Dawn Woodward: “Oral Health, Keep it Natural”

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Dawn Woodward: Perio Plus+ mother nature’s influence on oral healthcare

There is an increasing demand for oral healthcare solutions that contain natural ingredients as opposed to man-made. Although this might seem a recent trend, the reality is that we have been using natural oral hygiene solutions for thousands of years. In fact it’s difficult to know how early in our evolution oral care developed. Let’s explore how mother nature has helped us create some of the best-known products in oral healthcare.


The earliest forms of toothbrush can be traced back to 3000BC, when ancient civilisations used thin twigs with frayed ends as “chew sticks” to clean their teeth. The first natural bristle toothbrush similar to that used by most people today arrived 1498, when the Chinese began attaching coarse animal hair to bamboo or ivory handles.

These were then introduced to Europe by travellers during the Middle Ages. By the late eighteenth century, William Addis had created the first mass-produced toothbrush using cattle bone and swine fibres [1].

The toothbrush became truly modern following the invention of synthetic materials such as plastic, which is now used to produce the handle and bristles that typically make up most toothbrushes, which can have a huge environmental impact in terms of manufacturing and waste.

Many toothbrushes are unrecyclable. The plastics used in their manufacture being difficult, if not impossible to break apart efficiently [2]. This is why some consumers prefer more natural, biodegradable options such as bamboo toothbrushes.


Recipes for toothpaste are believed to predate the toothbrush by around 2,000 years. Although the composition of toothpaste has changed dramatically, its purpose essentially remains the same. Rudimentary toothpastes used natural ingredients ranging from crushed bone, shells and charcoal, to herbs, nuts and salt.

Toothpaste as we know it today arrived in the nineteenth century when fluoride was introduced and became a staple ingredient [3]. Many of the different types of toothpaste available today might contain one or several natural ingredients such xylitol.

A sugar alcohol naturally found in fruits and vegetables, xylitol can be extracted from trees such as birch for use as a sugar-free sweetener that effectively combats dental caries, thereby aiding preventive oral care. Fluoride-free toothpastes have been growing in popularity, which is considered a worrying trend by experts. Fluoride – a naturally occurring mineral – offers proven benefits for protection against caries and helps maintain oral health [4].

Mouth rinse

The history of mouth rinse is complex and fascinating. One of the earliest instances of humans using some form of mouth rinse for oral hygiene dates back to ancient Rome. The Romans are said to have bought bottles of Portuguese urine to use as mouth rinse – a practise so popular that Emperor Nero taxed it.

The thought process behind using urine as a mouth rinse revolved around the idea that the presence of ammonia in urine could aid disinfection and whiten teeth [5]. In fact, urine remained one of the most effective mouth rinse ingredients until the eighteenth century, as it rendered the oral cavity free from oral pathogens, including sulphur-producing microorganisms [6].

Mouth rinses with improved recipes were mass-produced in the late 1800s, with many early solutions containing alcohol for stabilisation purposes. Today, various mouth rinses include alternative ingredients that provide bacteria-killing properties without the need for alcohol. Chlorhexidine (CHX), for instance, is recognised as a gold standard ingredient for modern mouth rinses, providing outstanding anti-plaque effects to minimise the risk of disease [7].

Synthetic materials underpin a range of high-quality products for optimal oral health, but some credit should also be given to mother nature. Without her continued influence, we would not have been able to produce the effective oral hygiene solutions that dental professionals can now offer patients.

As the trend for “greener” products gathers momentum, it is exciting to think that the dental industry could face a future where artificial ingredients in many oral healthcare solutions have been replaced by highly effective natural alternatives.


Dawn Woodward is the National Sales Manager for Curaprox UK (https://www.curaprox.com/gb-en). She observes: “The innovative new Perio Plus+ range of mouth rinses combine CHX with CITROX® – a natural bioflavonoid extracted from bitter oranges. This unique formula is proven to be more effective than CHX alone at combatting plaque in order to protect against oral disease [8]."

For more information visit www.perioplus.com/uk 


1] Nix, E. (2018) Who invented the toothbrush? History. Link: https://www.history.com/news/who-invented-the-toothbrush. [Last accessed: 17.12.19].

2] Borunda, A. (2019) How your toothbrush became a part of the plastic crisis. National Geographic. Link: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/06/story-of-plastic-toothbrushes/. [Last accessed: 17.12.19].

3] Lippert, F. (2013) An Introduction to Toothpaste – Its Purpose, History and Ingredients. Toothpastes. 1-14. DOI: 10.1159/000350456.

4] Horst, J. A., Tanzer, J. M. and Milgrom, P. M. (2018) Fluorides and Other Preventive Strategies for Tooth Decay. Dental Clinics of North America. 62(2): 207–234. DOI: 10.1016/j.cden.2017.11.003.

5] Kukreja, B. J. and Dodwad, V. (2012) Herbal mouthwashes – A gift of nature. International Journal of Pharma and Bio Sciences. 3(2): 46-52.

6] Manipal, S., Hussain, S., Wadgave, U., Duraiswamy, P. and Ravi, K. (2016) The Mouthwash War - Chlorhexidine vs. Herbal Mouth Rinses: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research. 10(5): ZC81–ZC83. DOI: 10.7860/JCDR/2016/16578.7815.

7] Jones, C. G. (1997) Chlorhexidine: is it still the gold standard? Periodontology 2000. 15(1): 55-62. DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0757.1997.tb00105.x.

8] Malic, S., Emanuel, C., Lewis, M. A. O. and Williams, D. W. (2013) Antimicrobial activity of novel mouthrinses against planktonic cells and biofilms of pathogenic microorganisms. Microbiology Discovery. 1: 11. DOI: 10.7243/2052-6180-1-11.