When I was a kid, dental care in our household was a simple routine. Everyone in the family shared the same tube of Crest toothpaste and rinsed with plain tap water. Only Dad used the Listerine mouthwash in the medicine cabinet. For the rest of us, we gargled and rinsed with warm water and salt only if we had a sore throat or toothache. This is a remedy that my Aunt Catherine uses and recommends even today.
In recent years, I began to be concerned by all of the ingredients in toothpaste so I experimented with natural alternatives. I tried oil pulling but didn’t like the feeling of oil in my mouth. For the same reason, I didn’t like DYI toothpaste using coconut oil. So, I went with a baking soda and peroxide recipe that I found online. I liked that there was no plastic tube to worry about disposing of.
The solution seemed ideal until I told my dental hygienist about it. She said that it’s way too harsh to use every day! (It was a good reminder to check in with health care pros about any DYI health products!) Now I use Tom’s of Maine toothpaste because I like their stewardship model; their products are free of concerning ingredients and made in the USA. And I love that their new plastic tube is recyclable in my area. I use a toothpaste squeezer to get everything out of the tube (rolling a chopstick or pen along the tube works well, too).
Mom used to reuse our old, used toothbrushes for scrubbing in small spaces, like around the sink or tub, before she eventually threw them out. Or, when we were little, she’d let us use them as paintbrushes. Today, I use a toothbrush with a biodegradable bamboo handle. Another good option is Preserve toothbrushes; you can recycle their toothbrushes through the Preserve toothbrush takeback program.
In my childhood days, no one in my family used dental floss; we had a little jar of wooden toothpicks that we used to clean between our teeth. Today, it seems like everyone uses dental floss as part of their dental care. Unfortunately, most floss isn’t recyclable and it comes in hard-to-recycle plastic packaging. But there are some better options, such as floss made of silk or bamboo charcoal fibers that comes in a refillable glass or metal dispenser.
I think it’s worthwhile to look at our daily routines and consider what we can change to make them more sustainable — and dental care is no exception!
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