Ask the Dentist: The quest for eco-friendly tooth cleaning implements

Dismayed at the amount of plastic and waste in dental care, Lucy Stock of Gentle Dental Care in Belfast explores some eco-friendly options

A toothbrush with a bamboo handle and bamboo wood sticks are a good place to start to make your dental regime less plasticky
Lucy Stock

I throw out a small suitcase size of disposable items each time I do a surgical procedure - which is most days.

Sterile drapes, gowns, protective covers, tubing and packaging, all go in the clinical waste to be incinerated. Multiply that by the millions of dental procedures worldwide every day, and a gargantuan heap of waste mounts up.

Cop26 has brought not only the surgery waste but all dental waste into focus and as a team we are looking into ways to reduce this as much as possible.

This includes the dental hygiene products that sit in their shiny glass cabinet in the waiting room. Just a few weeks ago I would pass it and get a warm, happy feeling from their cutesy rainbow coloured packaging now all I see is 'suck the life force out of you' plastic.

So onwards and ecowards we go in the search of better-packaged tooth cleaning implements. I've always been a fan of wood sticks to clean between teeth - so easy to use and they put pressure on the gum which is what's needed to kick gum disease into touch.

The best of the wood sticks which come in non-plastic containers are from the Humble range, and made from 100 per cent biodegradable sustainably-grown bamboo.

Many people love the floss harp sticks as they're easier to floss with. Obviously, the plastic handles of the traditional floss harps are looking increasingly old fashioned so you could try Hydrophil dental floss picks which are again made from bamboo and have Bisphenol A chemical-free nylon floss.

When you're recycling, you can pull out the nylon floss or nylon bristles of the bamboo toothbrushes and dispose of them separately.

Toothpastes with their squeezy plastic tubes are an issue. To get around this problem you may want to try toothpaste in a glass jar, like the one from The Humble Co that contains fluoride.

The key is that the toothpaste still needs to strengthen teeth. Many herbal pastes have ingredients that support gum health but don't have good science backing up their ability to keep the teeth free from decay unless you're blessed with great genetics and keep a perfect tooth-friendly diet which is as rare as becoming an astronaut.

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