Raw Propolis & Xylitol Tooth Powder
I have been making tooth cleaners of one variety or another for the past couple of years. The latest experiment is a very simple propolis and xylitol tooth powder.
Propolis, or “bee-glue”, performs many important functions in the hive, not the least of which being the cornerstone of the hive’s immune system. Its potential as a medicine for humans has been known for centuries. A 15th century Karabadini (medical text) describes a treatment for oral inflammations and tooth cavities (from “Propolis” by Klaus Nowottnick):
One takes propolis, adds a little arsenic, red lentil, yarrow and germander and pulverizes and strains it. Then a spoonful of olive oil and honey is added. Everything is mixed well and placed on the ill tooth.
Modern research on propolis is confirming that it does indeed display in vitro antimicrobial on oral pathogens. It has also been shown to control tooth decay in rats.
And unless you’re allergic to it, it’s safe to eat, which should be a pre-requisite for anything that goes into a tooth cleaner because you’re bound to ingest some of it…
Xylitol, a natural sugar-alcohol, is widely accepted by dentists as sweeter that actually prevents tooth decay. From the California Dental Association:
Xylitol inhibits the growth of the bacteria that cause cavities. It does this because these bacteria (Streptococcus mutans) cannot utilize xylitol to grow. Over time with xylitol use, the quality of the bacteria in the mouth changes and fewer and fewer decay-causing bacteria survive on tooth surfaces. Less plaque forms and the level of acids attacking the tooth surface is lowered.
How I Made the Tooth Powder
Given the above information, I figured a combination of propolis and xylitol could make a good tooth cleaner (or at the very least couldn’t hurt and would be a shitload better than a commercial toothpaste with all its chemical nasties).
- Took an old top bar cloth from the hive and chucked it in the freezer for a couple of hours to make the propolis go brittle.
- Scrunched up the top bar cloth and collected the bits of propolis that broke off (there was a bit of wax on it too so I tried to be selective about collecting the darker, shiny stuff that was probably mostly propolis).
- Mixed the propolis with xylitol (roughly a 1:3 ratio) and ground it up in a mortar and pestle (I was pleasantly surprised to find that the propolis didn’t end up sticking to the mortar and pestle otherwise I would have been in trouble!)
I have been using this tooth powder for the last few days (and testing it on my husband) and it does make your mouth feel spectacularly clean – a clean that lasts all day.
The propolis has a pretty strong, spicy flavour that is somewhat balanced out with the sweetness of the xylitol, but the taste does hang around for quite a while (I don’t mind that personally).
There are mixed reports about propolis staining teeth, I haven’t seen any evidence of that yet but I know it’s a possibility with long term use so I’ll just see what happens and update this post if I notice it happening. The propolis does seem to stick to the tooth brush a bit, though! Perhaps the tendency for it to stick more to the tooth brush than my teeth will prevent too much staining.
As far as I can determine, most of the studies on propolis in relation to oral health have used propolis extract in ethanol (the active components are alcohol soluble) but I opted to use raw propolis, so I can’t be sure my tooth powder will have the effect on oral pathogens that I’d hope based on this research, but I still think it’s worth a shot as raw propolis has been extensively used throughout history as an antiseptic. And if the stuff can mummify a mouse in a hive I reckon it’ll probably do a good job of preserving my teeth…
I’m not a dentist and after a lot of searching haven’t been able to find anyone making tooth powder like this so it’s very much an experiment. My dentist is aware of the fact that I make my own tooth cleaners and while he does raise an eyebrow at me when I tell him and isn’t necessarily convinced of their efficacy, he has also admitted that my oral health is excellent and has said that my homemade tooth cleaners won’t do any harm. I will post an update when I tell him about this latest one!