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How Better Oral Care Routines Can Save Our Oceans

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Did you know the oceans are home to over a million different species? They also play an invaluable role in the worldwide economy, supporting everything from fishing and boating to tourism and transportation. And they supply essential ingredients for products like pharmaceuticals, supplements, and cosmetics. You can't overestimate the value of the oceans, but you can take steps to protect them. Find out how adjusting your oral care routine can help save our oceans.

Why the Ocean Matters

Every year about eight million metric tons of plastic enter our oceans, most of which is single-use plastic from things like takeout containers and food packaging. This plastic never decomposes, so it wreaks havoc on marine ecosystems — damaging habitats, entangling and killing wildlife, causing navigational hazards, and even leading to economic loss for industries that depend on the ocean.

Unfortunately, you and your oral care routine play a role in this devastation. An average American will throw away over 300 toothbrushes in their lifetime, and billions of toothpaste tubes are created and sold annually. Most of this oral care waste and packaging will end up in either landfills or oceans. So what's a person who prizes their oral health to do?

Thankfully, any step toward limiting oral care waste and conserving water can help the oceans and our earth overall. Commit to taking one step today toward a more sustainable oral care routine.

How to Reduce Dental Care Waste

When you think about preserving the beauty and health of our oceans, reducing waste is a top priority. Start with some easy swaps for removing plastic from your oral care products.

Switch Out Your Toothbrush

Plastic-molded handles, nylon bristles, and soft rubber parts are typical components of the modern toothbrush — none of which are biodegradable. And if you're replacing your toothbrush every three months as recommended, your household can quickly go through dozens of toothbrushes each year. Thankfully, some options do exist for recycling your plastic toothbrush. However, look for these more sustainable options for the future:

  • Toothbrushes are made from more sustainable ingredients like bamboo, recycled plastic, corn starch, and wheat straw.
  • Toothbrushes with reusable handles and disposable heads, which can reduce waste by up to 80 percent.
  • Toothbrush bristles with recyclable nylon or biodegradable animal hair.

Choose Eco-Friendly Toothpaste and Floss

The toothpaste tube design hasn't changed much in the past 150 years, and the materials in each container make it extremely difficult to recycle. Recently, many brands have undertaken this challenge, resulting in several sustainable alternatives.

  • Toothpaste tubes made out of recyclable High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) make it possible to turn tubes into new things like construction materials or new packaging.
  • Toothpaste tubes made with reduced materials make them collapsible and reduce landfill waste.
  • Toothpaste tablets made with natural ingredients come in sustainable glass containers.
  • Eco-friendly flosses are biodegradable and made from silk, beeswax, or bamboo.
  • Water flossers are reusable and can replace plastic floss.

How to Save Water While Brushing Your Teeth

In addition to reducing the amount of waste in your dental products, you can also value the earth's water supply by reducing your water usage. Here are some ways you can conserve water during your oral care routine — because every drop counts.

  • Turn off the water while you're brushing. Sometimes the most obvious solution can have the most significant impact. You can save up to 64 cups of clean drinkable water each time you brush your teeth by turning off the tap.
  • Use a reusable cup. You might be surprised at how little water you need to brush your teeth. Fill up a reusable cup with just enough water to get your toothbrush wet before brushing and rinse it afterward.
  • Don't rinse after brushing. Did you know you don't actually need to rinse your mouth after brushing? In fact, it's better to let your toothpaste's ingredients — like fluoride — stay on your teeth and do the important work of remineralization. And as a bonus, you can conserve water, too.
  • Check your plumbing. While you're brushing your teeth for the optimal two minutes, you might also check to see if you have any leaky faucets or pipes. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, household leaks can waste nearly 900 billion gallons of water annually nationwide. So much water!

Check out even more ways you can conserve water while brushing your teeth.

How much water can you save by turning the water off while brushing your teeth? Up to four gallons.

Limiting your oral care waste and reducing your water usage might feel overwhelming, but start with baby steps. Even the slightest change can have a significant impact over time. And next time you're mesmerized by a baby turtle or relaxing on an immaculate beach, you can know you're playing an important part in saving our oceans.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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