Dr. Robert Nara, author of Money—by the Mouthful and the subject of a 1979 MOTHER EARTH NEWS interview, has recently completed a volume (entitled How to Become Dentally Self-Sufficient) that spells out—step by step—his preventive dentistry program (Oramedics). The following is an excerpt from Dr. Nara's new book is reprinted with permission of the author and from publisher Oramedics International Press.
Two substances have been handed down for generations as folk medicines: baking soda and common table salt. Claims for the properties of these familiar chemicals range from the ridiculous to the sublime: They've probably been "known" to cure almost anything, at one time or another.
In your oral health medicine cabinet, these two can be used for hygienic purposes as well as home dentistry first aid. The first use, hygiene, simply has both soda and salt doubling as a dentifrice.
As a youngster, you probably experimented at one time or another by mixing baking soda and vinegar. Remember the reaction? The solution bubbled and boiled and fizzed: Something was happening. Apparently vinegar and soda are not overly compatible. Why is that? Well ... vinegar is acidic, and soda is alkaline. Acid and alkali are at separate ends of a scale ... they truly "don't get along".
Part of the disease process of odontosis takes place when the germs ingest sugar and begin excreting acid. It is this acid that begins the insult to tooth enamel which will become, eventually, a cavity.
If you use soda as a dentifrice, you will no doubt create that "soda-vinegar" reaction ... except on a scale so small as to escape observation. In this, there aren't any research figures we can supply ... no weighty documentation is available. It is, instead, plain common sense. Soda and acid are not compatible. Soda won't hurt your teeth and gums ... it won't hurt you if you swallow a teaspoonful (makes you burp) ... but it isn't going to do acid a whole lot of good when it comes in contact with it. Conversely, acid will hurt you in the teeth and gums. . . "it'll rot yer teeth. "
Salt is sodium chloride, which is a significant element in the physical makeup of the human body. The "saline solution" used in many medical applications is generally about point nine percent (0.9%) salt in water. It is used, for example, as a base solution for injections: It balances the osmotic action of the body fluids so the injection does not disturb the normal balance of water inside the body's cells at the area of the injection.
Saline solution (salt water) in any concentration where the salt can be tasted will be a hypertonic solution: It will draw water from the cells of tissue bathed in it. A hypertonic condition in the mouth will instantly and automatically cause the salivary glands to go into overtime production. This is something to remember if you are frequently in places where water is not available for "normal" tooth brushing. A dry mixture of soda and salt is not inconvenient to take along on a camping trip, for example. Using this "dentifrice" without water is easy: The mouth's water fountains will provide more than enough.
This capacity of salt—to act as a hypertonic and draw water (fluids) from tissues—should be kept in mind for another reason: When teeth "act up" and pain sets in; there is often (perhaps usually) a buildup of fluids in the area of the affected tooth. Wouldn't it make sense to use a "medicine" which helped reduce this fluid pressure? Hand me the salt, please ... I'm getting a toothache....
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