Dental care is one of the most important of our hygiene, but it also hides a danger to our health.
Unfortunately, plastic crops up in all areas of our lives but one big way it sneaks into our homes is through the bathroom as everyone has to brush their teeth!
In the U.S. one billion plastic toothbrushes are thrown away every year, and up to 100 have been found washed up by litter pickers on one beach alone. Unfortunately, it’s not a type of plastic that is recycled which means there is nowhere for toothbrushes to go except landfill.
Plastic dental floss is another big problem for sea creatures because it is usually made from nylon which doesn’t break easily. This means that wildlife like turtles can become tangled up in floss which easily makes its way into waterways because it is so thin.
Another problem with plastic dental floss is that some brands are coated with harmful chemicals like PFAs that shouldn’t be going in your mouth!
Zero Waste Dental Care
The good news is that there are now lots of great options for sustainable products on the market to help you to get into the zero-waste dental routine that you always wanted!
It’s not surprising that bamboo is becoming such a popular sustainable material as it grows fast, requires no fertiliser and it self-generates from the root after it is cut.
It’s perfect for toothbrushes as it’s lightweight and completely biodegradable so you can compost it after you’ve used it. More and more places and even supermarkets are stocking bamboo brushes but frustratingly some are still packaged in plastic so avoid those! They’re sold in cardboard packaging in pretty much all zero-waste shops.
Electric toothbrush heads
If you have an electric toothbrush then do not fear as there are sustainable options for heads now. Join a scheme where you can buy brush heads made from recycled plastic and send your old ones back to be recycled. This is called closed-loop recycling so all brush heads get a second life and they’re packaged in plastic-free brown boxes.
Toothpaste tubes are another eco nightmare and in the UK 300 million of them end up in landfill every year as they don’t get recycled. This means that if they were laid end-to-end then they would encircle the world almost twice over.
Thankfully, lots of other solutions to the traditional tube are cropping up, including tooth powder that comes in a glass jar.
The tooth powder works by dipping a slightly damp toothbrush into the pot which sticks to the bristles that you can then use just like normal toothpaste!
Tooth tabs are small tablets that you chew up in your mouth until they are ground into a powder and then you brush your teeth as normal.
Another option is ‘tooth soap’, which is like a soap bar in that you rub the brush on it like a bar of soap to extract the toothpaste.
There is also a more traditional style of toothpaste which comes in the form of a jar of paste and it can be applied to a toothbrush with a small spatula.
Whichever toothpaste method you choose, the environment will certainly thank you for it.
To replace plastic floss, there are now a variety of types of floss available, including ones made from corn starch and charcoal. They are completely biodegradable so you can compost them after you’ve used them and they’re packaged in a small glass jar.
Vegans will be glad to know that there is a plant-based lubricant called candelilla wax that is used instead of beeswax to help the floss glide between your teeth!
For those that prefer floss picks, they are available too and made entirely from cornstarch so they also biodegrade.
For the more high-tech, there are water ‘picks’ or flossers which are basically the equivalent of an electric toothbrush but for flossing.
They are more expensive and they are an electrical item but they’re worth investing in if you floss every day as they use a jet of water to clean your teeth and nothing else.
This means no single-use plastic and they’re rechargeable so they can run on the green electricity that comes from your home.
Zero-waste shops are helping to consign the plastic mouthwash bottles into history as there are now aluminium ones available. These ones can be recycled much more easily than plastic as aluminium is a more desirable material that can be used for many things.
Another alternative is mouthwash tabs, which come in a glass jar and you dissolve them in a cup and then gargle with them as normal. They are great for travelling as they are much lighter to carry than a traditional liquid bottle of mouthwash.
After your dental routine is complete and your mouth is feeling minty fresh then try bamboo towels to dry your mouth. The benefits of using bamboo towels (apart from being more sustainable than cotton) is that they are more resistant to bacteria and mould, dry very easily and they’re very absorbent.
Other easy ways to make your bathroom routine more sustainable are to look for any products without boxes as there is so much unnecessary packaging in dental care!
If you’ve ever worn a brace and have a retainer then make sure to always keep it in its box to keep it clean and protect it from damage. It’s very easy to break retainers but if you take really good care of them then you will save on the plastic that it takes to make a new one! Use cleaning tablets to keep your retainer in tip-top condition and it will last you for a long time.
I hope this article shows you that a zero-waste dental routine is very achievable and that there are so many benefits to keeping unnecessary plastics out of your mouth!
There are so many products out there to help you to skip plastic for good and the great news is that in the future there will be even more. A zero-waste dental routine is certainly something to smile about!
About the Guest Author
Jen Sizeland is a writer and producer. Her travel blog is called Land of Size and it focuses on ethical living and eco-friendly travel.