DIY Tooth Polish

Grade 7. Picture day. My smile inspiration? Brooke Shields and Farrah Fawcett.

I strolled into the bustling, high energy photography studio (room off of the school library) with all the confidence of someone who knew they had a winning smile.  A practiced smile.

After flinging my Icelandic sweater off my shoulders in the manner of a Vegas magician I took my place on the stool.

The mottled blue background with shrubbery was going to highlight my eyes in a way that would certainly go down in grammar school history. I was glowing. They’d surely be talking about this moment in the teachers lounge at lunch.

But I had more. I had the smile. And it was coming.

For a moment my photographer and I discussed the day’s shoot. There would be no wardrobe changes, no fan and even worse, no smoke machine. I made a mental note never to work with this hack again.

When he got behind his camera and everyone was looking … I broke out the smile.

With a single click it was done.  That was all I needed I said as I held up my hand and gathered my things.

I quietly left the stunned room and for the next 2 months awaited the arrival of my ticket to Hollywood.


smile copy


It was perfect.  The clenched teeth, the bottom row of teeth showing.    I had never smiled in such a professional manner before.  It was golden.  It didn’t look entirely like me.  You know, in the sense that my mother asked why the hell I looked like that.

But that didn’t concern me.  She knew nothing of Farrah Fawcett and her car crushing size of a smile.

Sadly, in a tragic turn of events, I had to abandon the lopsided, clenched smile in later years in favour of a more subdued grin due to an unprecedented case of TMJ.

I haven’t given up my quest for the perfect smile.  I’ve just changed tactics.

Once or twice I week I use Tooth Polish on my tongue and teeth.  You know how your teeth feel after having your teeth cleaned at the dentist?  This makes them feel that way all the time.

And you have everything you need to make your own tooth polish right now.


2 parts baking soda

1 part sea salt

drops of Peppermint essential oil (edible) or  Peppermint extract



Tooth Polish 1

2 tablespoons baking soda, 1 tablespoon sea salt

Tooth Polish 2

add together

Tooth Polish 3


Tooth Polish 4

add 2 drops essential oil

I tried cinnamon, which was gross …



Tooth Polish 5

and peppermint. which was good.

Tooth Polish 6

the oil will sit on top of the mixture.  don’t worry.  just take a spoon and cut it in, mashing out lumps.

Tooth Polish 7


The advantage to using essential oil over extract is the fact that the oil is much more concentrated.  To get the same flavouring from extract would require a lot more of it so your powder has the potential to turn clumpy.

The disadvantage to using essential oil is it’s about twice the price.  Around $10 for a small bottle compared to around $5 for the extract.

So you’re about 2 minutes and 50 cents away from your own dazzling, Brooke Shields smile.

All you need now is a label.


Tooth Polish label



And a small gift from me to you … you can download my PDF printable label for this tooth polish for free.

You only need to use this once a week or so.  Anymore and you could actually brush your teeth right off.

Which never looks good in school pictures.


  1. Marilyn says:

    Where do I go to get your download on here.
    Don’t know if I missed it, so, ,can you please send it to .

    • Karen says:

      Hi Marilyn! If you click on the word “download” the pdf file will automatically download to your computer. Then it will either open automatically on your screen (in Adobe) or you can go to your download files and open the tooth polish file from there. Hope that helps. If you’re still confused let me know. ~ karen!

  2. Sunny Jane says:

    Oh my word. This write up and the comments are hysterical. I also want to know what shampoo you used. Your hair was glamorous. I’ve used baking soda and peroxide on my teeth, and have been looking for a better recipe that what I’ve been doing. Trying this one! And tip: don’t use the baking soda with a sonicare toothbrush. I did. Talk about ouch.

  3. Marilyn says:

    Oh my gosh, I have a picture that looks very similar. Bet you had no hair in the back because it was all pulled to the front to make it appear rich and thick. When I was that age, something called “Pearls” tooth polish was popular.

  4. Jody says:

    I have used b soda and peroxide to brush my teeth for years. Might be nice to add some cinnamon powder or do the peppermint….love the label, thanks!

  5. Amanda Watkins says:

    I LOVE clean teeth. Actually, I’m so passionate about clean teeth, I was enrolled to go to dental school before I married & became a mom instead.
    Now I just obsess over cleaning my kids’ teeth.
    Getting my teeth cleaned, to me, is like a spa day.
    Though I’ve never been to a spa, but still – I love it.
    Thanks for this tip! I pinned it and will make it tomorrow.
    PS: I love your funny shaped white bowls.

  6. Stephanie says:

    Oh, gotta try this, thanks!
    Except I only like mint if it comes with chocolate. Brushing my teeth with cocoa powder doesn’t seem like such a great idea if the goal is pearly whites.

  7. Gloria says:

    I can’t wait to try this! I have been trying to use peroxide and that tastes like…well, crap! Going to go whip up a batch right now!

    • Karen says:

      Gloria – Hydrogen Peroxide will really whiten your teeth. More so than the baking soda/salt. And hydrogen peroxide is (contrary to popular belief) good for your tooth enamel. ~ karen!

      • Gloria says:

        Thanks Karen…but peroxide still tastes like crap!
        By the way…buying the peppermint essential oil is good because you can use it to keep ants away and also mice! You can also put a few drops on a cotton ball and inhale it to help relieve a stuffy nose!

  8. Gwennie says:

    My kindergarten picture was delivered home and MY mom asked why I looked like that, and I told her I was smiling like Marie Osmond. Of course I had all baby teeth, the size of chicklets, but I thought I was oh so glamorous, with both rows of top and bottom teeth showing, with my stick straight hair in a ponytail and my Holly Hobby dress on.

  9. Wendy Smith says:

    Thanks for the tip – who doesn’t want a whiter smile? I’d also take a BETTER smile…I’m cursed to always have a lopsided grin & look slightly constipated. Oh well, at least I have nice eyes.

  10. magali says:

    your hair is so gorgeous in that picture! I am quite jealous!

  11. Tigersmom says:

    I think we’re overdue for a new Karen video. (I mainly want to hear you say “tooth polish” in your Canadian accent. Yes, you have one.)

    So, how about one of you polishing your teeth, with a brief intro in which you say “tooth polish,” of course?

  12. Evalyn says:

    I have used baking soda to brush my teeth for years. My hygenist thought I’d been using a sonic toothbrush (can’t stand the vibration). I have never liked the sweet minty-ness of toothpaste or the taste it leaves in my mouth. Baking soda leaves no after taste. I am 63 and have all my teeth, so I must be doing something right.

  13. Kasia says:

    Everyone keeps mentioning how baking soda is so abrasive… I’d just like to point out that it has the lowest abrasivity by far compared to most toothpastes ( a rating of 7 compared to the 50-100 of common toothpaste brands). Baking soda is actually very gentle on the teeth. Look up “relative dentin abrasivity”. :)

    • Karen says:

      Kasia – You speak the truth. My grandfather was a dentist and he and my grandmother always used baking soda. ~ karen!

  14. Kat says:

    I first read the label as “safe and reusable.” EWwwwww…

  15. Beth says:

    This unprecedented case of TMJ…. does it kind of make you look like Jean Chretien? With lack of movement, but no actual drooping on the one side? Or do you have the accent too – the shawinigan curse?

    My man has something like this, and has for the past 3 years… MRI clear, EMG clear, etc.

    Any insight you can provide about your situation? I doubt you are a semi-pro trumpet player, although he’s stopped playing and it hasn’t really resolved his issue anyways (we have affectionately called it Ballz Face).

    • Kim from Milwaukee says:

      Beth, I’ve dealt with TMJ over the past ten years and I’ve discovered it’s connected to the tension in the shoulders and neck. Massage, chiropractic, nathprapath visits all have helped tremendously and I don’t have issues anymore unless I let myself get very tight. Pushups off the wall, turning the head as you touch the wall with your cheek also keeps the upper body stretched and helps so the muscles don’t pull the jaw out of place.

  16. maribeth says:

    My mom made us brush with salt and soda out of an old aluminum shaker thingy when I was little. I hated it, but, of course, we didn’t get the essential oil flavorings! Now, If only someone could have helped me with the big giant zit on my nose in one of my school pictures!

  17. Shauna says:

    p.s., I must find a school picture of me when I was a kid – we could have been sisters. Funny enough, if you take a look at my little pic now, we even have similar hair – weird. although, I’ve grown mine out recently.

  18. Shauna says:

    How funny, I make a tooth polish too, only mine is made with coconut oil, castille soap, stevia leaf and essential oil (no baking soda due to the abrasiveness-I use it daily. I’m curious to read the comment section though because I’m sure this has been addressed.) and was just talking about it to friends and sent them the recipe on Friday. It’s like you’re always in my head. I would love to use/steal the use of your label, but alas mine isn’t a powder.

  19. Marti says:

    You’re absolutely right: compared to most (read that:my) 7th grade pictures, you’re a goddess… with great teeth.

  20. Kim from Milwaukee says:

    I use bs every day and I have no tartar when I get my teeth cleaned. It won’t hurt the enamel on your teeth (peroxide won’t either…it’s great for canker sores) because it dissolves quite quickly. I add bentonite clay which remineralizes the teeth.

  21. Mary Werner says:

    I will be making some up today! I have used bp for years (occasionally) but never thought to make a batch and store it with oil flavoring. I’m weird in that I love the taste plain but worried about damaging my enamel so didn’t do it often. I use bp in my sink drains once a month with a wash of vinegar and later hot water so I will just brush my teeth at same time with the prepared gunk. I use it for bee stings also to draw out the sting!

  22. says:

    I’ll keep this in mind for after the zombie apocalypse, but till then I’m sticking with toothpaste!

    • Karen says:

      LOL. This isn’t *exactly* a replacement for toothpaste. It’s a tooth whitener. Gets rid of stains in a way toothpaste can’t/doesn’t. ~ karen!

  23. Stephanie says:

    I might be the only lame one, who doesn’t know this…but do you just print your cute labels on regular paper and paste to jar? Or is it special sticky paper and non-smearing ink?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Stephanie – I just buy plain sticky labels that come on a sheet from my dollar store. The sheets measure 4 x 6 (like an index card). So I just print them on that with my regular ink jet printer. I just make sure to tell the printer I’m printing on a 4 x 6 sheet of paper and it works fine. Once they’re printed, cut them out and stick them on. ~ karen!

  24. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Wow..A true blonde..I guess it’s that Scandinavian heritage..beautiful hair Karen..and white teeth..Very nice label also..I still love those little bowls..

  25. Nicola says:

    Your hair is so perfectly placed and smooth around your face it looks professionally styled! Way to go! I love the color of it too!

  26. JebberA says:

    Forget the toothpaste, I want your recipe for shampoo. Oh behold those silky golden locks!

  27. kelliblue says:

    That smile. WINNING, indeed! :)

    So this recipe may not be best, as the salt is way too abrasive for tooth enamel. Try this instead: mix a couple ‘splurps’ of your fave toothpaste, add baking soda and few drops of hydrogen peroxide (or minty mouthwash with HP in it), mixed into a paste. You can add a drop or 2 of peppermint oil for more flavor. Just dip and brush. Nice and minty. Not so salty.

    (be sure to leave the cover/cap on loosely as the HP/baking soda mixture tends to be ‘gassy’!)

    • Karen says:

      Hand over heart the salt is safe. The salt along with the baking soda is also beneficial because it dries up any bacteria in your mouth, helping to kill it. Which is part of the reason gargling with salt water helps when you have a sore throat. ~ karen

      • Amy says:

        My dentist says that salt is too abrasive, too… though my grandfather used plain salt to brush his teeth his whole life, and evidently never got any cavities or had any problems with gum disease.

        • Karen says:

          Amy – You’re fine with the salt. You really are. But if you don’t want to add it .. just don’t. Easy. ~ karen!

      • Vicki says:

        Yes, salt used over long periods of time changes the cells of the oral cavity by sucking all the moisture out of the cell. And there’s a difference in swishing something in your mouth verses brushing. The tooth brush action in itself is abrading. Skeletal remains from the eighteenth and nineteenth century show that the enamal at the gumline was still intact and didn’t start showing real signs of trauma until tooth paste came into the picture. Tooth paste is abrasive and long term does in fact damage the enamel.
        Vicki Hetrick, Registered Dental Hygienist

  28. Michelle says:

    i was very concerned when i saw the title of this post…coming so close on the heals of all the grout painting talk! ~m

  29. Marion says:

    my mom has sworn by brushing with baking soda her whole life! she doesn’t put any essentials oils in hers though. she just keeps a box of baking soda in the bathroom. have you ever made a toothpaste mixture with strawberries? I’ve always been curious about it.

  30. Diana says:

    Hi Karen,
    just yesterday i read, you can take the inner side of a bananaskin and rub it over your teeth for 1-2 minutes. The banana will remineralize them and give a great shine.I will try your recipe and you could figure that out!

  31. I second Kelli – if you have any DIY solutions to TMJ I’d be all over it! In the meantime I guess sparkly (worn) teeth is some consolation.

    • Vicki says:

      I am a registered dental hygienist. I recommend you get a night asap. It won’t stop the grinding, but will stop the wear on the teeth and the damage to the jaw joint. And use heat on the muscles of your face before bed. It will help, oh and don’t forget the ibuprophen.
      And the whitening solution made with the salt with abrade and scratch the enamel surfaces helping the plaque to adhere more easily. It’s ok to use but not more than once a month. Better to mix the baking soda with the peroxide. Also the over the counter Crest white strips work great and as far
      as dentistry knows at this time doesn’t damage the enamel.
      Vicki Hetrick RDH

  32. I use baking soda quite often! I can’t say much for the tasted though. I never thought of putting essential oils in. Thanks for the tip. I will whip up a batch today! BTW, you were such a cute kid, and I definitely see Farah Fawcett in that smile. Cheers

    • Karen says:

      Oh my God, I looked like a weirdo, LOL. My mother was right, it doesn’t even look like me. ~ karen

      • sera says:

        you don’t look like a weirdo. In 8th grade, I had a delightful smile of metal and was sporting a strange and short lived aqua eyeliner, only on the lower lid. I’m not even sure I washed my hair.

        • sera says:

          And then in 9th grade, my friend told me that if we ate cheddar right before, our teeth wouldn’t be too shiny. Exactly when does that happen? I managed to survive but her class picture showed bits of white cheddar between her teeth.

        • Karen says:

          LOL. That’s one of the oddest things I’ve ever heard. ~ karen

      • cheryl says:

        Karen you don’t look like a weirdo..You look like a very proud 7th grader! I think we all had some goofy school pic’s in the day, i know i did..Especially when my dad got fed up with the screaming i did when mom combed out my down to my waist hair that was very knotty, he chopped it off right at my scalp with the pony tail holder still in it before my first day of second grade! Mom had to take me to beauty parlor ( that’s what they were called back then) and i had a short lop sided pixie! Now that was a crappy pic ! Tooth powder good idea with the oil, iv’e used baking soda since i was a kid, to much tetraciculine antibiodic an gray teeth..Will have to download label very cheeky…thanks

  33. marilyn says:

    i am thinking the tmj is not helping with the headaches either

  34. Natika33 says:

    That sounds infinitely tastier and classier than my usual method of using just straight baking soda. (Although, occasionally I put regular tooth paste on first and then dip in the baking soda, so it isn’t as bad…)

    I’ve also occasionally used hydrogen peroxide 3% solution as a mouth rinse / tooth whitener. That’s a no more than once a month habit as it’s even harder on your teeth, but I’m lazy and tend to do it only a few times a year anyway. (^_^)

  35. Toronto Boy says:

    Who cares about the homemade tooth polish! I’m still staring at the school picture of yours! Just look at those pearly whites! I think you had a shot at dethroning one of the girls from the Brady Bunch! If only you had sent that picture to the producers of the show. Imagine … Instead of being plain ol’ Karen Bertelsen (the tooth polish queen), you could have been the next Jan Brady bellowing the famous line,”Oh Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!”

    And then you would turn around and smile into the camera! =P

  36. Jean in BC says:

    My granddad used a similar tooth powder back in the day. Although, I also remember him wearing dentures!

  37. Kelli says:

    I shall try this. Sorry to hear that you are a fellow tmj sufferer. It sucks man. You should have a whole blog on that!

  38. isea says:

    i hear baking soda is great for whitening teeth. it’s plenty abrasive on its own though; i think i’ll skip the salt.

    won’t it turn into an icky lumpy mess if you keep dipping a wet toothbrush in it? perhaps it would be better to sprinkle it on instead? :)

    • Karen says:

      Not to worry about the clumpy mess. Just wet your toothbrush, dip it in and pull it out. No wet transfers to the polish. The polish hits the brush and soaks up all the wet. ~ karen

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