I switched from using tube toothpaste to tooth tablets and the current one, tooth powder. In case you aren’t familiar with the last two, you use tooth tablets by biting a tablet, wetting your brush, then brushing your teeth. For the powder, wet your brush, remove excess water, dip the brush into the powder, and brush your teeth.
Why did I change?
Once I slowly started to live more sustainably, I came across so many product alternatives. Seeing tooth tablets and tooth powder with minimal to zero packaging reminded me how mindless and clueless consumption habit I had had all along by using only conventional tube toothpaste. Every time I finished it, I threw it in the trash. I didn’t even think about recycling it. It’s also difficult to recycle the tube because it’s made of multiple materials which not all local curbside services can recycle. Once these tubes don’t get recycled, they would be dumped in the landfill.
I think a lot of us are on the same page here. We use what the market offers – whatever that is. We finish it, throw it away, forget about it, and buy it again. We don’t know the impact of the trash that we don’t deal with ourselves, not just tube toothpaste, but also other oral care products like toothbrushes, which I wrote about them here. When the truth hit me, I was sad for not knowing about it sooner and wanted to fix it right away however I can.
So, after I finished my last tube of toothpaste, I ordered Bite tooth tablets as an experiment. The shipment arrived without plastic (this was why I chose Bite), all tablets contained in a small glass jar with an aluminum cap. Besides all natural ingredients, it’s also easy and pleasant to use. The taste is similar to tube toothpaste. Two things stopped me from placing the next order: high pricing (although understandable), and having to deal with more containers (although recyclable). Fortunately, before running out of the tablets, I already started working at Scoop Marketplace. Tooth powder was one of the very first products we carried in the store. There were two types: charcoal & mint flavored and unflavored powder. The charcoal flavored sounded more exciting to me, so I picked that.
Conventional tube toothpaste VS tooth powder, what are the differences ?
Most conventional toothpaste sold in the US contains harmful ingredients. We may not see side effects from these ingredients immediately, but they can add up over time. Here are some of the ingredients:
- Fluoride – although it helps prevent cavities, it links to serious health issues: dental and skeletal fluorosis.
- Artificial sweeteners – or sorbitol, keeps toothpaste from drying out but can cause diarrhea in children.
- Artificial colors – derived from coal tar. Some colors aren’t approved by the FDA. Yellow color links to anxiety, migraines, and cancer.
Other dangerous ingredients are reviewed here. Besides, the tube toothpaste market contributes a massive amount of packaging waste, not just the tube itself, but also the box that contains each individual tube.. There is a video ‘Why Toothpaste Comes in a Box?’ pointing out that the box is unnecessary, and Icelandic consumers have forced packaging changes on a national level through their buying decisions.
Toothpowder, on the other hand, is a mix of natural ingredients. The one that I use is from Bestowed Essentials. Here are the list of ingredients :
- Bentonite clay – has minerals that help prevent tooth decay by reducing bacteria. It pulls toxins from the mouth, leaving the mouth and teeth nice and clean.
- Baking soda – whitens teeth and fights bad breath.
- Calcium carbonate – helps strengthen teeth.
- Activated charcoal – helps whiten teeth by changing the pH balance in the mouth.
- Spearmint and peppermint essential oil – help freshen and fight bad breath.
Beyond the natural ingredients, I adore the facts that I can buy it package-free from my workplace, Scoop Marketplace by using my own container. I don’t need to order online or have an extra trip to the grocery store, meaning less carbon footprint. And it’s less cluttered in my bathroom closet because it takes less space than the tube.
Speaking of the taste and texture of the powder, it’s far from what I expected, but I’ve adjusted to the difference. I’ve been using unflavored tooth powder after finishing up the charcoal one. Very funny to think about how much I was used to the smooth, creamy, and foamy paste all my life and got disappointed once I tried the powder for the first time. It’s not creamy or foamy at all. In fact, it’s so messy, liquidy, and way too minty when brushing, leaving lots of visible black dots on my sink. The unflavored one is even more plain and tasteless – just like you brushing your teeth with flour. It wasn’t a pleasant experience until I tried to get over myself and get used to it. After brushing though, my mouth feels nice and clean – in a natural way.
What have I learned?
- Switching to tooth powder is a way not to contribute more tube waste ever again.
- I have learned to focus on the core purpose of stuff – what it’s made to do, rather than its flawless appearance, color, and texture. As long as it can do the job, it’s all that matters.
- I learned that I’d been exposed to toxins from the traditional toothpaste without knowing it. Familiarity with this common product leads people to ignore ingredients that are controversial, unnecessary, and artificial. I mean, enough with that. Let me use something more natural and harmless for the sake of my mouth and the environment.
- The more people choose tooth powder over toothpaste, the more this product will be normalized. As a result, the whole system that involves it will eventually be changed to a more sustainable way. Until that ideal production system is developed, I’m more than happy to support small businesses by buying their natural handmade tooth powder. It’s neat to be a part of this mission. Small changes multiply.
Can we do this together? Finish your last tube of toothpaste (make sure you recycle it right or learn more here.), then try out the tooth powder and stick to it.
7 Sinful Toothpaste Ingredients to Avoid, by Lisa Beres, 2017, https://earth911.com/living-well-being/toothpaste-ingredients-to-avoid/
Bentonite Clay for Teeth-Toothpaste, Recipe & Benefits (Earth Paste Toothpaste), by DURABLEHEALTH, 2020, https://durablehealth.net/bentonite-clay/bentonite-clay-toothpaste-recipe-benefits-earth-paste/
Bentonite Clay: The secret to healthy gums and teeth, by Lindsey Elmore, 2018, https://lindseyelmore.com/bentonite-clay-the-secret-to-healthy-gums-and-teeth/
Can You Use Baking Soda On Your Teeth?, by Dr Joseph Xuereb, 2018, https://www.savinadental.com/can-you-use-baking-soda-on-your-teeth/
Top 10 Activated Charcoal Uses, Plus Potential Side Effects, by Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DMN, CNS, 2019, https://draxe.com/nutrition/activated-charcoal-uses/
3 Essential Oils for Healthy Teeth, by Bryana, 2017, https://www.deltadentalwa.com/blog/entry/2017/05/3-essential-oils-for-healthy-teeth