If you grew up in the United States or U.K., you’ve probably been using toothpaste your whole life. Many of us have never even heard of tooth powder.
However, tooth powder has been used for thousands of years around the world. In the 1800s, it was common for people to use tooth powders containing baking soda, chalk, or salt. It’s still a popular choice in certain countries like India, where traditional oral health methods are used.
In recent years, there has been a surge of interest in tooth powder. This has mainly been in the DIY naturalist communities. The appeal of tooth powder is that some contain fewer, more natural ingredients. It also has been widely studied to eliminate toxins. Some people believe it can cure tooth decay, but this has not been scientifically proven.
Learn more about the best teeth whitening methods.
Tooth powders can be purchased from manufacturers or made at home. Common ingredients include:
Toothpowder should be used the same as toothpaste. The only difference is that it needs moisture to be spread over the surface of your teeth.
To use tooth powder, simply wet your toothbrush, then dip the bristles in your tooth powder. Then brush for two minutes and spit the tooth powder into your sink.
Toothpowder has not been studied as extensively as toothpaste. However, there have been a few studies that have examined the effectiveness of toothpowder. Here’s what the science says.
Plaque is a sticky film made from bacteria that forms on your teeth every day. When plaque builds up, it turns into tartar. Plaque is a leading cause of bad breath, cavities, tooth discoloration, tooth decay, and gum disease (gingivitis and periodontitis).
Three scientific studies have shown that tooth powder is equally or more effective at reducing plaque than toothpaste.1, 2, 3 This is likely due to the abrasive nature of tooth powders.
However, another study from 20185 compared traditional oral hygiene methods to toothpaste users. This study showed contrasting evidence to the other studies. It found that traditional methods, including tooth powder, were inferior in plaque control compared to toothpaste.
These mixed results show that more evidence is needed to prove whether tooth powder is as effective as toothpaste at reducing plaque.
When plaque builds up on teeth, it can cause inflammation, pain, and infection in your gums. This can lead to gingivitis (early gum disease). If gingivitis goes untreated, it can turn to periodontitis (advanced gum disease).
By reducing plaque, tooth powders and toothpastes can help reduce your chances of gingivitis. Current scientific evidence shows that tooth powders may be effective at reducing plaque, and therefore gum disease.1, 2, 3 However, the evidence is varied.4 More evidence is needed to determine whether tooth powder is an effective means of controlling gingivitis.
One study has shown that tooth powder is efficient at removing extrinsic (surface) stains from your teeth.5 This study noted that the whitening effects of the tooth powder were greater than that of the toothpaste. However, the toothpaste was just a general toothpaste, not a whitening toothpaste.
Tooth powder is likely an effective whitening agent due to its abrasive properties. But again, more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of tooth powder at removing stains from your teeth.
The abrasiveness of tooth powder may help remove surface stains. However, it can also have negative effects on your teeth. One study found that tooth powder can cause bleeding, gum loss, and damage to your enamel (tooth surface).4
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Another study showed that tooth loss was higher in people who brushed with red tooth powder due to its high abrasiveness and chemical composition.5
There are both pros and cons of toothpowder:
There is very little research that has compared toothpaste to powder. The small amount of research has shown mixed results on the overall effects of tooth powder on your oral health.1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 The same can be said of charcoal powder and toothpaste containing charcoal.
However, toothpaste has been proven effective at protecting against cavities, lessening tooth sensitivity, whitening teeth, reducing plaque and tartar build-up, preventing gingivitis, preventing enamel erosion and reducing bad breath.7, 8, 9, 10
NewMouth recommends using a toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Acceptance to brush your teeth.
All toothpastes with the ADA Seal of Acceptance have provided scientific evidence proving the safety and efficacy of the paste. The ADA Council on Scientific affairs reviews all applications and determines which products are acceptable. Any toothpastes that contain flavoring agents that cause tooth decay are rejected.
(1) MK, Khan, et al. “Comparison of the Plaque-Removing Efficacy of Toothpaste and Toothpowder.” Europe PMC, Journal of the International Academy of Periodontology, Jan. 2009.
(2) Janakiram, Chandrashekar, et al. “Comparison of Plaque Removal Efficacy of Tooth Powder and Toothpaste in Young Adults in India: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial.” Journal of the International Academy of Periodontology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Oct. 2018.
(3) Muhammad, Khan Khalil. “Evaluating the Clinical Efficacy of Tooth Powder on Plaque-Induced Gingivitis: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1995.
(4) Khan, Muhammad Khalil, et al. “Extrinsic Stain Removal with a Toothpowder: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” International Journal of Health Sciences, Qassim University, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, July 2014.
(5) A;, Shah N;Mathur VP;Jain V;Logani. “Association between Traditional Oral Hygiene Methods with Tooth Wear, Gingival Bleeding, and Recession: A Descriptive Cross-Sectional Study.” Indian Journal of Dental Research : Official Publication of Indian Society for Dental Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 20 Apr. 2018.
(6) Singh, RamPrakash, et al. “Comparative Evaluation of Tooth Substance Loss and Its Correlation with the Abrasivity and Chemical Composition of Different Dentifrices.” Research Gate, Indian Journal of Dental Research, Nov. 2016.
(7) “Toothpastes.” Oral Health Topics, American Dental Association, 2019, www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/toothpastes.
(8) Cury, Jaime Aparecido, and Livia Maria Andaló Tenuta. “Evidence-Based Recommendation on Toothpaste Use.” Brazilian Oral Research, Sociedade Brasileira De Pesquisa Odontológica - SBPqO, 24 Jan. 2014, www.scielo.br/j/bor/a/FRsDSNcn9rDxxMxMQryzr4y/?lang=en.
(9) Davies, R. M., et al. “The Rational Use of Fluoride Toothpaste.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 6 July 2004, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1034/j.1601-5037.2003.00001.x.
(10) Rong, Wen Sheng, et al. “Effectiveness of an Oral Health Education and Caries Prevention Program in Kindergartens in China.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 11 Nov. 2003, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1046/j.1600-0528.2003.00040.x.