Keeping Green: How to keep your teeth and the earth clean

Most dental practitioners suggest that you replace your tooth brush after about 3-5 months of regular use. If everyone followed these guidelines from an early age of using traditional toothbrushes, on average, by the time you are 21, you would have deposited roughly 80 toothbrushes per person into dead end trash cycles. (Steven Lilley/Flickr Creative Commons)

People everywhere are starting to realize the impacts and consequences of purchasing consumables that could potentially damage their bodies and the earth. New surges of reusable and/or biodegradable versions of familiar plastic products are entering the market with force and gaining momentum and support of their beliefs and sustainable practices.

Most have already seen the reusable grocery bags, water bottles, straws and hand towels but one thing most don’t associate with litter and pollution is much of the dental hygiene world.

Although it is certainly not a common practice among consumers, most dental practitioners suggest that you replace your tooth brush after about 3-5 months of regular use or sooner if the brush has frayed or become less effective in other ways. If everyone followed these guidelines from an early age of using traditional toothbrushes, on average, by the time you are 21, you would have deposited roughly 80 toothbrushes per person into dead end trash cycles. Most toothbrushes are petroleum plastic based so they are not recyclable and will never biodegrade, not to mention the potential for ecological damage.

Companies have responded to this dilemma by fashioning toothbrushes made out of antimicrobial bamboo. Many of these companies are small and not well known so we decided to buy three brands and compare them side by side with a traditional plastic brush as a control. While the bristles of the bamboo toothbrushes are still made of that same plastic for performance reasons, the handles, which make up more than 90% of the mass, are completely returnable to the earth. So if you have been meaning to switch but don’t know where to start or how these products compare, the following guide will give you some perspective.

For the test we purchased standard toothbrushes from the companies Woobamboo, WowE Life Style, and Ernest Supplies. Each toothbrush was relatively similar in composition; there were only slight differences in shape, brush arrangement and density, and aesthetics. The Ernest Supplies’ brush is a little more beautiful than the others and has active charcoal in the bristles but, the price is a little over double the others and there has been little visible performance difference.

The most important thing we will be looking at is performance. Both the Woobamboo and the Ernest Supplies had a similar arraignment of brushes, much like what you would normally get from the dentist. They both are relatively comfortable and decent reach within the mouth. One noticeable difference is that Woobamboo comes in varying sizes and bristle softness, they even make products fit for kids and dogs! The brush that stood out from the others who tried them was that of WowE Life Style. Its bristles were a bit longer, denser and had a nice shape to the brush itself that really got deep into and around the teeth, but that is not an end all for everyone. It should be noted that because these bamboo brushes need to hold on to their bristles effectively without splitting over time, the heads are a bit thicker than regular toothbrushes, which some people expressed as being uncomfortable. All three of these brushes are so well made that any consumer needn’t worry about getting splinters in their tongue.

Next is floss, which most types being produced in the world are, you guessed it, made of plastic and cannot be broken down. Woobamboo produces a high quality bamboo floss that is coated in a natural wax for extra glide. While this product is a bit thicker and less slippery than conventional floss, it does a superior job of cleaning and catching particles of food stuck between the teeth.

Lastly, there’s toothpaste, which really needs new attention because of the recent addition of micro plastics to this sector or retail hygiene products. Most toothpaste brands are loaded with many chemicals either as fortifiers, solidifiers or cleaning agents. Fortunately there are many natural types of toothpaste on the shelves around the country, just be sure that the packaging is recyclables too for extra care for the earth.

The very best option is to make your own, that way there is little to no trash generated and you become self-sufficient while you brush comfortably with a little extra cash. A good recipe is ½ cup of coconut oil, 3 Tablespoons of baking soda, and 20 drops of a mint essential oil. I believe spearmint is the best and not as hot as peppermint. Cinnamon is also a popular essential oil flavor for DIY toothpaste. Simply heat the oil until it is completely melted and then mix in the rest of the ingredients and pour into a small sealable jar and allow it to cool and set completely. It helps keep everything mixed well to give it a stir just as it begins to solidify so the saturated fats don’t collect at the top in such a thick layer. Use just like you would your regular toothpaste and rest easy about your health and environmental impact.


Dan Wood is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at daniel.wood@uconn.edu.