The Best Zero Waste Dental Care Tips
Updated: Oct 11, 2022
Dental hygiene is important. As the mouth is the gateway to the body, it is important to take good care of it. Teeth that ache, gums that bleed, and breath that smells bad are all indicators of poor oral health which could result in you getting sick. So, it is important to take good care of your teeth but we would like to do this as sustainably as possible.
Most toothbrushes nowadays are made entirely out of plastic. We live in a world with over 7 billion people who all brush their teeth about twice a day and use several toothbrushes yearly. This is a massive contribution to landfills and sometimes even oceans so it is time to make your daily oral hygiene more sustainable. The easiest first step to start is to switch to a bamboo toothbrush. You can use it the same way as its plastic counterpart. The only difference is the carbon footprint you leave behind. The only thing you might want to consider is the bristles. Unfortunately, the bristles are either made from plastic of made from pig hair. Even though the latter is compostable, it is not vegan. Whether or not you are comfortable with this is up to you. If you are not vegan, perhaps a toothbrush like this would be the right decision for you.
Several toothbrush manufacturers claim that their bristles are made from Nylon-4. This is a petroleum-based plastic that has been shown in lab studies to biodegrade in the environment under certain conditions. It needs to be mentioned that these plastics probably will not biodegrade like they mentioned but break down into smaller pieces eventually turning into microplastics.
However, studies performed in a lab and real life are not the same thing. None of these manufacturers have provided any third-party proof that their toothbrush bristles actually will biodegrade in soil. Let alone in the cold waters of the ocean. Furthermore, it is questionable whether all of them really contain Nylon-4 in the first place. Usually, Nylon-6 is used which is non-biodegradable plastic.
Toothpaste is great, it helps to remove plaque from your teeth, aids with the prevention of bacterial buildup on teeth, and can fight off (gum) disease. Nowadays, there are great alternatives to regular toothpaste that work just as great as the brands you are used to. But why would you switch to a more sustainable alternative in the first place when what you have works just fine?
First of all, is because the tube is often made out of plastic. I try to avoid plastic as much as possible as it is made from a fossil resource that is often not recyclable. This is certainly the case for your tube of toothpaste. The small size of toothpaste tubes, the mixed and merged materials the tube is made of, remnant toothpaste inside toothpaste tubes and other tube-based containers, make these tubes difficult to disassemble and recycling almost impossible. This on its own should be enough of a reason to start looking for an alternative.
Second of all is that regular toothpaste very often contains microplastic. These are essentially small microbeads (often smaller than 5mm) that are usually made out of polyethylene (a type of plastic). They are often used in cosmetics for scrubbing, peeling, or exfoliating. In the case of toothpaste, they are included for scrubbing your teeth. Up to this day, many regular toothpaste brands still use microplastics in their toothpaste and only a small portion of these brands have promised to slowly phase out the use of microplastics in their products.
In the best case sensation these microplastics ‘only’ end up in the water you use for brushing your teeth. Worst case scenario, they end up in your body while brushing your teeth. Microplastics are a big global problem due to their increased use and small size. They are known to affect marine life severely so if it is not good for the ocean, it is probably also not good for your body and it is best to avoid microplastics at all costs.
Here I have an entire blog post with several great alternatives to your regular toothpaste. Ranging from tooth oil to toothpowder to a toothpaste that looks just like regular toothpaste but with a recyclable tube. There are so many alternatives that finding one that suits your needs is not a challenge anymore.
Another alternative is to make your own toothpaste. I love to DIY my skincare and I also gave making my own toothpaste a try. In this case, I mixed equal parts of xylitol (a natural sweetener that also prevents bacterial growth and neutralizes ph), backing soda (a mild abrasive that removes plaque and neutralizes ph), and bentonite clay (helps to remineralize teeth).
On my first try, I used 10 grams of each mentioned ingredient. I used this toothpaste by dipping a wet toothbrush into the powder I made and brushing my teeth as I would normally. My teeth felt nice and clean afterward. However, as my teeth are not very strong this resulted in a root canal after a couple of months and my dentist strongly advised me to use a toothpaste with fluoride. So, now I use tooth tablets with fluoride. The above-mentioned recipe might work for but it wasn’t for me as my teeth are rather weak, unfortunately. I have to mention that I have always had teeth that are not very strong so trying to DIY toothpaste might not have been the smartest decision for me.
Flossing in-between your teeth is required to help remove bacteria, plaque, and small food particles from between your teeth. It also reduces the likelihood of tooth decay and gum disease. So daily flossing is required for great dental health.
Floss is often coated in plastic to make the floss glide better between your teeth. As I prefer to use something plastic-free, these types of floss I would like to avoid. There are numerous brands of floss available that are made without any plastic.
Floss that is silk-based is a great alternative to plastic but it is not great if you prefer to live a vegan lifestyle (as silk is made by silkworms). Luckily, there are alternatives for floss that are completely plant-based. The string in this case is made of plant-based wax which means it is biodegradable and it often comes in a glass container that is infinitely reusable for new floss.
If flossing isn’t for your you could also opt to go for a Waterpik. This device uses a combination of water pressure and pulsations to clean in between your teeth so you won’t have to use floss at all. It takes some getting used to but this will be a completely zero-waste way of cleaning between your teeth.
I hope these tips help you to make your dental routine as sustainable as possible.