Zero Waste Dental Hygiene


I'm a big fan of one ingredient solutions, so of course I make barely nothing. I just use baking soda, a bar of soap, and Brush With Bamboo toothbrush from Vegan Mania. I promise I've never had a cavity and my dental routine is pretty much unchanged since childhood (baking soda is a buffering agent so it reduces decay-causing acid in the mouth). I did want braces to get rid of my dog teeth back in the day, but no dentist would let me. One told my mother, "She just wants that Hollywood smile- don't waste your money." If I'd known selfies were going to be such a big deal, I would've insisted.

In France I think a lot of people don't floss. Brush with Bamboo is working on a sustainable one; until then, some recommend swiss chard fiber instead, or human / horse hair gathered during grooming, then cleaned. I tried radish green fiber and it's tough enough to work, but I don't know if it leaves too much sugar between my teeth. Others unravel thread from silk (Bea from Zero Waste Home does this), which you could do with secondhand or peace silk. For siwak, separate the bristles before using them exactly like floss between your teeth, scrubbing back and forth in a C formation along the teeth and gums. I imagine you can use a neem stick, which freshens breath, the same way, although you're really supposed to chew them for hours. My dentist recommends a water pik in conjunction with some type of floss or interdental brush. Radius or EcoDent floss are popular options- my grandparents always washed and reused dental floss. Goodwell sells disposable flossers marketed as biodegradable, but am I stupid because I can't figure out what they're made of or if they actually decompose in a timely manner? I have crowded teeth, so siwak works for me.

Wasteland Rebel brought out a great point- despite being vegan, she chose plastic free silk Vomel floss from a refillable glass container after seeing images of marine life choking or being half-decapitated by plastic floss :( 

I use aleppo soap once a day for brushing (baking soda in the morning, aleppo at night) and my dentist is happy. My grandma started using soap once a day, too. She used to have sensitive teeth and enamel, which were destroyed by Sensodyne. She's brushed with baking soda for decades with no problems- her teeth and gums are actually stronger now! Day by Day sells unpackaged minty tooth tablets, and other companies, such as Lush or Fat and the Moon, offer dentrifice unpackaged or in glass, made from ingredients like trace minerals and kaolin clay. Some zero wasters report yellowing teeth after quitting conventional toothpaste. Coconut oil, turmeric, or activated charcoal are effective whiteners. Neem and siwak have whitening properties, but you really need to chew the sticks several times a day, for a long time.

In Korea, they use broth made from pine cones to heal dental problems, such as infected teeth. I personally know people who've had amazing results, but if you try this- 5 green pine cones, or 5 fallen pine cones, boiled three times in a liter of water- you need to stop drinking alcohol for it to work (drinking matcha will actually help). Baking soda and / or seas salt is also recommended for gum health in Korea, but only once a day, because too much can be overly harsh. White sesame seeds, neem, fennel, clove, cinnamon, cardamom, and licorice root can remedy tooth and gum problems and improve oral hygiene in general. Chew ingredients and brush with water after.

Previously, my mouthwash recipe was 500 mL boiled water, cooled to room temperature. Add 30 drops peppermint essential oil and 15 drops clove essential oil; shake well. Store in pharmaceutical grade amber glass (mine's an old Aesop bottle), and swish using small glass beakers. We used to be able to buy essential oil in our own containers from a copper still at Marché Bio Raspail (I haven't bought them in over a year because of my cats). Boiling clove, peppermint, cinnamon, and / or licorice in water still works. Stuff as many spices as possible in 500 mL water, boil three times, boil again in fresh water for tea, then compost :) My friends recommend oil pulling, not for all the hipster mumbo jumbo, but because it freshens breath like nothing else. Several studies found it reduced certain forms of bacteria, including those associated with halitosis. Seems like a viable alternative to alcohol-containing mouthwash or plastic gums. I tried it for a week and my teeth were noticeably whiter, and my grandma said it made plaque completely disappear after only a few days. By the way, does anybody brush their cats' teeth? I heard I have to brush them once a week. Is this real?

Paris to Go

26 comments:

  1. How do you brush with the Aleppo soap? Is it gross to put soap in your mouth? And thanks for the tip about oil pulling for fresh breath! I was previously skeptical about going zero waste for my dental hygiene, since I don't want to have bad breath. Also, have you heard anything about whether it's ok to use baking soda or Aleppo soap on retainers? I have to wear a hard acrylic one at night (so it's different than the typical plastic and wire).

    Oh and the other day I found a pair of espadrilles in Goodwill that look very similar to yours but are white and are in my size! Even though my size (7.5 US) is supposedly the average woman's foot size, I feel like all of the shoes I find in thrift stores are way too big. Anyway, I bought them and I'm super happy!

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    1. I've heard that people with retainers need to avoid microbead or foaming toothpastes, so I imagine Aleppo soap would be good and gentle but I can't find any definitive information. I'll try to ask around. For teeth, you can use other gentle pure soaps, like coconut, I got the idea from Korea where they use soap made from herbs and flowers. One reader said she used peppermint castile soap for her retainer but I don't know if it was acrylic. I know to clean an acrylic bath tub, you're supposed to use baking soda, but I'm not sure if that's ok for retainers...

      I think you are right about all the shoes in thrift stores being big. Our size is very common maybe, so it sells out quick? I only find super tiny ones or super huge.

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    2. Oh and to me it's not gross putting soap in my mouth! It has a very pleasant flavor. I use a separate bar only for my teeth, otherwise it would probably be gross psychologically.

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    3. Thanks for all that great info! I can buy peppermint dr bronner's bar soap at trader joe's (in a paper wrapper), so I'll try that.

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    4. Please tell me how it works, I hope I don't ruin your retainer!

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    5. I'll update you once I've tried it, but I think it should be fine. My dentist had it made of a very, very hard acrylic so I wouldn't ruin my teeth since I grind them at night. And after over a year of wearing it, there are only small indentations from my teeth- and I grind my teeth really hard (not on purpose, of course!). My dentist said that I can clean it with any toothpaste and even put it in a bath of mouthwash to freshen it up, so I think it's durable enough to use the dr. bronner's on it.

      I really appreciate that your approach is to make the least number of things possible. As a student living in a dorm, I don't always have time or materials to make everything. One ingredient solutions are perfect!

      Olivia

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  2. I started oil pulling with sesame oil about 3 months ago and it does work great. Teath a cleaner and breath is fresher and besides that it is said to produce other health effects. I'm waiting to finish my last herbal toothpaste (packed in plastic - bla!) and then I'm planning to try baking soda + essential oil (clove or peppermint or whatever I have handy) + coconut oil combo.

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    1. Ah thank you Galya I was wondering about sesame oil! In Korea they love it :) Sesame oil is great for you! Please tell me how the homemade toothpaste works. So handy to be able to make it with a few ingredients instead of having to go to the store :)

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    2. By the way, a nice 1 ingridient no-poo alternative for those who don't seem to get "water only" work is egg yolk. So technically it's even 1/2 ingridient :) My hair looks awesome and no transition period at all! While water only and bicarb didn't work for me (may be transition period was taking too long?)
      Thank you, Ariana, for encouraging me to seek for a no-poo method!

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    3. That's so great Galya! Thank you for the tip, bicarb didn't work for me either but I love how clean the egg yolk made it :)

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  3. A timely and informative post .. I had been internally questioning my own use of Sensodyne lately and will definitely be trying the baking soda. Oil pulling with sesame oil sounds interesting as well. Not sure about the soap tho'!

    As for brushing the cat's teeth - um, who would have done it for them in the wild??? Perhaps look at diet - for example raw chicken wings/necks are good for dogs in cleaning their teeth. I am sure cats would be similar.

    Cheers

    Sharron

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    1. Hi Sharron, great point! Yea I feed them kibble once a day expressly to clean their teeth. Their teeth are really white and seem pretty fresh actually so I think they're ok :)

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  4. Hi! Is this a pic from your new place? Can't wait to see what changed in furniture, etc. if you have time.

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    1. Yes it is! I'm going to do a post soon, my next post will have a little hint :) and on the Paris to go Facebook page there is a little video tour preview :)

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  5. Hello Ariana,

    I always enjoy your posts and thank you for posting on dental hygiene :D As I transition to a zero-waste lifestyle, I am stunted by sustainable floss options and tooth pastes that don't scare my boyfriend. So far my gum massager is doing double-duty as floss. We're getting there, slowly but surely.

    I am commenting on your cat question! I've moved many times, and subsequently had many veterinarians. They each offered their own, often differing, opinions on feline dental care. While some emphasized the importance of brushing my cats' teeth, others pointed out the improbability that my cats would allow me to shove my hands in their mouth with some fish-flavored goo that serves as toothpaste.

    With that being said, I found the best balance, that is supported by my current vet, is to balance foods that are nutritious yet tough enough to abrade plaque build-up. To most, that means a combination of dry kibble to abrade tooth surfaces, and wet food for nutrition and happy cats. For you, I would perhaps recommend your usual dose of nutritious homemade wet food, and additional treats and raw chicken bones for your fluffy ones to chew on and break up plaque. I am no vet, so I defer to them. I hope this helps :)

    Best,
    Julie

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    1. Thank you so much Julie! I think wet food with dry to clean the tee is the best way :) and more natural too. Thank you for such a thoughtful reply and actually it goes in line with what my US vet told me! So awesome that you are transitioning, I look forward to hearing more!

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  6. We were last generation who used the neem stick. I remember the taste vividly and the happiness when we could switch to a tooth brush. What a circle to think of going back. My mother would make a paint brush out of neem sticks ( i forget how ) and give up a beet. And we would paint all day long in the summer break in our village.

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    1. You seriously had such a poetic childhood. That is an awesome zero waste activity. I would actually paint with a beet today. Thank you for sharing your experience, I always enjoy hearing your perspective!

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  7. Just to comment on the cat question. I have read that if you are new to brushing your cat's teeth, to NOT do it until a vet has checked them out for gum or tooth issues, as the new brushing could make it worse. I use dry and wet food, and have brushed my cats teeth every week (with various success... It's hard to do!) since he got his adult teeth in.

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    1. Hi, thank you! I haven't tried to brush their teeth yet, their teeth look pretty clean to me and the vet says they don't need it. They eat dry food once a day and wet food the rest of the time so I hope their teeth stay nice :)

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  8. Hello Dear,
    Wonderful article - I am obsessed with the absurdity of flossing packaging (the 100% silk one I bought because I didn't want to use nylon is packaged in a plastic box! what's the point). Did you find a way to get siwak in bulk?? Everywhere I looked, the sticks were vacuum packed in plastic too! ++

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    1. Hello!! I got siwak at Buly 1803 for a while, but I heard they don't have it anymore (they did have it the last time I went) so I've been stocking up at the souk every time I go to the Middle East. They were just loose in bins in Marrakech and Doha. Also in my hometown I found neem sticks in bulk so I'm going to try that awhile.

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  9. Hi again, I have a quick question not related to dental hygiene :)
    do you think bamboo sponges are as natural as they say them to be? http://guide.alibaba.com/shop/anti-greasy-color-dish-cleaning-sponge-pad-bamboo-fiber-dish-wash-sponge-foam-magic-kitchen-cleaning-sponge-pad-rags_7304589.html I sort of doubt since they are all these weird colors, but you can wash dishes without any dish soap and they last about 6 months. What do you think?

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    1. Hi Galya, I never heard of these before! I tried to do a little research but didn't find anything. These strike me as less ecofriendly for the reasons you stated, but a natural undyed sponge should be fine.

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  10. I was talking with my dentist and she said I should stop right now to use baking soda on my teeth, because it's very abrasive to your teeth. Instead i'll start to use calendula extract with a few drops os mint extracts, a flower popular here in Brasil to brush babys teeth. You should give it a try! Ah, and i love to use green tea as mouth was

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    1. That is such a good idea! Yea I've been reading lately that you should only chew cleansing seeds / herbs and brush with water. Calendula sounds wonderful!

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