CAN DENTAL HEALTH BE SUSTAINABLE?
7 April 2022
We all know how important sustainability is in life, from driving less to using less plastic but what about dental health? How can we make dental health sustainable in the current climate without sacrificing the health of our teeth?
300 million toothpaste tubes go into landfills in the UK every year. This equates to around 75,000 kilometres of plastic.
Toothpaste tubes are made of multiple plastics, and some contain a metal layer in the tube making it hard to separate the components when trying to recycle the products.
On average it takes 500 years for a toothpaste tube to fully biodegrade in a landfill.
So, what can you do to improve dental sustainability but not risk the health of your teeth?
First, when it comes to toothpaste health and to keep your gums and teeth healthy you need to use a suitable toothbrush, change your toothbrush every 3 months, and remember the two f’s
- Floride (make sure your toothpaste has a Floride count of between 1000 and 1500 ppm)
- Floss (make sure you floss twice a day before brushing your teeth)
Whether you choose to use an electric toothbrush or a good old fashioned plastic toothbrush there are many options on the market to make your toothbrush more sustainable.
The tricky thing is the bristles of the toothbrush. Brush bristles need to be strong enough to withstand brushing yet not hollow as this is a breeding ground for bacteria.
There are many toothbrushes that claim to be plastic-free and are made from bamboo however many of these toothbrush's bristles are made from nylon which is a synthetic flexible plastic material and means that this part of the toothbrush is not biodegradable and would need to be removed before composting, but the toothbrush manufacturing does uses 90% less plastic than a bog-standard toothbrush. In order to recycle this product, you would either need to snap off the toothbrush head or remove the bristles. The bamboo handle can then be put in the compost bin and will biodegrade in around 90 days.
There are other types available on the market made from bamboo with Activated Charcoal Bristles, that are 100% recyclable.
However, some experts say that using finely ground and controlled amounts of activated charcoal in a specially formulated product is okay to use. But you must keep in mind that these natural bristles tend to be rougher than nylon bristles, and can cause wear on your enamel and contribute to receding gums.
If you have invested in your electric toothbrush and want to keep it don’t fear you can also have a sustainable toothbrush in your hands. Firstly, you have chosen an electric toothbrush which means a smaller part of the toothbrush is currently thrown away into landfills (unless you have to replace the handle unit). Companies have now brought out a plastic alternative to electric toothbrush heads that can be recycled
Although you do not recycle these products yourself, they do come with a handy pouch so you can post your used toothbrush heads back to the manufacturer for them to recycle them.
Recycled plastic toothbrushes
One of the best kinds of toothbrushes you can buy to be the most sustainable is one that is made from recycled plastic. When researching these toothbrushes there are not that many on the market so you may need to keep searching for one that is made from recycled plastics.
When looking for toothpaste make sure your toothpaste has a Floride count of between 1000 and 1500 ppm this is to keep the enamel of your teeth strong and healthy. We understand that looking after the environment is important, but it is also equally important to look after the health of your teeth.
An alternative to toothpaste tubes that have become increasingly popular is toothpaste tablets. The tablets come in a glass bottle making it easy to use. Refills are sent to your door in recycled packaging this is a suitable alternative if you are wanting a different option to toothpaste tubes but remember you need to make sure that the Floride count is at its optimum for brushing your teeth.
Toothpaste tubes often are made from a mixture of plastics and sometimes have a metal lining inside making it harder for them to be recycled, plunge toothpaste tubes are easier to recycle.
In 2020 Colgate designed and launched a first of its kind, 100% recyclable toothpaste tube setting the standard for other brands, this took 5 years to design and has since changed the way for other toothpaste brands.
Crest, Oral-B and Blend-a-med tubes have been all switched to a recyclable HDPE (high-density polyethene) tube since January 2021 by their manufacturer P&G. Keep a lookout for the recyclable logo!
The majority of mouthwash bottles are now recyclable just look for the recycling logo on the back of the bottle! However, 20% of Brits still do not recycle their bathroom products and they end up in the rubbish with the other products. An effortless way to recycle in the bathroom is to do one of the following:
Hang a bag on the back of the door
If you are short of floor space, raise your recycling!
Hide your empties away in a cupboard or drawer
If you aspire to have a streamlined bathroom, stow your empties in a cupboard or drawer until you have collected enough to take them to the main recycling bin.
Grab a second bin
Make use of that wasted space under the sink and get a bathroom recycling bin for your plastic bottles, aerosols, toilet roll tubes and toothpaste boxes.
Re-purpose a basket or box Got a pretty basket that you do not dare throw away? Why not turn it into a bathroom recycling bin? If country classic is not your thing, you could choose a storage box with a contemporary feel.
When it comes to flossing, what is best for your teeth and sustainable practice?
Traditional floss is typically made from nylon or plastic which as we have mentioned before is not a sustainable product. Common eco-friendly options are made from silk, corn or bamboo.
Natural Georganics Floss Plastic Free and Eco-friendly – G.0 (generation-zero.com)
Tepe - TePe® Original Interdental Brushes are Now Sustainable, Reducing the carbon footprint by 80% – without compromising on product quality, efficiency or design. TePe now offers consumers and dental professionals the opportunity to make a conscious choice by introducing a more sustainable interdental brush. Tepe is also looking into how the brushes can be recycled following use.
Without a shadow of a doubt, water flossers are probably the best for sustainability as you can reuse them again and again and they can completely replace the need for string floss or interdental brushes.
If you are thinking about going green and investing in a new toothbrush and toothpaste, what are you going to do with your current products? Well simply recycle them! Terracycle UK has programs set up with both Phillips and Colgate around the UK, they work with universities who analyze the materials to determine the right way to process them into new materials. These end products may include outdoor furniture and decking, plastic shipping pallets, watering cans, storage containers and bins, tubes for construction applications, flooring tiles, playground surface covers and athletic fields, and much more.
For more information on your local recycling site click on one of the links below: