written by samantha tillapaugh from the debtist
It was about three years ago when I first embarked on a journey to live a more intentional life. My quest to become a minimalist approaching life in the slow lane led me to craving less of everything. This included creating less waste in my wake. Thus, my inner planet lover was awakened! That’s the thing about slowing down. You start to look around and see what goes unnoticed. And once you’re “woke”, as the kiddos say in the dental office, there is no turning back.
Now, I know that denying plastic straws will not sequester carbon and bringing my reusable bags will not preserve endangered species. We need policy changes and governmental initiatives to do some real damage control. However, I believe our actions bring about some difference that, when compiled with intentional acts of others, inspire the change we wish to see. Therefore, I relentlessly charged head-on with the intention of leading by example and reducing waste in my life. I am by no means perfect, but I aim to try.
Plastic Products In the Dental Sphere
Ironically, one of the biggest culprits of plastic waste happened to be the very industry that I work in. Just open any vanity cabinet or bathroom drawer and you will find a slew of consumable items wrapped in plastic. While eschewing unnecessaries such as make-up and a wild array of hair products is a possibility for me, I run into a conundrum when it comes to dental care supplies. They are not exactly products I would recommend foregoing. I will be the first to tell you to nix the lip-liner, but the toothpaste stays.
In all honesty, it was quite disheartening to come upon the realization that my own line of work is contributing to the particles of plastic taking up space in ocean beds. To be even more transparent, in the beginning, the transition was rough. My wish to find a sustainable toothbrush felt frustrating and futile. I would buy a bamboo toothbrush only to find that it comes delivered in a case. I would buy a refillable floss, only to find the string wrapped in plastic. But it has been three years since, and I’ve discovered quite a lot over that time. Pair that with the innovation of new, forward- thinking dental companies, and I now have high hope that there can be a future made up of pearly whites and blue seas. In fact, this search for dental product alternatives is what first brought me to Bogobrush, many moons ago. Their biodegradable toothbrush options are worth a look!
Eco-Friendly Dental Alternatives
In honor of the upcoming Earth Day on the 22nd of April, I have decided to share a list of alternatives to traditional dental products that you typically find in grocery stores. Most of these companies are online only, but it’s refreshing to start to see a handful of them pop-up in pharmacies and supermarkets nearby.
I have written about mouthwash before on this blog (read the post here!) and how the best alternative would be to trade in large bottles of blue alcohol for a glass of salt water. I compare the saltwater effects to ocean water’s healing properties for the skin. Simply dissolve a tablespoon of salt in a glass of warm water and swish for ten seconds. The taste may take some acquiring, but I promise you, once you try it, you’ll never want to go back to that strong, spicy, alcoholic stuff. And if you really do prefer that fresh-breath-feel, the company by Humankind has created a dissolvable tablet option that allows for the swishing of your preferred flavored mouth rinse without the plastic packaging.
The toothpaste industry has developed many tab alternatives to the traditional goo. I have personally tried BITE toothpaste, and I love their product! They are also creating alternatives to fluoride, for those who wish to implement a holistic dental routine into their lives. They have replaced it with nanohydroxyapatite, a lab-made equivalent of a naturally occurring element that strengthens enamel and reduces sensitivity.
Other companies making tab toothpaste includes by Humankind and GeoOrganics. The latter is being sold on the Package Free website, which is a great resource for zero-waste products in general. At first, toothpaste tabs felt a bit weird, since they required some chewing before brushing. The tabs are a bit chalky with a subtle taste. But after getting used to it, I loved them! In fact, when my BITE tabs ran out and I switched back to the traditional stuff, I noticed how toothpaste felt and tasted exactly like icing on a cake, which is not exactly the best feeling.
No, you cannot omit floss from the routine. It is actually my favorite dental product, but also a difficult one to replace. I look for biodegradable silks or non-plastic string coated in a natural wax or oil. The aforementioned companies BITE, by Humankind and Plastic Free Shop contain alternatives, along with a refillable option from Plastic Goods.
This, by far, has the most plastic-free options on the market. Just walk into any grocery store and you are sure to find bamboo alternatives lining the shelves. It is also where my less-waste journey first took root. I discovered Bogobrush, which was the first dental company to give me hope that there could be solutions for my cause. I am not going to list all the alternatives available as a quick Google search will overwhelm you. Rather, I would like to take a few moments to acknowledge a couple of tips regarding zero-waste toothbrushes. Be mindful of the bristles. Sometimes the handle is plastic-free, but the bristles are not. I simply take a pair of pliers to pull out the bristles before recycling the handle. Likewise, be mindful of the toothbrush head size. I have found that some toothbrushes have heads that are too large, which prevent reaching distant surfaces of back molars. Find a toothbrush head that is small enough to lay inside your cheek. And lastly, consider the packaging and opt for paper boxes or 100% recyclable plastics. A bamboo toothbrush is no use to me if it is packaged in non-recyclable plastic.
Of course, these statements do not come from a place of absolutes and if you still reach for your favorite tube of toothpaste, no worries! We cannot force change to happen, and judgements won’t make the world a better place. But if, occasionally, you opt for the bamboo toothbrush or the refillable floss, just to try for a change of pace, then therein lies the difference. Teensy, tiny shifts that make my heart brim with pride and joy.
Have a wonderful Earth Day!
we’ve partnered with samantha tillapaugh, a general dentist practicing in southern california, to help spread the word about all cool things dental. when she isn’t sharing informative posts about teeth with us, she is writing at her own lifestyle blog as thedebtist. aside from writing, she travels the world, reads plenty of books sidled up next to her adopted, toothless cat, bakes sourdough bread and works as a tooth-fairy.