This Christmas, my wife bought me the latest Blue Planet box set which has quickly become one of my favourite series from the BBC. The episode on plastic waste in our seas was of particular interest and has created a lot of discussion in our house around recycling and alternatives to plastic.
Working in dentistry, it is a fact that for cross-infection control purposes and hygiene, there is a use for single and short-term use plastic tools. One of these tools is of course, the humble toothbrush.
In order to keep things hygienic at home, dental health professionals usually recommend that patients change their toothbrush every three months. As an orthodontist, I also recommend using a range of other dental health tools in order to clean around brackets and wires. These tools are necessary to keep teeth and gums healthy during orthodontic treatment but I am also very aware that an awful lot of plastic is used and thrown away in the process.
According to the Dental health Foundation, each person goes through an average of four toothbrushes a year and millions* of these end up in landfill in the UK alone. In recent years, alternatives to plastic toothbrushes have started to appear on the market. The most popular option at the moment seems to be brushes made from Bamboo. Bamboo is a well-known, sustainable and natural source. It grows naturally, can be harvested in three to five years and rarely needs replanting. According to this article, it also creates 35% more oxygen than the equivalent amount of trees and grows without fertilizer or chemical pesticides.
Awareness to Bamboo toothbrushes is building among those that seek to become more sustainable consumers. However, there are still a few drawbacks. Many are not aware, for example that pig hair is sometimes used to make bristles in replacement of plastic. As mentioned in this article, if you are vegan or vegetarian, this would certainly not be a top choice.
It is unfortunate that we cannot always believe product labels but there is hope! There are a few more ethical bamboo alternatives to plastic toothbrushes and one of these is ‘The Humble Brush’. The products are suitable for vegans and made of sustainable bamboo with nylon bristle and eco friendly packaging. This Swedish company also donates part of the profit from each sale to supporting oral health projects for children in need. They talk more about ‘The plastic problem’ here.
Overall, I would say that if you want to go green with your dental health, it is always best to do your research. If you are worried about how effective a new product may be in cleaning your teeth, do feel free to chat to us at your next appointment.
* Average based on US stats.