Go green with your teeth clean

 

With the SDG agenda 2030, the whole world is witnessing a rise in environmental awareness. Globally, people have grown much more conscious about protecting environmental resources that keep the community and environment healthy. Currently, there is an in depth conversation toward adopting eco-friendly alternatives in our daily life. For example, using a bike instead of a car, bringing your own bag to the grocery store, or shopping second hand.

When it comes to daily habits, oral health also factors into sustainability in order to protect our planet. Think about it! A toothbrush is the first tool we grab in the morning to ensure good mouth hygiene for the day. But how often do we think about what happens to this toothbrush when we discard it? Sadly, there is limited available research that addresses this issue.

This is where we step up to help! Our Tanden Frisk Team took a deep dive into research journals and eco-friendly lifestyle blogs to collect what information on eco-friendly oral health is out there and summarized it for today’s blog post.

Why should our oral health habits be eco-friendly?

On average, a person uses 300 toothbrushes throughout their lifetime and when these toothbrushes get discarded, they end up contributing to the billions dumped in landfills annually. This amount of waste from a small toothbrush is incomprehensible. Toothbrushes are typically made of plastic, which is non-degradable and non-recyclable. This means it neither gets consumed by the environment nor used to create other things. Hence, almost every single toothbrush which has been made since the first toothbrush in 1930, is still out there in the world lying around as trash.

 

 

Now what does that trash do?

Here are some scenarios taken from articles that describe the progress of a discarded toothbrush and how it damages our environmental resources: Recently, in the US,  a female albatross in Hawaii was seen trying to regurgitate a plastic toothbrush for a chick. Also, bristles of toothbrushes are made of nylon which when manufactured create nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 310 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The plastic part of toothbrushes which end up in sea are consumed by marine creatures who mistake it for food.

With more innovation, electric toothbrushes made their way into many people’s bathrooms. However, these toothbrushes are also not gentle on our environment. Electric toothbrushes cause environmental damage in various ways: First, the batteries that provide the energy for these toothbrushes to function leak toxins that may cause terrible damage to the ecosystem. Second, not only the toothbrush itself, but also its manufacturing process, contains countless harmful plastics that are threatening to the environment.

But what has been done so far?

With increased ecological awareness and efforts towards achieving the SDGs in 2030, many high-income nations have come forward with more eco-friendly options instead of plastic toothbrushes. Bamboo stick toothbrushes with nylon bristles are a very good example of an eco-friendly option. More and more companies are manufacturing bulk bamboo toothbrushes, which are both economical and waste-minimizing. Unfortunately, nylon bristles are the shortcoming of the bamboo toothbrush. The ideal zero-waste toothbrush would be 100% degradable, including the packaging, the handle, and the bristles that don’t need to be disassembled.

However, it is important to keep in mind that according to research, nylon is the best option for toothbrush bristles. Nylon cleans better and lasts longer than any alternatives, so you will not be worried about toothbrush bristles falling out or our teeth not getting clean enough. This means that the use of natural toothbrush bristles would result in buying toothbrushes more often. This results in more frequently thrown away toothbrushes and higher manufacturing demands.  So, yes, as Emily Rackow explains very well in her blog, Why Do Bamboo Toothbrushes Have Nylon Bristles?, we need to choose between two evils: non-biodegradable materials or wasteful practices.

Another option is bamboo charcoal toothbrushes. However, charcoal is believed to destroy tooth enamel, so possibly not a good option either. In the name of eco-friendly, a lot of companies in the market have come up with false claims, so stay vigilant of claims that may be fraudulent, even in the eco-friendly oral health sector.

Bamboo toothbrushes and a Miswak stick to the very left.
It may sound weird at first, but nature itself holds another eco-friendly toothbrush option readily available for us: Miswak is a tooth cleaning stick from the tree Salvadora Persica. When chewed, this stick becomes frayed and turns into an eco-toothbrush which is even known to release oral disinfectants. This oral hygiene practice has been used for centuries already in North-African and South-East-Asian regions.  And even modern literature suggests, Miswak is favorable to use as a dental hygiene tool instead of plastic toothbrushes, enough reasons to at least give it a try! But keep in mind that Miswak has its limitations too, especially when it comes to frequency and technique of usage.

Looking for an eco-friendly toothbrush? 

Don’t worry if you happen to find yourself a little confused by now. Here we are to help you out! Our Tanden Frisk team has put together the ultimate guide that will help you choose the best eco-friendly oral hygiene option for you that will make it easy-peesy to go green when keeping your teeth clean:

When deciding which toothbrush to use our best advice would be to look out for these characteristics:

  • BPA (Bisphenol A) toxin-free bristles
  • biodegradable handle
  • compostable packaging

It is important for you to remember that after all, most companies’ objective is to gain profit. So, be careful when deciding where to buy your toothbrush. Many times, they might have tempting      advertisements or descriptions labelled as eco-friendly options. We will recommend you to always question commercial advertisements critically and to do some profound research on each brand yourself.

Wait – What about the toothpaste?

The toothbrush doesn’t quite do the job alone, right? But how often do we think about the environmental impact of the toothpaste we spit into the sink each morning? The facts, however, are alarming. From the ingredients to the packaging, traditional toothpaste harms our planet more than one would imagine. The size, the mixed and merged materials,  and residues of toothpaste inside the toothpaste tubes makes disassembly and recycling almost impossible.

While traditional toothpaste might not be totally environmentally friendly, certain eco-friendly brands of toothpaste and alternatives do exist. Listed below are some green options worth checking out:

  • Toothpaste tablets
  • Toothpaste powder (this one turns into a paste when you add water)
  • All-natural toothpaste in a glass jar that you can dip your toothbrush straight into (we recommend personal use for hygiene reasons)

We would recommend you look for brands that are:

  • all cruelty-free
  • made with safe-for-the-environment ingredients, for example, plant-based ingredients like eucalyptus, coconut oil, sodium cocoyl isethionate (derived from coconut), xylitol, bentonite, charcoal powder or licorice root.

Sticking to these basic recommendations will ensure that the toothpaste won’t harm the environment once it makes its way down the drain . And he who seeks shall find: Thankfully, even big companies such as Colgate, have started to come up with more and more promising options for us to choose from. Checking out the toothpaste’s backside and taking some extra time to read through the list of ingredients will really be the key to success here.

The more the merrier? Not when it comes to toothpaste. This amount of toothpaste is three times as much as recommended by dentists.

But the most simple and efficient way to help the environment is just reducing your use of toothpaste. How? By using just a pea-sized amount of toothpaste (not more) to brush your teeth as recommended by dentists . It is really just as simple as this!

Best advice!!

Talking about dentists -Do not forget to floss…

No more excuses to skip this important part of your oral hygiene routine with our recommendations for eco-friendly floss! Our best advice would be to switch to an option with these characteristics:

  •     made from natural ingredients (preferably vegan)
  •     cruelty free
  •     biodegradable
  •     free from chemicals that does not cause such a significant risk to the environment or humans

Currently, there are plenty of natural alternatives such as bamboo, silk, and cornstarch out there that are all just as effective for your dental health as the traditional dental floss.

But again, before deciding, remember to do research on the brand and the product description, as some may have synthetic components, like petroleum-based wax.

Finally, have you thought about how much water is wasted in the name of your oral hygiene?

We would never recommend you stop brushing your teeth or neglect your oral health. But we would like to remind you to only use the water you really need while brushing your teeth. Make sure you always close the tap while brushing your teeth and only turn it on when you actually need to take a sip or clean your toothbrush. That way we can contribute to a significant reduction of wastewater.

With all these recommendations you are hopefully good to go adopt an eco-friendly oral hygiene routine. And don’t worry if you are just starting off. Don’t overwhelm yourself when trying to adopt new eco-friendly alternatives in your lifestyle all at once. Just remember that one tiny thing at a time is easier to change, and this is especially true when it comes to habits and will save you from a lot of frustration.

Together we should strive for sustainable health care tools and options to protect ourselves and our ecosystem around us. It is evident that if we decide to take care of our planet, we can opt for less harmful practices.

Have you tried any eco-friendly oral hygiene options? As always, let us know in the comments below or via email.

 

By: Shah Sayeema Nissar Kirmani, Carolina Garcia Sanchez, Fiona Koeltringer