Zero waste bathroom swaps are some of the easiest to integrate into your life, but if you’ve never used zero waste dental products before it’s understandable to be suspicious. Toothpaste, a toothbrush and floss is rigidly built into our daily routines from the moment we can open our mouths; long before our zombie morning brains can even form a sentence we will stumble to the bathroom and start brushing.
To alter this habit of a lifetime might feel strange, but the fact remains that it’s far healthier for you and for the planet to banish plastic and synthetic ingredients from this daily task. Here’s a breakdown of common questions you might have about zero waste oral care products using our favourite brand, Georganics, as examples. Here we go!
What are they like to use and how are they better?
Some people find eco-friendly toothbrushes strange at first as the bristles are usually much softer than standard plastic ones. However, most dental professionals agree that softer bristles are best for your oral hygiene. Indeed, research by Monographs in Oral Science found that over brushing with harsh bristles can do more harm than good. Georganics offer a “medium bristles” brush which can be a good place to start; not as soft as some eco brushes, but not as harsh as most plastic ones.
In terms of environmental impact, over the course of twenty years one person alone could unnecessarily be sending 80 plastic handles to landfill meaning this simple swap can make a huge difference.
What are they made from?
Surprise, surprise! Bamboo is the primary material. This biodegradable and evergreen plant requires no fertilisers or pesticides and requires little water to grow. Whilst there is some debate over the eco-friendliness of bamboo as a fabric (often questionable chemicals and processes are used to turn this fibre into a soft, supple material) in solid products such as toothbrushes it is usually a very eco-friendly option.
Are the bristles biodegradable?
Usually, no. Fully natural bristles are available if you look hard enough (made from materials such as pig hair) but many people find this distasteful. Bristles in eco friendly toothbrushes are usually made from less harmful materials than standard plastic brushes, and you can always rip out the bristles before composting your biodegradable handle at the end of your brushes life.
Georganics toothbrush bristles are made from BPA-free nylon, a non-toxic synthetic polymer. Some of them are infused with charcoal fibre obtained from bamboo charcoal which is biodegradable, vegan and cruelty-free.
Whilst fully biodegradable bristles are hard to come by, investing in bamboo toothbrushes means far less waste overall and makes it more likely that resources and research can go towards improving materials used in future.
What’s actually in natural toothpaste?
Natural toothpaste ingredients vary widely from brand to brand. Main ingredients in Georganics natural toothpastes include Calcium Carbonate, shown in a 2005 Caries Research study to effectively enhance enamel remineralisation, and Sodium Bicarbonate, a low-abrasive powder that acts as a natural whitening agent as well as alkalising the pH in the mouth to promote remineralisation.
Virgin Coconut Oil is used as an alternative to synthetic glycerin. This antimicrobial ingredient has been proven to be effective at plaque removal and tooth decay prevention according to a study in the Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry 2016.
Flavouring is added with organic, food-grade essential oils, which not only offer strong natural flavours (we love the classic English Peppermint) but also offer antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Shea Butter adds a creamier texture and moisturising properties. (You can check out the full list of ingredients on each product page!)
What's the deal with “toothsoap”?
Toothsoap is essentially a solid, foaming bar of toothpaste that is free from nasty chemicals in traditional toothpaste such as glycerine, gently cleaning without being harsh or abrasive. Its simple ingredients are Sodium Palm Kernelate, a sodium salt of the fatty acids derived from sustainable and organic palm kernel oil, Sodium Palmate, a plant-derived foaming agent that also cleanses and removes stains, and organic essential oils for flavouring.
To use it, wet your toothbrush and rub the bristles onto the soap in circular motions and then brush as normal. Whilst tooth soap does feel different to regular toothpaste it’s great once you get used to it and is beautifully gentle on your mouth.
We love the idea of solid tooth soap, especially since it can be so simply and sustainably packaged. This incredibly simple rethink of a daily household necessity could monumentally reduce the amount of waste produced by each household.
What is activated charcoal and why is it good for you?
Charcoal is "activated" by being processed at temperatures high enough to change its internal structure, increasing its surface area and making it more porous than regular charcoal. Its high absorbency and mildly abrasive qualities make it an effective stain remover, and good for drawing out toxins which can cause bad breath and gum disease, making it a perfect ingredient for natural toothpastes. You can check out Georganics natural activated charcoal toothpaste here.
What is it made from?
Unsurprisingly, there is very little difference in the experience of using natural rather than standard dental floss. Natural flosses are usually made using natural silks coated in plant-based candelilla wax; we like Georganics natural floss because it is made using Ahimsa Silk, which is 100% biodegradable and made in a way that is more humane to silkworms than many traditional methods. Their floss also contains charcoal fibre and essential oils for strong natural flavouring and stain removal.
How is it better for you and the planet?
Whilst toothbrushes are at least reusable, dental floss is a single-use plastic that many of us use every single day. The impact of swapping out your dental floss for a plastic-free, biodegradable version can make a huge difference to your personal environmental impact, and the natural ingredients, waxed finish and essential oil flavouring can make for a more pleasant, gentle flossing experience.