Convention dental care is a disposable nightmare with plastic everywhere you look. What makes it even worse is that toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss need to be regularly replaced meaning tonnes of landfill. I used to think there was no way around this- we have to brush our teeth after all- but I have developed a pretty near zero waste routine that works for me and I thought I would share.
Firstly, there are many different approaches, enough to suit everyone’s needs and preferences. Alongside my solutions I will list sources directing you to other alternatives for dental hygeine that I don’t personally use, but that you might find helpful nonetheless. I know it’s a personal thing.
This bit is an easy swap-out. Instead of buying plastic toothbrushes, get your hands on a bamboo toothbrush. I started off with this one from the Environmental Toothbrush Co. which was really soft and was thick and sturdy and ergonomic to hold. It was nice for a first dabble into wooden toothbrushes but the bristles were non-biodegradable, so I switched to Save Some Green. This toothbrush really is 100% biodegradable, and although it isn’t as luxurious, it uses less wood and does the job. I buy them online from their website in a pack of 12 which lasts around 3 years! I haven’t had to stick any of my past brushes in the compost yet because I save them to use for cleaning.
I’m nothing if not lazy haha so I picked the easiest toothpaste recipe I could find. 2 parts coconut oil to 1 part bicarbonate of soda (see here for recipe and demonstration video). I put a pea-sized amount on my toothbrush and brush as normal then rinse with water and spit. It does taste a little salty (due to the bicarb) and it doesn’t froth like traditional toothpaste, but I’m not a fan of mint anyway- if you are add peppermint oil- and within a week I was used to the taste and consistency.
When I saw my dentist in May, he asked if I used a fluoride tothpaste and I told him what I use. He said that my teeth were perfectly healthy and there was no decay in my mouth. He said that bicarbonate of soda was fine to use to brush my teeth but he did recommend fluoride toothpaste as it is good at protecting teeth from staining. Basically, the gist I got was that it’s down to what you eat and when which determines your liklihood to develop tooth decay or staining. As a healthy eater who only really drinks water, I’m dong half the job.
I also know that the act of brushing is the most important element of the process, regardless of what substance you use- if any at all! Sometimes if I run out of toothpaste or leave it somewhere I brush with a dry toothbrush, and whilst I wouldn’t do it everyday, my teeth are still clean and smooth. I also use natural soap such as Dr. Bronner’s or Living Naturally occaisonally (wet the brush then rub it over the bar) which does the job too.
I have to admit, I’ve never been a flosser. My teeth are on the gappy side so it’s not a massive problem, but in recent years I have been making an effort. Finding a plastic-free or vegan floss (some use silk) has been a bit of a challenge. I settled for now on a gum stimulator which I bought in a pharmacy (unfortunately came in plastic + cardboard). I run it in between my gums and teeth a few times a week at the moment, and when I feel it necessary.
This link will take you to an article by a vegan zero-waster analysing the options available to you if you do want a floss alternative.