[KEEN TO BE GREEN] Keeping our Teeth White—and Green

Meher McArthur

In our daily lives there are so many little ways that we create waste without even realizing it. For example, most items we use to clean our teeth are made of plastic and are too small or complex to be recycled. So by cleaning our teeth, we generate trash.

Tubes of toothpaste are particularly tricky. Those made of composite materials can’t be recycled, while tubes made of plastic or aluminum can, but need to be cleaned out first.

Plastic floss picks may be handy for teaching kids good oral hygiene habits, but are just too tiny to be recycled so are very wasteful. Dental floss, typically nylon coated in wax, can’t be recycled either; better options are wood toothpicks and silk floss, both of which can be composted.

And then there is the plastic toothbrush. When we throw these away—typically 2-3 times a year—they head straight to the landfill, where they live much longer than our teeth do! Since I now have enough old toothbrushes for household cleaning, I’ve been exploring less wasteful options.

One is a reusable toothbrush with a disposable head, like those made by Radius, creating less plastic for the landfill. But even better are biodegradable toothbrushes made of bamboo. Some brands still use partially plastic bristles or bristles made of pig hair, but some, like Brush with Bamboo, create completely plant-based brushes that are reasonably priced.

With a little extra effort, we can feel virtuous about keeping our teeth healthy and white while keeping the whole process green.

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