Does your toothpaste clean your teeth but harm the environment? You can choose a sustainable substitute for toothpaste that cleans your teeth without dirtying the planet.
The Sierra Club notes that contaminants like microbeads, triclosan, and sulfate commonly hide within mainstream toothpaste tubes. You might not want to brush your teeth ever again with traditional toothpaste once you learn how these ingredients may harm the planet.
In addition to potentially harmful ingredients, non-sustainable toothpaste usually comes in a plastic tube. Unfortunately, manufacturers often create these tubes with a combination of plastics and aluminum, making them hard to recycle.
Now that you know just how harmful your generic tube of toothpaste might be, let’s investigate some earth-friendly alternatives to toothpaste.
Toothpaste Alternatives and Your Health
One thing to note though, as with most things concerning your health, we suggest talking with a professional before making any drastic changes.
Consider asking your friendly neighborhood dental professional about these options before you make the switch. Especially some of the DIY options at the end of the article. Unless otherwise noted, many of these options do not have fluoride either.
On the other hand, most of these substitutes for toothpaste also exclude the more questionable ingredients in generic toothpastes. Check the list of inactive ingredients on your toothpaste tube sometime. It is a great opportunity to practice your pronunciation of 6 syllable tongue twisters and head-scratchers.
We think you can live without such wonderful ingredients as “Blue 1,” originally made from coal tar but now derived from petroleum, yummy! Or Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), a detergent you’ll also find in your shampoo. Or the mysterious ingredient “Flavor” in Crest’s Kids Toothpaste. Who doesn’t love “flavor”?!
Dental Tabs: An Easy Eco-Friendly Toothpaste Alternative
A dental tab is a small pellet that looks like a breath mint. Companies that make sustainable dental tablets do so without plastic and environmentally damaging ingredients. Some tabs may contain essential oils or natural sweeteners to aid in fresh breath.
Ingeniously simple, all you need to do is chew one up, like a breath mint, but rather than swallow you brush with it. The sensation is different than your standard toothpaste.
You will find it is more watery and less frothy than toothpaste but otherwise a very similar experience. But the lack of foam is because dental tabs, along with many of the toothpaste substitutes below, do not have SLS. As mentioned above, SLS is a chemical detergent added to your toothpaste for the express purpose of producing foam in your mouth.
Our Favorite Dental Tabs
Unpaste Tooth Tabs: Not only are Unpaste Tooth Tabs plastic-free but they’re also housed in a fully compostable package (industrial compost, not for your backyard compost bin or tumbler). They’re manufactured in Germany and offered in fluoride and non-fluoride versions. They offer natural mint and natural cinnamon flavors.
Denttabs: After several years of research, Denttabs first sold its toothpaste tablets in 2003. They sold a tooth powder for a while but eventually switched to tablets. Their toothpaste tabs have fluoride and come in mint or strawberry flavors.
Bite Toothpaste Bits: Advertised as containing “no plastic ever,” Bite Toothpaste Bits come in glass bottles. You can get a subscription with them, where you get a delivery every few months in recyclable boxes and compostable pouches. In addition to a substitute for toothpaste, the company also sells other hygiene products like floss and toothbrushes.
We’ve tested Unpaste and Denttabs and highly recommend them, though we give the edge to Unpaste for its breath-freshening blast of mint.
Both brands ship in bags with 125 tabs which will last you about two months of brushing. Bite does not sell a dental tab with fluoride and we haven’t tried them.
Dental Powders Are An Effective Toothpaste Substitute
Dental powder is another option that will get you out of plastic toothpaste and into sustainable toothpaste. You’ll dip a moistened toothbrush into a jar or can of dental powder and brush your teeth just as you would with regular toothpaste.
A study published in the Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry in 1995 found that tooth powder was shown to be statistically superior to toothpaste in controlling dental plaque and gingivitis. However, the dental powders below do not have fluoride except the last option.
Silver Falls Sustainability Co.: The toothpaste powder from SF Sustainability is offered in charcoal and non-charcoal versions and is made in Silverton, Oregon. They advertise that their powder should last between 150 and 200 uses, depending on how much powder you use with each brushing.
Akamai Basics: The tooth powder from Akamai features zero sweeteners or flavor enhancers, and it’s also vegan and cruelty-free. They advertise their powder as genuinely free of the “junk” that some “natural” substitutes for toothpaste include in their products.
A Drop in the Ocean: Based in Tacoma, Washington, A Drop in the Ocean plants ten trees for each purchase made from their store, and they also donate one percent of sales to ocean conservation. Their toothpaste powder comes in mint or unflavored versions, with the mint also featuring charcoal.
Tubeless Substitute for Toothpaste
Tablets and powders are the most common substitutes for toothpaste, but other options exist, too. Have you ever used jelly to brush your teeth?
You’ll also find toothpaste that looks like traditional toothpaste but ditches the plastic tube in favor of a glass jar.
Uncle Harry’s Re-mineralizing Toothpaste: The tooth cleaning products from Uncle Harry’s don’t contain synthetic preservatives like artificial flavors and foaming agents. They’re also gluten-free and glycerin free. Fans of the brand enjoy the product’s concise yet practical list of ingredients.
Lush: If you want an experience close to traditional toothpaste, you’ll want to try Soother Toothpaste Jelly from Lush. The cherry-flavored product features unusual ingredients like fair trade organic cloves, aniseed oil, and almond essential oil. The company will also take your empty containers back for recycling when you finish the product.
Buzzfeed did a hilarious video of people trying Lush’s more outlandish flavors, so maybe steer clear of the wasabi flavored option. We promise you that our recommended options will not induce that type of reaction.
DIY Options for Toothpaste Alternatives
You can try some of the DIY options as alternatives to toothpaste. For instance, coconut oil and baking soda are viable substitutes.
One word of caution, though we know a lot about sustainability, but we are not schooled in the science of the mouth and teeth. However, most of the research we came across suggested fluoride, though toxic in high levels, is safe and critical for fighting cavities.
The natural toothpaste alternatives below do not have fluoride. We do not use them ourselves and cannot recommend them to you. However, we have found some research that supports their use as a toothpaste substitute.
Coconut Oil as Natural Toothpaste Alternative
Coconut oil is a popular natural alternative to toothpaste. Numerous researchers have found that coconut’s fatty acids have antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties.
According to a study in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, coconut oil is effective in reducing oral microbial load, decreasing plaque and gingivitis.
In addition, a study published in the Nigerian Medical Journal in 2015 indicated that coconut oil effectively reduced plaque build-up and the development of gingivitis.
Baking Soda Whitens Teeth and Reduces Harmful Bacteria
Baking soda is an effective option for maintaining dental health. In terms of keeping your pearly whites gleaming, baking soda is also a proven teeth whitener.
Another bonus, baking soda is inexpensive, with an average cost of just one dollar a box.
Definitely a go-to option when you are in a pinch and have run out of other options, baking soda can reduce harmful bacteria in your mouth and fight plaque and gingivitis.
However, on the downside, using baking soda probably does not have the same minty fresh taste as your typical toothpaste, dental tab, or really any of the options above.
You can find plenty of instructions online for brushing with baking soda, but you simply take equal parts water and baking soda, mix it to create a solution.
Next, dip your toothbrush into the solution and brush.
The Wide Wide World of Toothpaste Substitutes
Dozens of sustainable companies today manufacture earth-friendly, sustainable toothpaste products. You can probably spend the next decade experimenting with different options until you find one that suits you.
With the world’s halting but hopefully accelerating move toward a more sustainable future, it’s inevitable that substitutes for toothpaste will only increase in number and quality.
Look for companies that house their tabs or powder in a reusable metal or glass container, or otherwise shipped in biodegradable packaging.
Some companies sell refills in compostable or 100 percent recyclable packaging. Others offer an initial shipment in a glass or metal container with refills in compostable containers. Or just repurpose a glass jar from around your home.
Though it is a small step, it is just one more way to reduce your environmental footprint with little to no sacrifice on your part, besides a few extra dollars and a tweak to your bathroom routine!
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