I had hoped to write this post ages ago, by which I mean roughly a year ago. It embarrasses me to say that that is how long it took me to actually try out all of the alternatives I had wanted to. I somehow don’t think I will be alone in this either. I think we can be quite picky about our dental care, especially toothpaste, I always used to pack my own when going to a friend’s house because there were some types that I just couldn’t stand the feel of in my mouth, or that I didn’t think tasted nice at all. So to try something in tablet form, all I could think was that it would be chalky and crunchy and leave a gritty feeling on my teeth, which I couldn’t bare.
We (me and my husband) tried bamboo toothbrushes way sooner than toothpaste tabs, my mum bought me some for Christmas and so we thought we would give them a go. Unfortunately, I have to admit that we have made the switch back to electric toothbrushes when at home (we still pack bamboo for travels though!). The reason being is that for one, I personally found the head of the brush to be too large and it knocked my teeth…a lot. The bristles were also quite stiff with this brand (GreenMonkey) which made my gums bleed (hopefully I wasn’t pressing too hard).
I also have wisdom teeth that are only partially erupted, so I have to be extra careful cleaning them, and I found I couldn’t get the right angle with the bamboo brush, especially with room to actually apply a brushing action. Of course, with an electric brush, they have a much smaller head and simply rotate on the spot.
Finally, we had both used handheld brushes for a good 8 months whilst traveling in the past and it was safe to say that when we returned to the UK and had our teeth looked at, they weren’t in need of any specific dental treatment, but they had a much greater buildup of plaque and tartar than would normally be the case in this time. So the trip to the hygienist was a bit more unpleasant than usual! We both noticed that it wasn’t really the visible fronts of our teeth that suffered, but it was the backs of our teeth instead. They’re just not as easy to reach with a manual toothbrush!
All in all this didn’t leave us loving the bamboo toothbrushes I am sad to say. There are other brands out there now though, like BRISTLE, which make brushes approved by dentists and which have a smaller head and softer bristles, so maybe these will be better. I may have to give them a try!
If you do choose to use bamboo, make sure to remove the bristles before you compost the handle! The bristles are usually still made of nylon and will not compost! BRISTLE do say they are looking into alternatives so hopefully one day this won’t be the case.
So this was the product that took us forever to try, but eventually, try we did. My first knowledge of toothpaste tabs was when a friend of mine told me about them on a holiday. She had toothy tabs from LUSH, which come in lots of different flavours like lemon (pretty cool!) and they come in a recyclable plastic bottle. This is definitely a step up from non recyclable tubes, but I still wanted to see if I could find anything better. The other thing to consider about LUSH toothy tabs is that they are fluoride free. I think this is because in America the water has fluoride added and many people don’t want to add even more. The thing is, in the UK, this is not the case. Mineral water will naturally have some fluoride present, but the amount varies from location to location, which is why dentists recommend you use a fluoride toothpaste to help keep teeth healthy and strong.
It turns out that after a bit of digging, I came across a company called BRISTLE (which is also where I found out about the softer bamboo brushes and some floss I talk about later). BRISTLE have partnered with DENTTABS, a German manufacturer of toothpaste tabs, who produce tabs which are vegan, and with a choice of fluoride or fluoride-free! So you can make the decision for yourself.
BRISTLE sell them in a plastic-free, fully biodegradable pouch too, just pour them into a glass jar once they arrive! They also offer a subscription service so you need never run out.
What are they like?
I was so reluctant to try these I can’t even tell you, it made me cringe just thinking about it, so even once they arrived I battled the tube to squeeze out every last drop until I finally had to admit defeat and open the pack of tabs.
And to my surprise…they are actually really simple to use and not at all cringeworthy! yay!!
The packet instructions are pretty clear, wet the brush, which I always do anyway, and then simply pop the tab in your mouth and bite on it. I was fearful of the chalky texture but actually found that it broke down into a foam in a matter of seconds, it just dissolves! They are relatively minty too, not as much as regular toothpaste, but definitely a decent hint of natural mint.
Don’t get me wrong, they do take some getting used to; they don’t foam as much in the mouth as regular toothpaste (I might actually try using two tablets instead of one?) and I find that it sometimes feels like by the end of two minutes I am just brushing with slightly minty saliva, but despite this I do think they work. We have just grown accustomed now to associating foaming products with cleanliness, so I am trying to re-train my brain to recognise that this isn’t the case at all!
I also have to admit that my husband really hasn’t taken to them at all, and we now have regular, unrecyclable toothpaste in the house again. And in all honesty, I have started using it again too *sigh*. I think this is a lot to do with it being more familiar, and like I just said, my brain still wants to feel foam to believe my teeth are clean. I am determined though to give the tabs another go, and I will update the post once I have given the whole pack a fair try!
(More) Eco-friendly Dental-floss
A while ago I thought I was being ethical by buying vegan-friendly dental floss from Eco-Dent. It is housed in recyclable cardboard packaging which was a real selling point, but I believe there is actually a plastic spool inside. Unfortunately, I hadn’t considered what the actual floss itself would be made of and it turns out it is nylon. So despite being waxed with natural, vegan and paraben free wax, it isn’t really ideal and will take forever to ever break down! Whoops!
So, I was very happy to find that when I discovered their toothpaste tabs, I also found that BRISTLE make a biodegradable dental floss with zero plastic packaging. It is also vegan, if this is important to you.
Their floss arrived in a glass bottle with a metal cap which can be recycled after use. This is great, of course, but I plan to write and suggest a refill option so that you don’t have to get a new one each time. This way it would be way closer to waste free and not just plastic free.
So far so good!
I was really happy with all the packagaing and after using the floss, I found that this was really good too. I have teeth that are very close together, so I don’t get on with any of the reusable interdental bushes and rely on quite a thin floss. It definitely isn’t as thin as the ribbon flosses that you can buy, but considering I can get it between my teeth, I think most people with this issue should be fine! The other bonus it is has charcoal in it, which is a great cleaner and it means the floss is black, so you can really see what you are pulling out from between the gaps. Kind of gross I know, but it also reminds you of why you spend those precious extra minutes flossing!
I was all ready to say “woohoo, I have found a solution” when sitting to write this piece. But once I started to write, I couldn’t let go of the word ‘biodegradable’ that described this particular product. I have learnt through my time blogging about plastics that this word can often disguise plastics and make it appear that you are buying something natural and probably compostable, when in fact you are not.
Biodegradable does not always equal compostable…please remember this.
I headed to the BRISTLE website where I was pleased to see a very open and honest FAQ section. I was sad though to find that they do admit their floss is not technically plastic free. The floss is made of bamboo charcoal and a ‘biodegradable’ polymer, which they state means that it will break down much faster than others on the market. Unfortunately, this probably makes no difference if it ends up in a landfill as it will still need oxygen to break down, but it should help reduce animal tangling if any gets into the environment. The end result though still means the presence of microplastics, so it was a bit disappointing to discover.
This is still, however, a fairly good vegan option, especially if you want the subscription service too.
A truly plastic free floss?
A truly plastic-free floss does indeed exist, but if you are vegan, you won’t be able to find one. Two flosses I have found that fit the bill of plastic-free are made by Georganics and Dental Lace. Both of these companies produce floss made of silk, which is of course fully biodegradable AND compostable! Like BRISTLE, they package the floss without plastic and in a glass jar with a metal cap. They also go one step further and solve the waste issue by providing refills, so you can reuse the same glass container over and over!
If you are vegan, Georganics also make a charcoal floss, which is refillable, and that uses a reduced amount of polyester yarn (20%), so this is also a better option than most high street brands.