Last Update: October 9, 2023
When was the last time you considered the environmental impact of your oral care routine?
For many people, when you brush your teeth and how frequently you floss are influenced by your dentist, not your climate concerns—though maybe it’s time for a new approach.
There are a few reasons why you might want to switch to a more sustainable dental hygiene routine: for one, disposing of plastic toothbrushes every month contributes to the planet’s already overwhelming amount of plastic waste. And in terms of your own health, there may be ingredients in common oral care products like toothpastes, mouthwashes, and chewing gum that you don’t want in your body.
When looking for a mutually beneficial solution to your dental (and environmental) woes, it’s best to start with some smart swaps in your own medicine cabinet. We spoke to Dr. Onaedo Achebe, DDS, a dentist based in New York City, about her best tips for creating a more sustainable dental care routine. “The first toothbrush I ever used in my life probably still exists somewhere in this world,” Dr. Achebe says. “My biggest concern is that most dental products are made of plastic materials that are not recyclable, and even the ones that are recyclable are not successfully recycled.”
Achebe’s practice focuses on inclusivity in the dental industry across economic status, which organically includes tackling waste and pollution to improve its environmental impact. “My motto is progress over perfection,” she says. “Look in your bathroom cabinet and see what can be replaced with more sustainable resources.” Read on for her best tips for creating a thoughtful dental routine that benefits both you and the planet.
Traditional toothbrushes are nearly always made of plastic; if you switch out your toothbrush monthly, that means you’re creating quite a bit of plastic waste every year from toothbrushes alone.
Instead… Go for a bamboo toothbrush made of renewable materials, or try a recyclable toothbrush that reuses single-use plastics.
Do you ever really know what’s in your toothpaste? According to some studies, many commercial toothpastes contain ingredients that may be toxic for oral mucosal tissue; in fact, chemicals like sodium lauryl sulfate and cocamidopropyl betaine have been shown to have cytotoxic effects (meaning damaging effects on the cells) when used over time.
Instead… “Opt for [a natural] toothpaste or toothpaste tablets that contain hydroxyapatite if fluoride is excluded,” she suggests. “Studies show that it is just as effective as fluoride at remineralizing your enamel,, and it has the added advantage of being biocompatible and non-toxic.”
Similarly to toothpaste, commercial mouthwashes also often contain detergents and anti-odor chemicals that may have in vitro cytotoxic effects, studies show.
Instead… To avoid these harsh chemicals, switch to a fluoride-free, alcohol-free mouthwash or a mouthwash that uses a natural antiseptic like tea tree oil
Regular flossing is essential for a complete oral care routine, but many common dental flosses are made with plastic containers, plastic packaging, and even plastic-coated floss itself.
Instead… Switch to a natural dental floss made with nylon-coated floss with soothing tea tree oil and organic beeswax, or bamboo dental floss picks infused with detoxifying charcoal
Those minty gums you find in the typical grocery store checkout aisle can be loaded with sugars, artificial flavors and sweeteners (like aspartame, which is suspected of causing neurological and behavioral disorders in humans), and other unnatural ingredients—and that’s without considering the wasteful packaging.
Instead… Try a more natural chewing gum made with simpler ingredients, like xylitol, a plant-based sugar substitute
Whitening your teeth is a tedious process that involves a significant number of chemicals to get the results you want. Most chemical teeth whitening products contain peroxide bleach, which increases tooth sensitivity and can even compromise the structure of your teeth.
Instead… Try a natural teeth whitening kit made with organic ingredients like citrus, dead sea salt, and aloe vera or a coconut oil-based teeth whitening pen
Brushing and flossing are essential, but there are other ways to improve your dental hygiene—including tried-and-true wellness practices that have been around for hundreds of years. Once you’ve switched to a more sustainable oral care routine, you may also consider adopting one of these beneficial habits.
What is it? An alternative to mouthwash (which often contains alcohol and other unnatural ingredients), oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic practice that involves swishing coconut oil or a similar oil around the mouth. “It’s a simple, natural way to improve your dental health and overall wellness,” Dr. Achebe explains. “Studies have shown that oil pulling may be as effective as chlorhexidine mouthwash in reducing harmful oral bacteria, and unlike chlorhexidine, it is not as harsh to your oral microbiome.”
What does it do? Oil pulling cleans the tongue, gums, and teeth by drawing bacteria and other unsavory particles from between the teeth and all over the mouth
Try it: Banyan Botanicals Daily Swish Pulling Oil
What is it? An oral hygiene practice that involves scraping the length of the tongue using a wide, metal scraper tool
What does it do? Tongue scraping removes built-up bacteria from the hard-to-reach back of the tongue. “The human tongue is home to millions of bacteria, and these bacteria emit gasses that smell bad,” Achebe says. “Cleaning your tongue with a sterile scraper helps get rid of these gasses.” Aside from the fresh breath benefits, Achebe says that using a tongue scraper also reduces plaque. “Plaque buildup on our teeth is one of the main causes for tooth decay and gum disease. Brushing, flossing, and scraping our tongues can help reduce plaque buildup.”
Try it: Dr. Tung’s Stainless Steel Tongue Scraper
What is it? A liquid substance derived from mulberry tree leaves that helps to reduce odors coming from the digestive tract
What does it do? Instead of simply gargling or swishing with oil, drinking small amounts (1 to 2 tablespoons) of chlorophyll can help to clean bacteria and odors from deeper down in your digestive tract
Try it: Nature’s Way Chlorofresh Liquid Chlorophyll
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before changing your diet or healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. Thrive Market does not represent or warrant that the nutrition, ingredient, allergen, and other product information on our website is accurate or complete, since this information comes from the product manufacturers. On occasion, manufacturers may improve or change their product formulas and update their labels. We recommend that you do not rely solely on the information presented on our website and that you review the product’s label or contact the manufacturer directly if you have specific product concerns or questions.
Download the app for easy shopping on the go
By providing your mobile number, you agree to receive marketing text messages from Thrive Market. Consent not a condition to purchase. Msg & data rates apply. Msg frequency varies. Reply HELP for help and STOP to cancel.