Oral care is so important to our health, so it is kind of crazy when we introduce a bunch of toxic chemicals and unknown ingredients into our mouths.
Let’s start with the toothbrush. Every single plastic toothbrush ever created STILL EXISTS! Wild, but true! Plastic toothbrushes were created in the 1930’s and we have reached the point where over one billion toothbrushes are discarded each year. Prior to the 1930’s society relied on natural materials for cleaning teeth, but since the invention of plastic our society now depends on a brushing routine that is unfortunately contributing to the plastic crisis. Plastic is essentially indestructible; it does not break down or biodegrade, so therefore every toothbrush ever produced is still there sitting in a landfill or worse, floating in our oceans and washing up on our beaches.
How can you be part of the solution, not the pollution?
Switching to a bamboo toothbrush is one of the easiest swaps to make that make an impact towards positive change. Bamboo is 100% compostable and biodegradable, and it is also one of the most sustainable materials. Bamboo toothbrushes have a bamboo handle that can go into your compost bin or you can discard it in the trash with full assurance that it will break down. As for the bristles, most brands still use Nylon bristles, but our toothbrush made by Brush with Bamboo has been the first to create bristles made from 60% castor bean oil and 40% nylon. It is the first Biobased bristle out there, and the closest to fully biodegradable, which is a huge step forward. As for discarding them, you should remove the bristles before throwing into your compost bin.
If you are someone that prefers an electric toothbrush, there are sustainable options out there for electric brushes too! Many companies have a reusable handle with removable head, so you are creating less waste when you need to replace it. Some companies even have a recycling program to collect the used heads and recycle it properly to avoid waste altogether. Do some research when you are ready for your next one, here are some options I found.
The next topic I want to talk about is something we all get yelled at by our dentists for not doing enough- Flossing. No? Just me? …. Well, did you know that most floss is coated with Teflon or petroleum? It is coated to making gliding between our teeth more smooth. Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a chemical in Teflon, has been linked to many health risks including thyroid disease, hormone imbalance, cancer, and more. Have your gums ever bled when you were flossing? It’s scary to think how those chemicals have direct access to our bloodstream. But don’t worry, flossing with plastic and petroleum aren’t the only options out there! Our Bamboo Floss is a safe and sustainable alternative. Bamboo floss is made with natural bamboo fibers making it a great alternative to plastic, plus bamboo is naturally antibacterial. To progress toward a circular economy, our floss comes in a reusable glass container, so we are reducing the amount of waste produced. When you run out, you just need the refill pack to pop into the glass container.
There are other options on the market, such as the WaterPik which is an electric water flosser that doesn’t use any floss and just pushes water through your teeth. Silk floss is also another option for flossing that is completely biodegradable and compostable, but it is not a vegan option.
Arguably the most intimidating switch of the oral care routine is switching your toothpaste. Let’s address the environmental impact of toothpaste first. Toothpaste tubes are not recyclable, they are made from sheets of plastic laminate and aluminum pressed together. An estimated 1.5 billion toothpaste tubes are sent to the landfill annually, taking hundreds of years to break down. Colgate was actually named one of the top ten plastic polluters in 2019.
Now, what about the ingredients in our toothpastes? The substances in conventional toothpastes contain some toxic chemicals like Triclosan, Fluoride, Saccharin etc. Let’s get a better understanding of why these chemicals should be avoided.
Fluoride is considered an over-the-counter drug by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) resulting in warning labels being required on all fluoride containing dental products since 1997.
“Keep out of reach of children under 6 years of age. If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek professional help or contact a poison control center immediately.”
Fluoride is added to the country’s water supply, but with an over exposure to fluoride it can cause fluorosis which is a condition that discolors tooth enamel. Fluorosis has affected 41% of American adolsecents.
Triclosan is a major red flag when it comes to toothpaste. Triclosan is an antibacterial meant to prevent gingivitis. It has classified as a pesticide by the FDA and has been banned in soaps, but for some reason still allowed in other cosmetics and beauty products. It has proved to interfere with hormones in the body that can contribute to adverse health effects on the reproductive system.
Artificial Sweeteners such as Saccharin or Aspartame. Saccharin is a sweetener 300x sweeter than sugar. The National Cancer Institute found associate between Saccharin and cancers in the bladder, uterus, and ovaries. It was almost completely banned in 1977, but Congress decided a warning label was enough which was then redacted in 2000. The National Toxicology Program’s Board of Scientific Counselors concluded in 1997 that saccharin should still be considered cancer causing. Aspartame is 200x sweeter than sugar and there are 3 key studies that found it caused lymphoma, leukemia and cancer in rats and mice.
USE OF THIS PRODUCT MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH. THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS SACCHARIN WHICH HAS BEEN DETERMINED TO CAUSE CANCER IN LABORATORY ANIMALS.
Carrageenan is a natural ingredient derived from red seaweed used as a thickening agent in toothpastes. Sounds like it could be safe, right? Well, unfortunately that is not the case. Carrageenan has been linked to Inflammatory bowel disease. Studies also show there has been increased evidence confirming the carcinogenic potential of carrageenan. You can ready more about that study here!
These are just some of the toxic chemicals found in toothpastes. Luckily, these are the only options! There are so many sustainable and safe toothpaste options out there, it will be easy to find one you love! David’s Natural Toothpaste is a great option. It is a natural toothpaste that comes in an aluminum tube so you can ACTUALLY recycle it! It has clean ingredients too, and vegan friendly. There are also a few brands out there making tooth tablets which are super convenient. My personal favorite option is our tooth powder. I find this to be the best at cleaning my teeth, and only uses natural ingredients. It is safe, and sustainable! It comes in a glass refillable jar that you can bring back and refill. Nothing sent to the landfill!
Don't feel overwhelmed! Sustainable means sustainable for YOU so start with one plastic-free transition at a time. I’d love to hear from you, and which plastic-free alternative you are tackling first so leave a comment down below if you have questions, suggestions, or any helpful advice for others!