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Sustainable oral health care is officially *a thing* now. But can oral care — an industry that’s built on disposables and plastic — ever truly be considered “sustainable”?

Here’s what you need to know about the latest eco-friendly trend that’s currently blowing up.

But First: A Note About a Sustainable Consumerism

Before we discuss sustainable dental products, let’s make a few things clear…

As conscious consumers, it’s important that we’re careful about what products we choose to buy. Because, unfortunately, branding can be extremely deceiving.

As sustainable consumerism (an oxymoron, if I ever heard one) becomes more popular, we need to be discerning and learn how to tell the difference between pretty packaging and the real deal.

And the most important thing to remember as we try to lower our personal eco footprint: while decreasing your waste is always a lofty goal, it’s important that we don’t get distracted from the much bigger problem, which is the extreme impact of climate change that big businesses and corporations have.

So, What is Sustainable Oral Care?

The majority of sustainable oral health products aim to reduce personal plastic waste, especially since many oral care products rely so heavily on it.

That means brands swap out plastic toothbrushes for bamboo ones, plastic tubes of toothpaste for toothpaste tablets in reusable glass jars, and bamboo-based floss in glass jars as well.

Many brands aim to reduce or eliminate plastic packaging altogether. They also try to replace plastic with either reusable materials or materials that decompose a lot more easily/quickly than plastic.

Things like bamboo toothbrushes, for example, can be used in composting (once the bristles are removed).

On the other hand, glass jars that house floss and toothpaste tablets can be reused to house spices, q-tips, and more.

What Should You Look For in a Brand/Product?

There’s a lot that goes into the production of a single product (oral care or otherwise) so ditching the plastic is not nearly enough to deem something as sustainable.

When shopping for eco-friendly oral care products, look beyond the buzzwords and pretty packaging and do your homework.

 

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In addition to the materials used, look at the following:

Find out where the products are produced. Products made in the U.S mean they won’t have to be flown in overseas, which produces a lot of carbon emissions.

On top of that, products made in the U.S are more likely to be made in factories where workers are paid a fair wage and follow safety regulations.

You should also learn more about the chain of production. Water waste should be as limited as possible as should carbon emissions and chemicals used. If these things aren’t made transparent on the company’s website, feel free to reach out. Brands that are actually sustainable shouldn’t mind (and might even encourage) questions about ways they eliminate waste throughout production.

What Should You Avoid?

The first thing you need to avoid is big-name brand products. Although brands like Colgate are trying to get in on the sustainability game with bamboo toothbrushes and their “Keep” line (a reusable aluminum toothbrush handle with replaceable toothbrush heads), that does not mean these products are actually sustainable.

As mentioned earlier, the materials used are not enough to make a product environmentally friendly. Don’t be seduced by marketing and buy something just because it looks sustainable on the outside.

More importantly, buying so-called “sustainable products” from name-brand companies supports corporations that produce massive amounts of waste. Colgate-Palmolive (which owns Colgate) and P&G (which owns Oral-b and Crest) are two of the largest producers of plastic waste in the world. According to a study conducted by Break Free From Plastic, Colgate-Palmolive is the third worst offender and P&G is the sixth worst offender.

Colgate, Oral-b, and Crest all have web pages boasting about their sustainability, but as you can see, the reality is a lot harsher. P&G is even being sued for intentionally misleading consumers with their claims about packaging and recycling.

Another thing to avoid is purchases from mass retailers. While it may be more convenient to buy your toothpaste tablets on Amazon, you won’t be doing the environment any favors. Instead, shop directly from the small businesses themselves.

You can also look for green online markets that offer a variety of brands and products, but adhere to climate-friendly policies.

Lastly, make sure you avoid companies that have been bought out by corporations. Shopping small and locally helps eliminate a lot of the production and carbon emission problems that plague larger companies. Make sure the brands you choose are still independently-owned and haven’t been bought out by a larger business.

The Bottom Line

Shopping sustainably is more than just buying products that *look* eco-friendly. It means doing your homework, looking at brands discerningly, and supporting brands that live up to your standards.

Yes, this takes a lot of work. But if you want to actually lower your eco footprint and not just make yourself feel better, you’re going to need to put in the extra effort.

On top of that, make sure that before you make any purchase, you use up all of the products that you already have. Don’t throw away your Crest toothpaste just because you’re ready to move on to toothpaste tablets. The most sustainable thing you can do is use up your products to the last drop before making a new purchase.

 

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Just as importantly, remember that conscious consumerism is just a very small part of fighting climate change. The bigger issue lies with corporations and a lack of regulations on big industries like the fashion industry and the beef industry. Keep focused on the bigger picture without getting too caught up in reducing your personal waste.

Lastly, don’t forget that, while all of these products are important parts of your oral care routine, none of these products are a replacement for a visit to a dental office. Bi-annual visits are key to keeping your mouth healthy and your smile beautiful. Without them, not even a bamboo toothbrush can help you.

Brands We Love

Not sure where to start? Below are a few brands focused on sustainable oral health care that we love.

Bite

Bite originally started as a brand of toothpaste “bits” (tablets) but has expanded to include much more. Their oral care line now includes teeth whitening gel, floss, bamboo toothbrushes, and mouthwash bits.

The brand is certified vegan and cruelty-free by PETA, palm oil-free by the Orangutan Alliance, and carbon neutral. Their toothpaste, mouthwash, and whitening gel are made in California. Their toothbrushes and floss are made in China but are shipped via sea instead of by plane.

Goodwell

Goodwell is home to the revolutionary Be. Brush, an electric toothbrush that runs on human power. That’s right — no batteries, no power, just a few hand cranks.

They also sell aluminum toothbrushes with replaceable, biodegradable brush heads as well as bamboo toothbrushes, floss, and toothpaste.

Goodwell products are all vegan and cruelty-free. The toothpaste, floss, and aluminum toothbrush handles are all made in the U.S. The Be. Brush and bamboo toothbrushes are made in China.

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