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Plastic-Free: Dental Care You & the Earth Can Smile About

Close up view of zero waste toothpaste tablets, made by Unpaste brand, in use while person is brushing their teeth.

The personal care industry is growing by several percent each year, flooding more products to consumers. 1 Even IF packaging is more efficient, there’s still more of it. So it’s up to us to help make a dent in this plastic problem and aim towards zero waste. Dental care is the perfect example of how our “little things” give us the opportunity to make an impact every day. Just consider:

  • A BILLION toothbrushes get thrown away in the U.S. alone every year.2 Many are unrecyclable because the composite plastics most are now made of are difficult, if not impossible, to break apart efficiently.
  • Pouches and squeezable tubes, like your toothpaste, usually can’t be recycled because they’re multi-layered/coated plastics. And we’re tossing about 400 million a year.
  • Each year, Americans purchase over 3 million miles of floss, enough to circle to earth 120 times.

So all those small plastic choices, they’ll be hanging around for about, oh 500 years… and even then they don’t truly biodegrade, but break down into microplastics we don’t know how to control (read more on our plastic research here).

Here’s how you can choose better by going plastic free, package free, natural and organic with your dental care, with extra notes for our Dentist advisor, Dr. Jeff Gilbert, DMD:

1. Bamboo toothbrushes: made from fast-growing bamboo, these brushes and holders are better for long-term biodegradability (just pull the nylon bristles out when you dispose of them).

Dr. Gilbert says: As your front line for fighting tooth decay, these are great standard brushes with soft bristles. Non-abrasive nylon is plus. Just make sure to change your toothbrush every 3-4 months or when the bristles lose their stiffness.

2. Plastic-tube-free toothpaste alternatives: we love these surprising (mostly fluoride-free) options from tooth tabs to toothpaste to tooth powder–make brushing an adventure and try them all.

Dr. Gilbert says: These toothpaste options all cover the basics. Though he always recommends regular fluoride in your dental routines. So while fluoride-free options are great for travel, he’d say for longer-term use, simply add in a fluoride mouthwash.

3. Silk floss in a refillable glass jar: this natural beeswax-coated, silk floss is easily biodegradable and comes in a glass jar with metal lid and cutting tab. Snag the set!

Dr. Gilbert says: He loves the idea of a silk floss. Why? Silk floss can be stronger than a lot of the plastic floss out there and the threads in these naturally-occurring fibers better for cleaning under the gums.

5. Mouth fresheners in glass jars: oil-pulling mouthwash uses all-natural ingredients to clean and freshen your mouth by trapping toxins and bacteria when you swish n’ spit. Keep it fresh with a spritz of natural oils breath spray.

Dr. Gilbert says: Honestly, he’ll always recommend a fluoride mouthwash. But for a natural breath pick-me-up next to brushing, these will stimulate saliva release (that’s good). Oil pulling is an old Ayurvedic medicine technique using naturally-occurring sesame and coconut oils.

Photo of Dr. Jeff Gilbert DDS of Indianapolis

About our Dentist advisor, Jeff Gilbert, DMD

Our patron for your pearly whites, Jeff’s check-ups ensure our products are travel, earth and dental-hygiene-friendly. Currently practicing general dentistry in Indianapolis, IN, the only plaque you’ll find around Jeff are those holding his BS and MS degrees from Purdue University and DMD from University of Louisville. Favorite place traveled: Ghana. Next on the list: South America.