aftertastes. It makes my mouth feel a lot cleaner.” Rawdin says, “Cleaning your tongue is an important step in your oral hygiene routine, however, you don’t need a fancy tongue scraper. You can just use your toothbrush to clean the coating that can form on your tongue containing plaque and bacteria. If not removed, it can often cause bad breath.” If a patient uses a tongue scraper, Rawdin says she certainly doesn’t discourage it, and she shares these tongue-scraper tips:
- Tongue scrapers can be used once a day to remove the discolored coating that can form on the tongue.
- A few sweeps with the scraper should do the trick.
- You don’t want to apply too much pressure, because you can cause bleeding and superficial damage to the surface of the tongue, which will heal but will be a little tender in the meantime.
“A warning, though,” Rawdin says, “if there’s a coating on the tongue that does not come off with gentle pressure or there is bleeding when the coating is removed, be sure to see your dentist. These signs can be an indication that something else may be going on.” Whether you opt for a Dr. Tung’s scraper or choose to clean your tongue with your sweet new Preserve toothbrush, here’s to feeling your sexiest, whether you’re flossin’, smoothing on a White Strip, or sipping on tap water to keep those pearly whites shining bright like diamonds. [products ids=’1078177,1078179,1078181′ type=full]