Not that long ago I was using brand-name toothpaste, plastic toothbrushes, and teflon dental floss. There was nothing about my tooth care that paid tribute to a natural lifestyle. The thought of moving toward zero-waste dental hygiene was daunting, but I knew it was one area that needed some work.
When I really looked at it, there were only four items that needed alternatives. I finally set my mind to replacing each item, and it wasn’t actually difficult, complicated, or expensive. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. I may earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you.
The first switch I made was to a bamboo toothbrush. This is a very low-stakes swap—Bamboo toothbrushes are cheap and easy to find.
That said, be aware that they are rarely 100% biodegradable as the bristles are generally nylon. Apparently you can buy brushes that have bristles made of boar’s hair. This option, however, is not vegan. Nor do I find it particularly appealing. I have also read poor reviews on the longevity of boar’s hair bristles.
So, with this in mind, make the decision you feel to be most appropriate. I use bamboo brushes with nylon bristles. At the end of a brush’s lifespan I simply break the bristle end off and send it to the landfill. You can also pull the bristles out with pliers, and dispose of them. The handle I then put in our garden compost.
Even with the nylon bristles I have seriously reduced my plastic use from the conventional toothbrush.
Finding an all-natural, affordable toothpaste was the most complicated part of switching to zero-waste dental hygiene products. Even when toothpaste is made by a natural company it tends to come in a plastic tube and hosts a hefty price tag.
However, I decided to try my hand at homemade toothpaste. Now I always use my own delightful orange-flavoured toothpaste. This has several advantages, not the least of which is that it is cheap and I just refill my little mason jar every six months or so. See my recipe for directions and more information.
I personally don’t use mouthwash. However, if you are someone who doesn’t feel like you’ve cleaned your mouth without a good rinse I’ve taken the liberty of looking up a decent option for you.
The writer over at Going Zero Waste uses her own homemade mouthwash recipe. It only requires four simple ingredients. The possible exception is xylitol, which you will need to buy to make your own toothpaste anyway (wink wink). I’m sure you could also add mint extract, if you need a peppermint-y zing to wrap up your zero-waste dental hygiene routine.
Ok, so here’s something to know about conventional dental floss before you ever buy it again. It is often made of teflon. Yes. That dangerous stuff that you have (hopefully) been purging from your kitchen.
It seems flossing can be linked to PFA chemical exposure (PFAs are also known as “forever chemicals.” They don’t break down in nature, and last in your body for years). I found this enough reason to change my dental floss, in addition to the garbage my nightly flossing routine was creating.
Fortunately, there are plenty of alternative brands that offer biodegradable floss. Most natural dental floss seems to be made of silk, but you can also find bamboo fibre or corn-based floss. I can’t comment on either of these materials as the floss I’ve switched to is silk.
When I first wrote this post, I pointed out that silk floss does break. However, the floss I use seems to have changed their production process, because I haven’t had any floss breakage for months! I’m thrilled to update this article with a strong recommendation for silk floss—I use it every day and I won’t be switching back.
I order my floss from Public Goods, where prices are low but a membership is required. An original order of dental floss comes with a glass dispenser with refills very cheaply available. This company also sells natural toothpaste and biodegradable toothbrushes. If you are interested in shopping at Public Goods use my referral link for $10 off your first order.
A Few More Zero-Waste Dental Hygiene Tips
As you make the switch to more natural dental care, I still suggest you use up the product that you have already purchased. It is always the more eco-friendly and economical decision to use up what you already own.
Do remember to warn your dental hygienist that you don’t need the freebies before your appointment starts. Otherwise you’ll likely leave with a plastic bag filled with a plastic toothbrush packaged in plastic, a plastic container of floss, and a mini plastic tube of toothpaste.
As you venture down a zero-waste dental hygiene path, you might also want to check out oil pulling. It is easily accessible and may be worth a try. I have never managed to keep up the habit with any regularity, so am merely offering it as a suggestion.
If you look to make a simple switch each time you need to refill a dental product you’ll be on a low-waste tooth care path in no time.