By Asha Kreiling
Good dental hygiene is essential for a healthy mouth, a confident smile, and fresh breath. There’s a ton of dental hygiene products on the market, but most of them contain harsh chemicals, additives, detergents, dyes, and even sweeteners. They can be harmful to your teeth, your overall health, and the environment. Certain ingredients, such as triclosan and fluoride, found in toothpaste can bioaccumulate in the environment, affecting ecosystems and harming wildlife. Not to mention, most commercial dental products are made out of various plastics and come in wasteful packaging that is hard to recycle.
Fortunately, there are natural, eco-friendly dental care alternatives. Besides all the little toothpaste samples that my dental hygienist gives me twice a year, I like to use a product called Eco-Dent, a toothpowder made up mostly of baking soda and other minerals like magnesium carbonate and sea salt. The last time I had a cleaning appointment, I asked my dental hygienist what she thought of my using this “alternative” product. I was slightly surprised when she totally approved of it. She told me that she has patients who just use “straight baking soda” and their teeth are in great condition.
You can also make your own toothpaste by following simple recipes like this one:
Other options are toothpastes made by natural, eco-friendly companies, such as Dr. Ken’s, Kiss My Face, and Tom’s of Maine, which contain less harmful, more sustainable, and usually biodegradable ingredients.
As far as toothbrushes go, most conventional brushes are made from various plastics and materials that aren’t completely recyclable. There is a program called Terracycle through which you can send in your hard-to-recycle items like empty toothpaste tubes and old toothbrushes for free. Terracycle recycles or “upcycles” useless dental care items into new products, thus reducing landfill waste and resource use.
You can also buy an eco-friendly toothbrush made from post-consumer recycled materials or a biodegradable brush made from wood or bamboo. Preserve toothbrushes are quite popular, and can be found at Trader Joe’s and health food stores. The toothbrush itself is made from post-consumer materials, and the company allows you to send back your toothbrush to be recycled. Radius source toothbrushes are made from recycled dollar bills, wood and flax. You keep the handle and need to replace only the head, reducing waste by 93%.
Most dental floss is made from nylon, a synthetic derivative of petroleum, and we all know that petroleum isn’t eco-friendly. An alternative is floss made from silk, but it’s hard to find the perfect product that doesn’t come in a plastic container or isn’t covered in wax.
And, last, if you really want to be as eco-friendly as possible, you can seek out a green dentist whose dental office includes sustainable practices such as reducing waste, and saving water and energy. Try using this site http://www.ecodentistry.org/ to find a green dentist in your area.