I Brushed My Teeth With Dirt For A Week—Here’s What Happened

Mineral-based tooth powders are becoming increasingly trendy. But do they work?

May 18, 2017
mineral toothpaste on brush
Nina Elias

When it comes to personal care, I will try anything once. Or twice. Or for six months—you know, to really see results. So the idea of brushing my teeth with dirt didn’t phase me at all. In fact, a recent diagnosis inspired me to reduce toxins and heavy metals in all aspects of my life, and my oral health regimen was in dire need of a detox. (Watch out for these 9 everyday chemicals that could be messing with your fertility.)

Enter The Dirt Trace Mineral Tooth Brushing Powder. This sweet-smelling powder has a short ingredient list that promises big cleaning results. It’s formulated without fluoride (necessary for tooth strengthening, but a heavy metal nonetheless), artificial sweeteners, corn by-products, or weird fillers that many traditional and even some “green” toothpastes contain. Bentonite clay and baking soda promise cleaner, whiter teeth, while nutmeg and myrrh claim to strengthen my gums and teeth—what have I got to lose? 

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I snagged the travel-sized jar (enough to last six weeks!) for this little experiment, and found myself with buyer’s remorse. “But there’s nothing minty in it?” I thought. “Will I really spit dirt into my sink every morning?”

Was this the one thing I wouldn’t try? Here’s what happened during my week with The Dirt’s tooth powder.

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Dirt toothpaste packaging
Nina Elias

It  Grossed Me Out At First

It’s easy enough to use, even when you’re mostly still asleep: just wet your toothbrush, dip it in the powder, and tap away the excess. Then, gently brush.

It was the last part I had a problem with. Even though it smelled like citrus and cinnamon, I was really struggling with putting this brown, now-muddy powder on my teeth. When I finally did, there was no foaming (no sodium lauryl sulfate in sight), no minty smell or taste, and it turned my whole mouth momentarily brown. Was I doing it right? Would it stain my teeth? Would it make my gums bleed? I went from sleepy to totally spiraling in about five minutes.

Related: 4 Toothpaste Ingredients To Avoid At All Costs

It Reminded Me That I Had To Do Some Of The Work, Not Just My Toothpaste

Once I got past the whole brown mouth thing, using a powder instead of a paste opened my eyes to a lifelong bad habit: I was totally relying on the thick foam to get in and around each tooth instead of my brush bristles. In my week using The Dirt, I found myself taking more care to zero in on each tooth front and back, especially the hard to reach ones. My brushings did get longer, but my teeth and gums responded great and I felt better about my brushing habits by day two.

Dirt mineral toothpaste
Nina Elias

My  Teeth Felt Really Clean—For Way Longer Than Usual

As someone who uses a lot of clean self-care products, I’ll admit I sometimes miss the squeaky clean feeling a good chemical product can give you. In this case, The Dirt ditches harsh silica—you know, the stuff in those “do not eat” packets you find in beef jerky or shoe boxes?—for extra fine bentonite clay. It’s super soft: hitting just a 1-2 on the Mohs scale of hardness, compared to silica’s score of seven. (To put that into perspective, tooth enamel is a five.) So without the mint or rigorous abrasives, would my mouth even feel clean?

It sure would. I felt like I could really feel my teeth for the first time. They felt smooth and strong thanks to the clay and baking soda, even though I’d been brushing gently. The Dirt’s website revealed the secret to this: regular toothpastes often include glycerin, which can coat your teeth. No such ingredient in tooth powder.

Related: 7 Natural Toothpastes That Work Just As Well As The Stuff With Chemicals

My favorite realization all week: With regular toothpaste, my teeth and mouth always felt kind of fuzzy and gross by the end of the day. With The Dirt, that fuzziness stayed away well past 9 p.m. Whether I was singing in someone’s face at a rehearsal or chatting in close proximity at happy hour, it was really freeing to feel that my mouth was still pretty clean and fresh-feeling.

I Started Flossing Again

Oh please, you floss every day? I’ll admit, I’m not the most consistent flosser. I did, however, notice a few pieces of, um, dirt stuck between my teeth after rinsing. The floss took care of it, and soon became a part of my routine again. Happy accident? I’ll take it!

Related: I Tried Oil Pulling For A Month And This Is What Happened

Dirt toothpaste on toothbrush
Nina Elias

I Stopped Worrying About Bad Breath

Because I didn’t need to—as much. I’m not saying it totally rid my mouth of all bad breath-causing bacteria in just seven days, but it definitely made a significant dent. After reading up on the ingredients, it’s likely the antibacterial combination of cinnamon, cardamom, and sweet orange oil are working in tandem to freshen breath and fight bacteria. Either way, I don’t miss the mint one bit. (Check out these 8 healthy uses for activated charcoal, including toothpaste!)

That Stubborn Tarter Buildup Behind My Lower Teeth Nearly Disappeard

I can always tell when my dentist appointment is coming up by the tarter buildup behind my two bottom-front teeth. I can’t wait to hear what my hygienist says at my cleaning next week, because that tarter buildup is nearly gone. It’s smoother to the touch, easier to floss, and I hope this means I can maintain that just-went-to-the-dentist-feeling between appointments. (Check out these 12 things your dentist knows about you just by looking at your mouth.)

I have no problem ditching a product that doesn’t fit into my routine, but I’m totally going to use this tooth powder until the very last grain of clay. I’ll admit, it was hard to wrap my head around at first! But this combo of healthy ingredients and legitimate cleaning power pack a punch I simply can’t refuse.

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