While you were brushing your teeth this morning did you think about the toothbrush and the toothpaste you were using? Probably not. Most of us do this daily activity with little thought. Several years ago, we took stock of our dental care routine and decided to rid ourselves of plastic and toxins where possible. We now use bamboo toothbrushes and natural toothpaste in a glass jar. The natural materials not only feel better to the touch, but I also FEEL better knowing I’m making positive choices for my health and the planet.
Dentists recommend renewing toothbrushes every 3 months, meaning in the UK alone that’s a potential 264 million brushes thrown away annually. And plastic toothbrushes take over 400 years to decompose.
Oral B, Colgate and Sensodyne account for 80% of the UK toothpaste market (ethical consumer). Their toothpastes are sold in plastic tubes, most of which are impossible to recycle because of the mixed components and difficulties in cleaning them first.
With all this in mind, I looked for alternatives to plastic for my oral care. First, I changed to a bamboo toothbrush. Bamboo is a renewable alternative that has the added benefit of being 100% biodegradable, degrading in six months. As one of the fastest growing plants in the world it is a sustainable resource. It is also antimicrobial. So your toothbrush won't be at risk of growing all kinds of nasty bacteria. The one downside is that the bristles are plastic but we consider them the best option at the moment. (Other than a dental stick - but I’m yet to have success with this as the one I ordered came in plastic packaging! And it’s still under the sink untouched - I’ll report back when I’ve tried it.)
Next, we tried many toothpaste alternatives. Tooth powder - although studies have shown that they can be more effective at removing plaque than toothpaste, we found it made such a mess of the sink if we weren’t careful. Which we aren’t. Especially ones with charcoal! Tooth tablets - we found we needed to use multiple tablets at a time to feel clean. And we tried many other plastic free toothpastes that we either didn’t like the taste of or didn’t feel clean enough. Eventually we found Truthpaste. It is a natural mineral-based paste in a re-usable jar. It tastes great and leaves teeth feeling squeaky clean. The clean feeling lasts as well, which we found wasn’t the case with all the other toothpastes we tried.
When I find the time I also do a bit of oil pulling. This makes my mouth feel amazing and involves no plastic!
If you still have old plastic toothbrushes lying around, you could consider alternatives to throwing them in the bin. Terracycle and Colgate now have a recycling scheme whereby returned plastics can earn money towards identified charities. Or you could use them for cleaning jobs, such as cleaning grout between tiles and getting into tricky to reach places.
Our bamboo toothbrushes can even be reused as plant labels in the garden!
My attempts to use plastic free products have influenced others around me. Several family members have changed to Truthpaste. My mum uses a bamboo toothbrush when travelling. They are all small changes but every action counts. So, I hope you might also be inspired to ditch the plastic and try some of the suggestions here too.