Oral health professionals (OHPs) are well-versed in educating patients about how to care for their dentition at home. With education and experience, OHPs can choose their favorite product to recommend, often recognizing a toothbrush, dentifrice, and floss are only the bare minimum when it comes to the oral hygiene aids patients may need to keep their oral cavity pristine. It may be prudent to spend several minutes throughout the dental appointment discussing what the patient currently uses to clean their mouth at home, and then make recommendations on where improvement is needed.
Certain oral hygiene aids are scientifically proven to be more effective than others.1 As dedicated health-care providers, it is the duty of OHPs to help make evidence-based recommendations to patients. Yet, despite years of science dictating recommendations of evidenced-based oral hygiene products, the decision ultimately lies with the consumer.1
What is natural dentistry?
Natural dentistry is defined as dentistry that treats both the teeth and the entire body, using only ingredients and materials found in nature or as close to their natural state as possible.2,3 Natural dentistry is also known by other names, including holistic, alternative, unconventional, biocompatible, clean, progressive, and integrative dentistry.3,4 Natural dentistry, while popular to some, is not currently a recognized specialty in the American Academy of Dentistry.3
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While there is debate about the benefits of natural dentistry, there is more research showing that natural dental products are becoming increasingly popular, especially at home. A 2018 study showed that 64% of consumers would choose a natural or clean personal home-care product.5 Because of this trend, it is estimated that the global market for natural home-care products will be $50.46 billion by 2027.6 OHPs should recognize that despite varying opinions on the efficacy of natural dental products, patients may be choosing to live a more natural lifestyle, and thus could benefit from their guidance on which products to purchase.
Why are patients looking for in natural dental products?
Natural dental at-home products are products that have natural ingredients and/or eco-friendly packaging.2 Some patients may choose a product with more natural ingredients for health and wellness preferences. Others may be hoping for eco-friendly products to help reduce waste and be kinder to the planet. Whatever the reason, patients have the right to use the oral hygiene aids they feel are appropriate. We should always be respectful of our patients’ decisions.
What are natural dental products made of?
Science has shown that natural dental products can be effective at disrupting dental biofilm and promoting oral health. Several studies have investigated whether specific naturally occurring ingredients benefit the oral cavity. Tea tree oil, coconut, xylitol, aloe vera, baking soda, oil of clove, chewing sticks, and hydroxyapatite have all been shown to disrupt bacteria or promote remineralization.2,7-16 More specifically, some of the naturally occurring ingredients attack cariogenic bacteria while others disrupt the plaque biofilm to increase saliva production and thus reduce halitosis.
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Eco-friendly dental home-care products include wooden, bamboo, or recycled plastic toothbrushes.2 Packaging with recycled materials and even disposable lozenges for mouthwash to reduce the amount of plastic needed for packaging are also considered eco-friendly dental home-care products.2 Based on an oral health assessment, OHPs can make individual recommendations to patients who want to use only natural dental products. Table 1 lists commonly found natural ingredients in dental care products and their benefits.
Responsibilities of oral care providers
OHPs and patients should comanage the oral home-care regimen. By having open discussions about patients’ desires for a more natural lifestyle and recognizing how natural products can benefit oral hygiene care, both parties can achieve their goal of a healthy mouth. OHPs can remind patients that science has shown both natural and man-made oral home-care products have oral health benefits.
OHPs have a duty to let patients know if a certain natural product has little research to back it up, as well as discuss a product’s potential advantages or disadvantages for oral health. Since research is showing that naturally occurring ingredients are effective in controlling biofilm and promoting overall oral health, we may see an increase in the use of natural dental products in the future.
- Department of Scientific Information, Evidence Synthesis & Translation Research, ADA Science & Research Institute, LLC. Home Oral Care. American Dental Association. Updated December 30, 2022. Accessed September 3, 2023. https://www.ada.org/resources/research/science-and-research-institute/oral-health-topics/home-care
- Sinclair L. Consumers demand natural dental hygiene products. Colgate-Palmolive Company. June 2022. Accessed September 13, 2023. https://www.colgateprofessional.com/students-faculty/practice-management/consumers-demand-natural-oral-hygiene-products
- Pallardy C. Holistic dentistry: Finding a balance. Ontario Academy of General Dentistry. February 14, 2022. Accessed September 12, 2023. https://www.agd.org/constituent/news/2022/02/14/holistic-dentistry-finding-a-balance
- Nunez K, Archibald J. What to know about holistic dentistry. Healthline. Reviewed February 25, 2020. Accessed September 9, 2023. https://www.healthline.com/health/holistic-dentistry
- Masory A. Naturally beautiful: millennials and preferences in beauty and personal care products. AlixPartners. May 30, 2019. Accessed September 13, 2023. https://www.alixpartners.com/insights-impact/insights/millennials-preferences-beauty-personal-care-products/
- Howarth J. Top 9 dental industry trends (2023–2205). Exploding Topics. January 17, 2023. Accessed September 13, 2023. https://explodingtopics.com/blog/dental-industry-trends
- Chen L, Al-Bayatee S, Khurshid Z, Shavandi A, Brunton P, Ratnayake J. Hydroxyapatite in oral care products–a review. Materials (Basel). 2021;14(17):4865. doi:10.3390/ma14174865
- McDonnell K, Kubala J. Why is coconut oil good for your teeth? Healthline. Updated May 24, 2021. Accessed September 8, 2023. Available at https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/coconut-oil-and-teeth
- Odeleye F, Okunye L, Kesi C, Olubunmi A. A study of the anticaries activity of three common chewing sticks and two brands of toothpaste in South West Nigeria. Br J Pharm Res. 2016;11(5):1-7. doi:9734/BJPR/2016/26004
- Barrell A, Cross K. Is clove oil effective for toothache? MedicalNewsToday. Updated July 25, 2023. Accessed September 7, 2013. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321256
- Frothingham S, Westphalen D. Should I switch to xylitol toothpaste? Healthline. Updated August 8, 2019. Accessed September 12, 2013. https://www.healthline.com/health/xylitol-toothpaste
- Tea tree oil & your teeth. Colgate-Palmolive Company. Updated January 9, 2023. Accessed September 10, 2023. colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/nutrition-and-oral-health/tea-tree-oil-is-good-for-teeth
- Blackburn L, Jimenez L, Tran M, Pellegrini J. Role of aloe vera in oral health management. Decisions in Dentistry. November 6, 2018. Accessed September 13, 2023. https://decisionsindentistry.com/article/role-of-aloe-vera-in-oral-health-management/
- Ghassemi A, Hooper WJ, Vorwerk LM, et al. The effects of two baking-soda toothpastes in enhancing mechanical plaque removal and improving gingival health: a 6-month randomized clinical study. Am J Dent. 2020;33(5):265-272.
- Chi Y, Wang Y, Ji M, et al. Natural products from traditional medicine as promising agents targeting at different stages of oral biofilm development. Front Microbiol. 2022;13:955459. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2022.955459
- Philip N, Leishman S, Walsh L. Potential role for natural products in dental caries control. Oral Health Prev Dent. 2019;17(5):479-485. doi:10.3290/j.ohpd.a42741