The oral hygiene market is teeming with all sorts of unnecessary plastic products. Fortunately, there are a lot of swaps we can make without sacrificing your dental hygiene!
You ought to replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months anyway, so when it's time to replace it, switch to one with a bamboo handle. Easy peasy! Bristles are a bit trickier because most of them are some form of plastic or plastic/plant combo, and may have metal staples holding them in place. For a 100% plastic-free and vegan/cruelty-free bamboo toothbrush, look for bristles to be made from castor beans or another plant-based material.
The plastic tube it's packaged in is the problem, so try toothpaste tablets sold in glass or metal for a quick fix. You'll also likely avoid a lot of artificial sweeteners and artificial colors in doing so.
(Hello Products has a pretty sweet subscription deal: you get to customize the products in your box and select your refill frequency. Plus, they include a free toothbrush in each subscription box.)
Price of tablets turning you off? DIY toothpaste is literally baking soda, salt and water! You can have fun adding flavorings to taste like fresh mint or cinnamon.
Semi-related side note/tangent/rant: Have you seen "SLS-free" on packaging or advertising? SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) is used in toothpaste for its foaming abilities. Sometimes the phrase SLS-free is slapped on the package, implying it ought not have been there, especially in more natural based products...when in fact SLS is an FDA and EPA approved ingredient. SLS is in a large number of other products including shampoo, hand soap, and various household cleaning products. There are a few rumors online that it can cause canker sores, but no real scientific basis as to why you'd want your toothpaste free of it; same deal with fluoride. I've seen "non-toxic fluoride alternative" touted on packaging...but nothing suggests fluoride is a bad thing to have in your toothpaste to begin with. Going plastic-free is reason enough for me to make a change; I wish they'd stop trying to assure me that they're saving me from other things. I keep an eye out for sneaky stuff like that.
Typical floss is made of plastic (nylon), coated in PFC's (aka Teflon), and boxed in plastic. Who knew such a basic product could be simultaneously a really important part of the dental hygiene process, yet have such potential to be bad for us and the environment?!
Bite has us covered with a plastic free, vegan floss option!
I swear I'm not affiliated with these brands and as of the date of release of this post, I'm making ZERO commission off any of this! I just like the one-stop-shop approach.
If you want to pick something up locally instead of waiting for a mail subscription, retailers like Walmart sell a biodegradable bamboo charcoal floss on a natural silk spool. That'll get ya an all-natural, plastic-free option. Actual follow through with flossing is optional ;)
Bridges or braces? I have yet to find a completely plastic-free solution since rigid ends are necessary for weaving through hardware. Perhaps a water flosser like Waterpik may be suitable. It's still a hunk of plastic but, if it's going to last you a lot longer than the individual use flosser picks or even string floss, then it may be worth investing in. But it's not the most sustainable choice, I realize. If there's anything else you'd recommend for getting between and under mouth hardware, drop a comment!
Tablets are available for mouthwash, too! You'll need a small glass (shooter sized works!) to dissolve them in and then swish as usual. Or, try diluted peroxide (be sure to dilute 3:1 to reduce the likelihood of irritation).
Oil pulling is something else I've researched, but personally haven't ever done it. It's an ancient Ayurvedic method of mouth washing, done with sunflower, coconut or a similar oil, for a longer length of time (5-20 min process). There are claims it helps with whitening and even removing toxins from the body - but there aren't science based studies to back these claims.
Whitening our teeth with bleach and chemicals can be extremely harsh. There's still a huge market for it here in the USA, though, so yet another thing to combat.
First and foremost, we can battle yellowing by being proactive. Avoid the types of food and drinks that stain teeth i.e. soda, coffee, tea, red wine, etc. Abstaining from or cutting back on those things is our first line of defense, our teeth being just one reason. When you do partake, brush directly afterwards. If you can't or won't brush right away, then at minimum, rinse your mouth out with water. Just get the stain causing products out of your mouth as quickly as possible.
If you're already battling the fight for white teeth, then how about natural ingredients? Switch from strips to old fashioned baking soda and peroxide.
Let me know what you think, and don't forget to smile after you've worked so hard for that clean mouth!