Understand the Benefits for Your Oral Health and the Environment
If you are concerned about where your plastic waste is ending up, you’re not alone. Most of us have seen the heart-wrenching photos of plastics blanketing the seas and toothbrushes, especially the handles, are part of the problem; which is why many people are looking for alternatives such as biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes as a possible solution.
According to Medium, “approximately a billion brushes are thrown away in the United States annually”. We understand that a toothbrush is not a lifetime investment and we toss them for good reasons.
Usually, bristles on a brand new toothbrush start to bend after just a few weeks of use. Once this happens, the toothbrush is much less effective at cleaning and has the potential to even damage your gums. For health reasons, most people need to trade out their old toothbrushes for new ones at least every three months.
When we throw out our toothbrushes, we hope they will end up at the appropriate landfills. But more often than not they often end up in the ocean instead, crowding out marine life and even killing sea turtles and dolphins.
Just think about this for a second: the average toothbrush will take around 500 years to breakdown in the ocean. A bamboo toothbrush, on the other hand, has the ability to biodegrade much more quickly and producing a lower negative impact on the environment.
What Does a Typical Bamboo Toothbrush Look Like?
A bamboo toothbrush will look and feel very similar to any other toothbrush. Other than the natural color of the handle, another noticeable difference will be the bristles that, depending on the brand, may be softer than what you may be used to.
There are two different kinds of bamboo toothbrushes, one made entirely of bamboo and one with a bamboo handle and nylon bristles.
- Bamboo Bristles
Those who are aiming for a zero-waste lifestyle may prefer a wholly bamboo product. But you should be aware that many dentists consider bamboo bristles too sharp and tough for optimal dental health.
If you do opt for an all bamboo brush, you may need to adapt your brushing style. Go gentle. The least amount of pressure you need to get your mouth clean will be the ticket.
You will need to be extra vigilant about bristle wear. Check the bristles at least once a week. If in doubt, toss that brush and get a new one. The optimal turnover for toothbrushes is four to six weeks.
- Nylon Bristles
Most bamboo toothbrushes are made with bamboo handles and nylon-6 or nylon-4 bristles. Some of these models have dentist approval. A few dentists have even participated in the design of these earth-friendlier bamboo toothbrushes.
The bamboo handle will be approximately the same size and shape as the plastic toothbrush handle that you are used to, but you will notice that it is lighter in weight, but you will adjust to that very quickly.
The handle may also be smoother than you are used to. Plastic toothbrushes are usually designed with grooves in the handles. These grooves keep the handle from slipping out of your hand. Many consumers report that bamboo is naturally more slip resistant. So the handle may or may not be designed exactly like the plastic toothbrush you used previously.
Most people who care about plastic pollution are also sensitive to plastic packaging. They are put off by boxes inside boxes and shrinkwrap inside plastic bubbles. They call this “overpackaging” and contradicts the notion of wanting to be more eco-friendly.
You will find that purveyors of bamboo toothbrushes are trying to avoid the mistake of overpackaging. At the same time, if you are getting your bamboo toothbrush in the mail, its packaging has to conform to United States Post Office standards.
Expect to get your toothbrush in a low-profile, minimally wrapped brown box or brown paper. The packaging is likely to be quickly biodegradable, as is the toothbrush itself.
Ditch the case
Bamboo is more porous than plastic which means a bamboo toothbrush will be more susceptible to developing mold. The solution? Air it out overnight, standing up in a cup or glass, rather than putting it in a case or holder.
It’s worth saying that anything can develop mold if it spends too much time in a damp, wet space without light or ventilation. So plastic toothbrushes are best left to air out overnight as well.
Bamboo Toothbrushes are Manually Operated
The downside to bamboo toothbrushes is that they don’t come with batteries or cords. Most people can maintain good dental health with a manual toothbrush, but if you have dental complications, a bamboo toothbrush might not work for you.
For instance, people who are on medications that put extra stress on enamel or gum lines may want to stick to power brushes and offset their eco-footprint by donating to Sierra Club, cycling to work, or refusing plastic straws.
Where Can I Purchase a Bamboo Toothbrush?
So far, only a few chain retailers carry bamboo toothbrushes. You may have better luck finding one on Amazon or an online dental products store. We have also found them at TJ Maxx, so make sure to check your local store to see if you can find some for your household.
Many bamboo toothbrush makers encourage you to subscribe to their products. Once you’ve set up your subscription, a new toothbrush gets mailed to you every six weeks, and you can quit thinking about it.
Is It Right For You?
If you are considering making the switch but are unsure too, schedule an appointment with our office so we can evaluate your current oral health. Then we can guide you through the best process of dental care. But a rule of thumb to follow, if you have a relatively healthy smile, go ahead and make the switch and help the environment one toothbrush at a time!