zero waste

Updated oral care

Oral care is an area where I find it a little more challenging to keep waste to a minimum. I refuse to use DIY toothpaste, which normally consists of a combination of baking soda and coconut oil, which is much too hard on tooth enamel. I’ve been told by people “but isn’t baking soda used in commercial toothpastes?” Yes, it is, but at much lower concentrations than one finds in DIY versions. Both my dentist and dental hygienist have warned me against using DIY toothpaste, as they say they’ve seen the longterm damage to teeth and gums in patients who use these products. I’ve tried dental tabs, but I found them too harsh on my teeth and gums as well. Most importantly, I’m a firm believer in using fluouride to protect my tooth enamel, and I’m not about to sacrifice the health of my teeth in order to save a few plastic tubes of toothpaste.

I use two types of toothbrushes. I use an electric toothbrush twice a day (morning and evening); it has a two-minute timer so that I can ensure that each quadrant of my mouth is cleaned properly. The replacable brush heads aren’t recyclable, but again, tooth health comes first. For during the day, I use a manual toothbrush after I eat lunch and dinner. Unlike most zero wasters, I do not use a bamboo toothbrush for a few reasons. I have tried bamboo toothbrushes, but I simply don’t like them. I hate the dry, raspy texture of the bamboo in my mouth, and the handle gets drier with use. No matter how many times I clean it, there is always some toothpaste residue on the handle, which makes the texture even worse. Second, since I replace manual toothbrushes every three months, I find that bamboo toothbrushes generate a lot of waste. I tried an experiment with burying a bamboo toothbrush in soil; four months later, the brush still hadn’t decomposed, so I can’t help but wonder how environmentally friendly this option actually is, as it can take years for one toothbrush to decompose. I found as well that most bamboo toothbrushes don’t last three months, as the bristles fray very quickly, which means putting more than 4 toothbrushes a year in the compost.

I prefer to use a manual toothbrush with replaceable heads, which is something I’ve used for years. My previous model was made by Radius; I had one for a few years until the handle (made from recycled plastic) cracked. The replacement brushes came in a plastic and cardboard container, which is not ideal, and the brushes could not be recycled. I have now switched to the Canadian Grin toothbrush, shown in the image above. The brush handle is made from aluminium, rather than plastic. I love the design of the handle, which ensures that the toothbrush never rolls over; it’s also a very sleek and elegant design. The handle comes in a variety of colours; mine is the slate grey shown above. The replacement heads can be recycled. I have enroled in the subscription program: I’m sent an email reminder every three months to replace the brush head, and four new brush heads are shipped out every year. Everything is packed in cardboard. You can send the used brush heads back to the company, which will recycle them. l like the smaller and sleeker brush head, as I find it does a better job of cleaning my teeth, especially as I have a small inner mouth. Customer service is outstanding, as the owner of the company reaches out to ensure that you are happy with the product and is very quick to respond to any questions.

I don’t use dental floss, as this generates far too much waste for my liking. You can get refillable dental floss, but the floss itself has to be thrown out. I tried compostable vegan floss, but it was a disaster, as it kept breaking whenever I used it. My teeth are packed very tightly (small inner mouth again), and I need to use a waxed floss to ensure that the floss can fit between my teeth. Waxed floss can’t decompose. Instead I use a Waterpick cordless flosser, which does a superior job of removing tartar and plaque. I’ve had this flosser for over two years and am very happy with it; further, it does a much better job than floss, which is the most important factor to consider.

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