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An article in the New York Times last month, A Lineman in My Bed: Notes on Teeth Grinding, talked about sleep bruxism, which refers to grinding or clenching teeth while asleep.

A dentist explains that during sleep bruxism,

“the upper and lower teeth may come into direct contact as much as 40 minutes per hour, and — for example, on the first molar — with a force of about 250 pounds. Hence the football player. Compare that with normal circumstances, when a person’s teeth make contact for about 20 minutes a day, while chewing, and with only 20 to 40 pounds of pressure.”

I know I’ve had time when I grind my teeth.  Had no idea I had a football player in my mouth!

Here’s an earlier post on relaxing the jaw, with a couple of natural (non-drug) how to tips.  I want to make sure to follow these because I suspect sleep bruxism has affected my bite — and hence brought me to my current state of wearing braces — and also I want to minimize the effect AFTER I get them off!


I haven’t pushed my sustainability muscle into the toothbrush arena yet. I just make sure that I get some “reuse” out of my old toothbrushes, by using them to scrub a tough nook & cranny when I’m cleaning the kitchen or bathroom. It helps me feel less guilty about just throwing out all that plastic.

Thank goodness Idealbite has researched this, and posted info on more sustainable toothbrush alternatives:

You can avoid both by choosing a recycled or replaceable-head toothbrush instead of a conventional tooth-scrubber, and brush up on the best options to promote good dental and eco-hygiene.

According to Idealbite, benefits are: reducing trash (in the US, 50 mil lb of toothbrushes end up in landfills each year); saving money with replaceable-head versions; and the eco-brushes work as well as the ones from your dentist.

Products they recommend:

  • Preserve Toothbrush – made from recycled yogurt cups and comes with a postage-paid envelope for recycling; three bristle options. Available at Whole Foods ($4), Amazon.
  • Radius Source Toothbrush – has a cool corn and wood fiber handle with replaceable heads ($8). Available at Whole Foods, Amazon.
  • Fuchs Ekotec Toothbrush – simple replaceable-head brush that includes three spare heads ($4).

Now that I have some good leads, I think I’ll go check if my local green/sustainable store has one of these.

I’ve been investigating Healthy Options for oral care products, and came across this helpful article from Body + Soul magazine, that talks about the same.

Specifically, it covers:

There’s no way around it. Flossing with braces is a pain. It’s a chore. It’s not fun. But I gotta do it.

At first I used the floss threader that my orthodontist gave me. I got pretty good with it. Now, I maneuver the floss without a threader, and it goes much faster. What works best for me:

Unfortunately, at the very back top molars, the angle makes it impossible for me to thread the floss under the archwire without the threader. I’m resigned to this, though sometimes I skimp and skip it. Do as I say, not as I do!

I’ve never flossed as much as I have since getting my braces; this is no doubt a boon to my dental health… as long as I keep it up after I get the braces off, too. Which will be in 5 months! I’m due for a month 7 report tomorrow!

Healthy Options series continues

Background: A while back I reviewed the Spearmint flavored Tom’s of Maine Natural Anticavity Flouride Mouthwash (Rinse). And I HATED it. I liked the Natural Dentist Flouride Rinse Berry Blast better, but wanted to try the Lemon-Lime flavored Tom’s of Maine product.

Healthy Option goal: As always, my goal was to find as healthy an option as possible. In this case, a product with the required fluoride, and minimal additional artificial ingredients. Also, from a sustainability perspective, if I can find it at the store I can walk to, better than having to get into my car to pick it up.

Review: Tom’s of Maine Natural Anticavity Fluoride Mouthwash for a Dry Mouth (Lemon-Lime)

I was interested in this because of two things:

  1. Dry Mouth. This is definitely a problem for braces wearers. And I’ve experienced this off and on, especially at the beginning when I had the braces put on, but also when I had new brackets added. Basically, when my mouth is irritated. So a product that also helped with that, would be welcome.
  2. Lemon-Lime. I know first-hand how comforting a bit of lemon juice can be, so I wanted to check out how this product tastes and works.

On both counts, this product fared well. The taste is not great, but acceptable, and less sweet than the Natural Dentist Berry Blast-flavored flouride rinse. I usually rinse with this before going to sleep, and have never been bothered by the taste as the “last taste” in my mouth.

So, this is now my preferred flouride rinse. It has the advantage (over the less well-distributed Natural Dentist product) of being easy to get, at Walgreen’s, as well.

  • Active Ingredient: Sodium Fluoride (0.0442%). Inactive Ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Witch Hazel (Hamamelis Virginiana) Water, Xylitol, Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Juice, Poloxamer 407, Monosodium Phosphate, Chamomile Glycerite, Green Tea Glycerite, Natural Flavor, Benzoic Acid.
  • Flavors: lemon-lime for dry mouth (reviewed), peppermint and spearmint
  • Size: 1 pint. Also available in 2.06 oz, which you can carry onto planes.
  • Cost: $5.99 (at Walgreen’s); also available online

Two months gone by, already!

  • Eating: Pretty much eating whatever I can cut into small enough pieces to chew with my little molars. (Why? Read this.) Still craving crunchiness, but otherwise feels back to normal. it helps that I don’t eat much meat.
  • Brushing/Flossing: Even flossing without the threader.
  • Movement: It looks like my teeth are moving, since I see the spaces between the teeth, and occasionally feel discomfort in one or two teeth. But a couple of days ago, a telltale sign of movement poked my inner cheek. The wire had moved, and had stuck out beyond the bracket.
    The way the Damon Braces work, the wire is a material that wants to move back to its perfect arch shape, and that’s what moves the teeth. Since the wire sits in the brackets but isn’t attached to them, as my teeth move, the wire straightens out. And as it straightens out, it gets “longer” and starts heading out the end of the last bracket, and into my cheek. I hope to get this clipped off tomorrow.
  • Wax On: Have a blob of wax stuck on the wire end. Does the trick, but would rather have the wire clipped altogether. Is the wax unhealthy in any way? I should investigate.
  • Smile: No compunction about smiling full-metal these days.

Only ten months to go!

Healthy Options series continues

Background: I’m out of town for a few days, and didn’t want to check my luggage just for the sake of carrying my big bottle of The Natural Dentist Fluoride Rinse Berry Blast, so after I landed, I walked over to a Walgreen’s to see what I could find.

Healthy Option goal: As always, my goal was to find as healthy an option as possible. In this case, a product with the required fluoride, and minimal additional artificial ingredients. And if possible, in a small size.

Review: Tom’s of Maine Natural Anticavity Fluoride Mouthwash (Spearmint)

I had high hopes for this product because a) Tom’s of Maine makes good products that I’ve liked and is a good company, committed to health and sustainability and b) because it’s an easily accessible option–it’s on sale at Walgreen’s in Chicago, after all!

Alas, I have enough discomfort with the braces, I don’t need more. This rinse STINGS like crazy. I read on a review that it’s because of the witch hazel that’s used instead of alcohol. Oy! I guess it’s a good option for people who think the stinging means it’s working (like mouthwash), but I’m nostalgic for my gentle if sweet-tasting Natural Dentist rinse.

There is a Lemon-Lime flavor for dry mouth, which might be better; maybe I’ll try it when I’m ready for a new bottle. For now, I’m going to return to my Natural Dentist rinse, as soon as I get home.

  • Active Ingredients: Sodium Fluroride 0.0442% (Anticavity). Inactive Ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Witch Hazel Water (Hamamelis virginiana), Aloe Vera Leaf Juice (Aloe barbadensis), Xylitol, Poloxamer 407, Monosodium Phosphate, Spearmint Leaf Oil (Mentha viridis), Green Tea Glycerite, Chamomile Glycerite, Benzoic Acid, Menthol
  • Flavors: spearmint (reviewed), peppermint and lemon-lime for dry mouth
  • Size: 1 pint. Also available in 2.06 oz, which you can carry onto planes.
  • Cost: $5.99 (at Walgreen’s); also available online

Healthy Options series continues

Background: Fluoride rinse is one of the special requirements for dental care while wearing braces. You’re supposed to use it every day. There are a bunch on the market; many with flavors to appeal to kids. The sample I got at the orthodontist was from ACT, bubble gum flavor. Yuck. (Active Ingredient: Sodium Fluoride (0.05%)(Fluoride Ion 0.0226%). Inactive Ingredients: Cetylpyridinium Chloride, D&C Red No. 33, Dibasic Sodium Phosphate, Edetate Calcium Disodium, Flavors, Monobasic Sodium Phosphate, Poloxamer 407, Polysorbate 80, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Saccharin, Sorbitol and Water.)

Healthy Option goal: To find an option that has the required fluoride, and minimal additional artificial ingredients.

natural dentist fluoride rinseMy pick (for now): The Natural Dentist Fluoride Rinse Berry Blast

I thought the bubble gum was bad. The flavor of this one is almost worse because of the concentrated fruit flavor. However, it claims not to have alcohol, artificial sweeteners, dyes, or harsh chemicals, so I’m sticking with it.

  • Contains xylitol, a naturally occurring substance derived from birch tree pulp that has been clinically proven to help fight cavities. Xylitol’s antimicrobial properties also protect teeth from the bacteria that cause the buildup of dental plaque.
  • No alcohol, artificial color or synthetic perfumes
  • Full list of ingredients here
  • flavor: Berry Blast (only flavor available)
  • 16 oz.
  • Cost: $13.39 (Whole Foods special ordered it for me); also available online

This is my first installment of reviews of healthy option products for this braces adventure. I’m listing these on the Healthy Options page as well.

Background: I’ve been using Crest Glide or some similar “tape”-style floss, because it’s easier to use and doesn’t shred between my tightly-aligned teeth.

Healthy Option goal: To find a reasonably-priced option that is more healthy and sustainable, and works as well as what I’ve been using so far. The two important health/sustainability elements are:

  1. The filament. Looks like the options are primarily plastic (PTFE or teflon, or polyethethelene), nylon (Tom’s of Maine’s floss) and natural fibers. The only natural fiber I’ve been able to find in my brief research is silk, from Radius. I’m still looking for info on relative health safety. The toxicity of teflon on cooking pans has been tested, but hopefully your mouth won’t get that hot for that long.
  2. The wax coating. Some brands have natural waxes like jojoba, beeswax or carnuba. (Crest Glide uses natural bee’s wax.)

My pick (for now): Desert Essence Dental Tape

It’s not as smooth and silky as the Crest Glide, but it definitely works for my tight (and sore) teeth. It’s an acceptable alternative.

According to the packaging (which looks like a regular plastic floss package):

  • The floss/tape is waxed and saturated with Tea Tree Oil, which is inherently antiseptic
  • No animal ingredients or testing
  • No alcohol, artificial color or synthetic perfumes
  • 30 Yds, Waxed
  • Cost: $3.40 (Rainbow Grocery in SF); also available online

I’m researching the filament and wax on this product.