Mar 22, 2011 at 6:30 pm #1270956
@jmathesLocale: Southeast US
I’ve read a lot of posts on various blogs and forums about hikers/backpackers using Dr Bonner’s soap for toothpaste.
I carry a mini dropper bottle of DB as part of my hygiene kit, but have never used it for brushing my teeth. A couple of weeks ago I discovered my large bottle was leaking and decided to use the remaining soap in my kitchen for cleaning my hands. After 3-days of daily use 3-4 times per day, 1-2 drops per washing I notice my hands were extremely dry with cracked cuticles. I stopped using the DB slathered my hands with lotion until they healed. Two days ago I decided to give DB a second try just to see if the same results occurred, it did. After seeing what DB did to my skin I don’t think I’ll be using for toothpaste. I realize a lot of people use DB with positive results and may not get the same result that I did.
So, I’m wondering if and how DB will affect tooth enamel for long-term use, mainly long distance hikers?
I would like to hear from dentist out there and others that may have noticed any difference in their tooth enamel after using DB for long-term use 2-3-4 months, thru-hikes, I’m not talking about weekend trips.Mar 22, 2011 at 8:25 pm #1713126
@hikinggrannyLocale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Even small amounts of biodegradable soap can harm aquatic life. For that reason I won't use soap at all!
Baking soda is an environmentally and backpacker friendly alternative to commercial dentifrices. It weighs less, costs less, is dentist-recommended and has multiple uses (deodorant, antacid, paste to soothe bug bites).Mar 22, 2011 at 9:40 pm #1713172
+1 to what Mary said.
I use baking soda for toothpaste and deodorant. It works fine for both. It's nice not having that stale deodorant smell. I use very little for brushing teeth because my dental hygienist cautioned me that baking soda is too abrasive for brushing teeth. I only use it a few times a month.
I've switched back to camp soap for washing my hands (far away from water). I also don't like that Dr. Bronner's is scented because it's an olfactory intrusion into the wilderness which obscures my experience and probably impacts animals unnecessarily. It's probably not a significant impact, but it's one which is easily avoided.
[Edited to remove incorrect statement about Dr. Bronner's being acidic.]Mar 23, 2011 at 5:25 am #1713255
Tried it once. I yacked as soon as it touched my tongue. End of experiment.Mar 23, 2011 at 5:57 am #1713273
It makes me gag! So no long term experience. I do use baking soda, and it works just fine. I notice it doesn't leave dry toothpaste trails all over the foliage.Mar 23, 2011 at 7:11 am #1713301
I wish I had read this thread a couple weeks ago!
So what's the best way to be hygeinic in the woods? Both washing hands and brushing teeth.Mar 23, 2011 at 7:41 am #1713321
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
No. Toothpaste is one of those things that in most modern societies we like to think we cannot do without. Not true. Mostly, just brushing is all that is necessary. Followed by rinsing. 99.99% of the effects of toothpaste are to get you to salivate while brushing and to make the taste of semi-spoiled food un-noticeable. A sip of water will do close to the same. That said, I will also note that saliva is as close to a universal solvent you will likely find.
Most tooth pastes have some sort of polishing compound, read abrasive. It will scrape the top layer (usually one or two molecules worth) off your teeth. I tend to not use that much, anyway. But this can lead to a reduction in enamels after many brushings.
Fluoride can harden your teeth. Good for those with soft teeth. Alcohol (ethyl) can can kill bacteria pretty well, good for those with gingivitis. Needed? Probably not on the trail. Nor is it needed for a week or around a month. For the long distance hiker, it helps to have a fluoride tablet (1/8 of a child's dose is enough for an adult, possibly too much. Every other day?) For those with gingivitis, splashing a teaspoon of fuel to cause salivation and kill bacteria, while brushing, is probably not a bad idea, even at home. Toothpaste is not ever necessary, though.
Brushing is important. Toothpaste may or may not be. On the trail, it can be skipped. You can train yourself to salivate. No, you are not Pavlov's experiment. Just close your eyes and think of something that really makes your mouth water as you bite into it. After a few times, you will get the trick.Mar 23, 2011 at 7:45 am #1713327
This sounds similar to what I have been doing, though I do use a very minimum amount of toothpaste. So little I don't even need to spit. But even those tiny tubes of toothpaste add some dead weight. I will start going pasteless. Don't tell my dentist that I haven't seen in over a year… I should get on that.Mar 23, 2011 at 8:26 am #1713350
@shortbusLocale: So Cal
Acidic? Really? Most soaps are alkaline, as is your mouth. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that the soap was just robbing your skin of some of the natural oils. I've used it for toothpaste a couple of times now. The taste isn't THAT bad, but then again, I had my mouth washed out with soap more than a couple times in my day.Mar 23, 2011 at 9:07 am #1713374
I was wrong about this. Dr. Bronner's is not acidic. It has citric acid added which lowers the pH, but a Google search reveals that the pH is still high.Mar 23, 2011 at 9:19 am #1713384
The Ph seems to be basic but not overly so. The mouth is just slightly acidic. I do believe the dry hands are a result of washing too often and your hand's natural oils not returning.
Further research provides information that Bronner's is non-abrasive, making it in some ways better for your teeth than toothpaste, though you miss out on the flouride.
I haven't tried brushing with Bronner's yet but might just do so tonight.Mar 24, 2011 at 8:56 am #1713941
@babymattyLocale: Western/Central PA, Adirondacks
I tasted it once, I found it to be terrible and bitter. I don't think I'd be able to do it daily.Mar 24, 2011 at 9:04 am #1713945
@aaronmbLocale: Central Valley California
I've tried Bronner's as tooth paste a few times at home "just to see" how it was. It definitely wasn't sweet but it wasn't too bad for me; I could tolerate it enough to use while on the trail (the subtle peppermint aftertaste was nice). I'm finally letting go of the travel-size tooth-paste tube and think I'll go with baking soda.Mar 24, 2011 at 10:36 am #1714000
Disclaimer: I'm a dentist
Corey's right–saliva is slightly acidic, with an average pH of 6.7. Baking soda is slightly alkaline (pH~8.0), which can help neutralize temporary over-acidic saliva. Bacterial plaque formation is encouraged by an acidic oral environment, so raising the pH through baking soda might be helpful. Baking soda is a bit abrasive, but so are many commercial toothpastes. I doubt that either will pose a problem with routine use.
The mechanical action of brushing and flossing is what removes the plaque from your teeth. Careful use of a toothpick can help as well.
Fluoride tablets are only effective while the teeth are forming in utero. The fluoride in tap water or tablets gets incorporated into the enamel while it is being formed, which renders the enamel better able to resist the effects of acid in the mouth (hence less tooth decay). After the teeth have formed, the only way fluoride can be useful is via a topical application, which can be done in the dental office, or delivered in certain toothpastes.
Alcohol in direct contact with inflamed gingiva isn't all that wise. Alcohol-based Listerine has fallen out of favor among dental professionals in recent years. The thought is that alcohol can actually kill cells in an unhealthy mouth. It's true that it also kills bacteria though. The best mouthwash is a chlorhexidine type (like Peridex). Constant use of this can stain the teeth, but it sure does kill the cooties.
I can't address the benefits of using Dr. Bonner. Never tried it.Mar 24, 2011 at 11:49 am #1714049
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
Thanks, Gary. I am not a dentist and am not up on all the recent changes.Mar 24, 2011 at 12:36 pm #1714078
@xpress411Locale: Washington, DC
I use tooth soap "shards." Ultralight, supposedly better for your teeth.
By these tooth soap bars and just cut as many shards as you need for the trip. About half a tic/tac size is plenty for a brushing.
http://www.cheekymaidensoap.com/servlet/the-Dental-Care/CategoriesMar 24, 2011 at 12:50 pm #1714084
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
Tried it, once. No go for tooth-brushing. I have a tiny little vial that I put gel toothpaste in and I only use a touch– it is more of a flavoring and I'm sure I can go for a weekender without toothpaste.
I use Dr. Bronners all the time at home. You don't need very much; more than a few drops is overkill.Mar 24, 2011 at 1:35 pm #1714108
@erdferkelLocale: S. California
I've tried it a few times, usually use just water now. As previously mentioned, the mechanical action of breaking up the bacterial biofilm is the main point.
One thing I did observe: Dr. Bronner's peppermint will go stale after a few months. With a fresh bottle, the peppermint taste is pretty strong, after about 5 months, it tastes more like soap. I haven't tried any of the other scents…Mar 24, 2011 at 2:37 pm #1714161
While I carry a very small squeeze bottle of Dr Bronner's for washing, I'm not a fanatic about hand washing (only post-defecation and pre-food prep), nor do I use a lot of soap when I wash my hands, so I've never the drying and cracking mentioned. As for tooth brushing, I just brush when I'm hiking – no pastes, soda or polishing compound!
I tell myself that this keeps my pack lighter!!!!
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