If you’re looking to reduce your plastic waste, using an alternative toothbrush is a great place to start. Toothbrushes are so very necessary, and with a world population of around 7.6 billion, us humans get through an awful lot of them! Officials advise replacing brushes every three to four months, so that’s a lot of plastic heading for landfill. It hasn’t always been this way—early toothbrushes were made from chewed twigs, bone and animal hair. Across the world there are still many natural solutions to oral hygiene, and I’ll give you an unusual option later on in this article.
One of the things my partner Joe and I had in common when we met was our eco-friendly toothbrushes: we both used the Monte Bianco replaceable head system. When Monte Bianco disappeared from the shelves last year, we were forced to track down an alternative toothbrush solution. Here are my findings:
Plastic Brushes (Replaceable Heads & Recycled)
- For a high quality replacement-head brush, the Silver Care range from Norwex is great. Manufactured in Italy, the replacable heads have a silver coating which claims to reduce bacterial growth. The curved brush is sturdy and leaves my mouth feeling really clean.
- For people based in France or Italy, Lamazuna make a replaceable head brush using 70% plant based plastic.
- Preserve* brush handles are made in the US from 100% recycled yoghurt pots. They also offer a recycling service within the US with collection points and by post. The brush is a pleasing shape with a tilted head which makes it easy to reach right to the back.
- Tooth are a new company offering a stylish aluminium handle with replaceable heads, via a subscription service.
Bamboo and Wood Brushes
- Environmental Brush* offer the cheapest wooden option I’ve found. A thin bamboo handle with a flat row of simple white nylon bristles, available in medium or soft. I found it rather basic, but it’s still a step in the right direction! If this is the only brand of bamboo brush you’ve tried, please don’t let it put you off. The following brands have a much better ‘mouth-feel’.
- Try out the Swedish-designed Humble Brush*. Their Bamboo handles are ergonomically shaped, and the row of nylon bristles has a gentle curve to help reach the far corners. They have a choice of colours and are available in soft, medium and child size, so there’s something for all the family. The company operate a ‘One Brush, Two Smiles’ scheme, so when you buy a brush, the Humble Smile Foundation provide oral care for children in need. I bought one for Joe, but on his first use a bristle came off and lodged in the back of his throat, which was an unpleasant experience to say the least. However, the Humble brush company lived up to their name, sending four replacement brushes and some toothpaste by way of an apology. I would definitely use their brushes again, but Joe is unconvinced.
- Hydro Phil* bamboo brushes have a stylish modern design, with a chunky cylindrical handle, a narrow ‘neck’ and a flat row of bristles made using castor oil. They also have a choice of soft or medium, and a childrens brush which was perfect for my three year old. The company are water neutral and all the products packaging is plastic-free. You can even buy a matching ceramic stand and bamboo travel case. Hydro Phil are also sold in the UK by A Fine Choice (their website is well worth a visit for a great range of plastic-free products).
- Georganics have a range of beechwood brushes*, which come in plastic-free packaging. The heads can be recycled with their own Zero To Landfill scheme!
- Georganics make a sonic electric toothbrush which comes in plastic-free packaging, and the heads can be recycled with their own Zero To Landfill scheme!
- Brushd. sell Oral-B compatible electric toothbrush heads, with charcoal infused bristles. Packaged in cardboard, they come with a pre-paid envelope to post them back for recycling with First Mile.
- Brushd. have 5 packs of bamboo interdental brushes
- Humble have a range of interdental brushes and cornstarch based floss picks*
- Piksters Bamboo interdental brushes are available at some independent pharmacies
Completely Plastic Free Options
- All of the bamboo brushes except Hydro Phil have got nylon bristles, so they aren’t completely plastic-free. The only totally natural toothbrush I’ve found is made in Germany by Naturborsten using untreated beech wood and boar bristles, so it isn’t a good option for vegans. If you want to take it right back to basics, the Miswak stick is a root from the Salvadora persica tree. They are a popular solution for oral hygiene in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asian countries. As you chew and scrub, the stick releases antibacterial sap, so you don’t even need toothpaste! I’ve found that my teeth feel great using the stick, although its shape makes it hard to reach a few places in my mouth so I’ve had to be extra careful when brushing. Olive tree sticks can also be used. You can buy both of these options from Natural Spa Supplies (a great resource for natural cosmetic ingredients—I’m using their Rhassoul Clay as a natural shampoo).
I’d love to hear about your adventures in eco-friendly oral hygiene—have you got a favourite type of bamboo brush or an ingenious use for old toothbrushes? I’ve got a mountain of old brushes which I’m about to package up and send to Terracycle for recycling using their free service The Colgate® and hello® Oral Care Recycling Programme Anyone can sign up, and you can send off all your old brushes, packaging and clean toothpaste tubes with a free downloadable collection label! I’ve even helped set up free collection points at my two local dental practices.
IMPORTANT UPDATE FOR ANYONE WITH GINGIVITIS OR ORAL HEALTH PROBLEMS: After using plastic-free dental care alternatives for around a year, I visited the dentist for a routine check up. Although I’ve suffered from bleeding gums sporadically for my entire life, the problem had got much worse and needed 45 mins of invasive interdental scraping to remove pockets of gum disease. I strongly recommend using interdental brushes and an electric toothbrush if you suffer from bleeding gums.
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