When I talk about avoiding packaging and having little to throw away, people consistently ask me about toothbrushes and toothpaste.
If they wanted to decrease their packaging waste quickly and easily, they’d do better decreasing obvious big things like bottled water and take-out. Instead they go with toothbrushes and toothpaste, things where a year’s supply adds up to less than one load of take-out packaging.
Five years into avoiding packaging, I’m still using up my stock of toothbrushes and paste from before.
My brother-in-law is a maxillofacial surgeon. He told me that as far as cleaning teeth, brushing does the work, independent of the paste. The paste is for taste and smell. If you search the internet for “how much toothpaste to use“, they tend to say a “pea-sized amount,” though I haven’t found a source for that amount. I suspect they don’t have one.
If you search for “no toothpaste“, you’ll find plenty of sites that say you don’t need toothpaste. One cited a source: “In a six-month trial published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, patients who first brushed their teeth with a toothbrush that didn’t contain toothpaste (and then with toothpaste afterwards) saw a 63% reduction in plaque build-up, and a 55% drop in bleeding.”
Since I still have toothpaste from before, I’m using up what I have, so I haven’t dropped to zero, but I find instead of a pea-sized amount, a rice-sized amount works.
When it runs out, I’ll try baking soda, since I have a box in my fridge and both my dentist and brother-in-law say baking soda works, as do many sites.
This instance follows a pattern I see a lot. People distract themselves from meaningful reductions by analyzing the wrong things.
They wonder paper or plastic instead of using neither. They research driverless cars or electric cars instead of biking. They wonder about plastic or metal straws instead of using neither. They ask how to handle toothpaste tubes instead of avoiding them.
I don’t know why I say “they.” I do it too, though less all the time, as experience shows me the elegance, simplicity, cost savings, and polluting reduction of using less stuff.
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