Naturally Speaking: The Trend of Natural Dental Products and Your Practice

There is a current and robust trend to embrace all-natural products from what we eat, what we put in and, on our bodies, and lately, what we use for oral hygiene home care. We, as consumers, assume that natural products are better for our health and the environment. The vast array of dental products on store shelves along with internet and television advertisements flood our patients with the latest and greatest products. We need to answer the patients' questions about the products they want to try. Is it safe? Does it work? What is the cost? As dental professionals, it is essential to research a natural dental product, understand its benefits, and confidently recommend its use.

A patient may seek a natural dental product for several reasons, including reducing chemicals and allergic reactions to oral hygiene product ingredients. They may also have an ethical conflict with environmental manufacturing or animal testing methods used by the producer of products.

What is a Natural Dental Product?

While there is no formal definition of natural from any regulating agency, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) considers the word natural to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in or has been added that would not normally be expected to be in that the product 1. Natural dental products contain plant and mineral-based ingredients that emphasize whole-body health and wellness. In Canada, natural products will have a Natural Product Number (NPN), a DrugIdentification Number (DIN), or Homeopathic Medicine Number (DIN-HM) on the label5. You can also recognize natural dental products by their ingredients and packaging.

Attributes of Natural Dental Products2,3:

  • No artificial flavors, sweeteners, colors, or preservatives
  • Flavored with peppermint oil, tea tree, clove, and other essential oils that have antibacterial/antimicrobial properties
  • Addition of natural herbs which can be effective against pathogenic bacteria
  • Naturally sourced fluoride (*) see note
  • Calcium carbonate and hydrated silica clean tooth enamel
  • Baking soda helps with plaque and stains
  • Is cruelty-free and vegan
  • Packaged in a recyclable metal tube and box
  • May contain aloe vera, which may help with mouth wounds and gingivitis
  • Xylitol which is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol found in plants, shown to prevent the growth of cavity-causing bacteria as well used as a sweetener
  • Hydroxyapatite is a naturally occurring form of the calcium apatite mineral which helps restore tooth enamel and reduce sensitivity
  • Activated charcoal has antiviral and antibacterial properties
  • Free of sodium lauryl sulfate- a detergent used in some toothpaste to create foaming quality

(*) NOTE: Fluoride is an essential ingredient for the health of our teeth. Many natural dental products do not contain fluoride; however, fluoride is a natural element found in nature, and the ADA (American Dental Association) continues to recommend that toothpaste contain. 4

Should Dental Professionals Recommend Natural Dental Products?

A beneficial dental hygiene product should safely clean teeth and remove food, plaque, and stain. The product should also control oral bacteria to prevent dental caries and periodontal disease. Our goal as dental professionals is to keep our patients healthy by recommending the appropriate dental product. As professionals, we need to be careful and selective with the products we suggest. Shortcuts for dental treatments and oral hygiene will have detrimental and irreversible consequences. That said, there are many natural dental products available. As more consumers consider what is in the products they use, natural plant and mineral-based dental products can be an option.



Sources:

  1. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “Use of the Term Natural on Food Labeling.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, https://www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/use-term-natural-food-labeling.
  2. Dagli, N., & Dagli, R. (2014). Possible use of essential oils in dentistry. Journal of international oral health: JIOH, 6(3), i–ii.
  3. Chandra Shekar, B. R., Nagarajappa, R., Suma, S., & Thakur, R. (2015). Herbal extracts in oral health care - A review of the current scenario and its future needs. Pharmacognosy reviews, 9(18), 87–92. https://doi.org/10.4103/0973-7847.16210
  4. “Product Certification.” Tom's of Maine Natural Toothpaste, Deodorant, Body & Baby Care, https://www.tomsofmaine.com/products/product-certification.
  5. Government of Canada. “About Natural Health Products.” Health Canada, https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/natural-non-prescription/regulation/about-products.html

Maryanne Ferree RDH, BS, PHDHP

Maryanne holds a Bachelor of Science with a focus in dental hygiene education from the College of General Studies at the University of Pittsburgh and maintains a license as a Public Health Dental Hygiene Practitioner. She has over 35 years of clinical experience. Maryanne is currently clinical faculty in the Department of Periodontics and Preventive Dentistry focusing her clinical teaching on Advanced Periodontal Instrumentation and is finishing her Public Health Master’s thesis on Infection Control in Dental Practices.