Looking after our pearly whites is essential, but produces an awful lot of waste. Every single toothbrush made since the 1930s is still out there in the world somewhere. Tubes of toothpaste tend to be made from unrecyclable plastic — just think how many we get through each year.
Switching to eco dental care can feel daunting. But don’t fret, there are brilliant eco-friendly alternatives out there.
We’re going to talk you through them, and answer your eco dental care questions. What’s the most eco-friendly toothbrush? Does natural toothpaste work? Read on to find out!
The most eco-friendly alternative to a plastic toothbrush is one with a bamboo handle. Why bamboo rather than wood?
Bamboo is technically a grass, so it regrows after harvesting. In fact, it’s the fastest growing plant in the world! This sustainable alternative to wood means no trees have to be cut down.
You can compost the bamboo handle at the end of its life. Or, you could reuse it as a stake in the garden!
Here’s the deal with toothbrush bristles — the majority are made from nylon, which is plastic. The main plastic-free alternative is pig hair — which isn’t exactly everybody’s cup of tea.
Brush Naked, a Canadian brand, sells toothbrushes with bristles made from tapioca and corn. This is the only plastic-free and vegan alternative we’ve come across. But the bristles only last a few weeks before fraying, and as far as we’re aware, they are not available in the UK.
Truthbrush, based in Devon, UK, has created bristles that are 62% castor oil and 38% nylon. This clever combination minimises the amount of plastic, whilst still allowing for a good brushing experience.
Unless you opt for pig hair, your bamboo toothbrush will come with nylon bristles. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Firstly, nylon is BPA-free. Secondly, nylon-4 — a specific type of nylon — can decompose in compost within three to four months, according to studies like this one. So even though it contains some plastic, a bamboo toothbrush with nylon-4 bristles is a great eco-friendly option.
If your toothbrush isn’t made with nylon-4 bristles, you can remove them from the bamboo handle using pliers to dispose of them separately.
Eco-friendly electric toothbrushes
If you can’t bear to part from your electric toothbrush, there are a couple of options. Eco-friendly dental brand, Georganics, runs a “zero to landfill” scheme for its electric toothbrush. That means you can send back your old toothbrush heads and handles to be recycled (for free!). Live Coco does the same for its toothbrush heads for Oral-B electric toothbrushes.
Conventional vs natural toothpaste
Believe it or not, toothpaste is hotly contested. Some dentists say that brushing with conventional toothpaste is critical to preventing tooth decay — namely because of fluoride. Other dentists* say that you don’t need fluoride at all. The third line of enquiry, is that ingredients in conventional toothpaste are harmful to our health.
*Including our local dentist. Hi, Jaco.
It’s not conclusive whether these ingredients are harmful, particularly in the small doses found in toothpaste. However, many of them are unnecessary. Almost all conventional toothpastes contain additives, which have the sole job of making your mouth tingle after you brush. And sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which is found in nearly every conventional toothpaste, is added purely to create a foamy effect.
A real downside to conventional toothpastes is that the majority are tested on animals, by brands including Colgate, Sensodyne, and Aquafresh. And as you know, conventional toothpaste is packaged in plastic, most of which is unrecyclable.
Read more: Why isn’t all plastic recycled?
Does natural toothpaste work?
Natural toothpastes are formulated solely with your oral health in mind, so they don’t contain any unnecessary additives or chemicals. Truthpaste, a natural toothpaste brand, uses ingredients like aloe vera, cinnamon, and peppermint, for their naturally antibacterial qualities.
Natural toothpastes are also cruelty-free, and can come in zero-waste packaging, like glass jars.
As there’s no conclusive evidence that conventional toothpastes are the be-all-and-end-all of dental health, you should be able to rely on natural toothpaste just as you would conventional toothpaste. Many people do, and there are no reports of any problems. However, if you have any concerns, have a chat with your dentist before switching.
Shop: Natural toothpaste
Alternatively, you could try toothpaste tablets. They dissolve in your mouth to create a paste. Eco Living’s toothpaste tablets come either with or without fluoride. The tablets form a foamy paste to give you a similar experience to conventional toothpaste. Plus, they come in a refillable tin!
Shop: Toothpaste tablets
What to expect from natural toothpaste
Like we mentioned, natural toothpastes only contain ingredients that benefit your oral health. That means there’s no tingly feeling, bubbly foam, or artificial sweeteners to make it taste like you’ve just bitten into a mint. The result is a very different tooth brushing experience.
Our advice? Give it a chance. Natural toothpaste takes some getting used to, but remember that it’s looking after your teeth — just without the waste, animal testing, and unneccesary chemicals!
Is it possible to make your own toothpaste? Yes! The role of toothpaste is to add friction to aid tooth brushing. You don’t need anything fancy to achieve that.
Dentist Mark Burhenne recommends avoiding hydrogen peroxide and anything acidic. He gives the go-ahead to ingredients like coconut oil, cacao, bentonite clay, xylitol, and baking soda. Here are his homemade toothpaste recipes.
For a really simple recipe, check out this popular one by Trash Is For Tossers:
If you have any concerns about homemade toothpaste, it’s best to run it by your dentist.
This recipe by Smarticular uses xylitol, baking soda, peppermint essential oil, and distilled water to create homemade mouthwash. These ingredients overlap nicely with Trash Is For Tossers’ toothpaste recipe — two birds, one stone!
Oil pulling is an ancient Indian folk remedy. It involves swishing oil around your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes. The most popular method involves using coconut oil, due to its antioxidant, antibacterial, and antifungal properties.
Now you’re clued up on on eco dental care, check out our beginner’s guide on how to reduce plastic for more eco-friendly tips. Join our monthly mailing list to keep up with more eco-friendly guides.
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