GOB SHITE

No, not gobshite, Gob Shite. Terrible stuff for wonderful teeth.

It’s a comfort, surely, to know that when Armageddon comes, we will greet the inferno with marvellous teeth. No tombstones needed; each grimacing skull will reveal 36 of our own home grown ones in splendid condition.

We’re dog-whistled into being neurotic about our teeth. Fear of not being kissably perfect is the Stuff Of Nightmares! Our hygienist gives us grief about careless brushing. Adverts for whiter teeth, veneers and crowns abound. Experts at distinguished institutions such as the Mayo Clinic assure us that oral health is essential for our general health. So far so good.

It’s the racks of gizmos and products for advanced tooth-cleaning that greet us at the supermarket and the pharmacy that I have issue with. If plastic straws and plastic Q-tips can be banned, why aren’t people hollering about these babies?

My last dental picks.

To my shame, I have a lot of Gob Shite. Look, here’s more.

My last green picky things.

I have been buying these unthinkingly all these years and God alone knows how much stuff is gone into the dump from my dental care routine alone.

The recent report in the Telegraph revealing that all our careful recycling is almost pointless should scare us into really re-thinking our use of ALL plastics. Yes, folks, much of our patiently sorted and recyclable waste is going to landfill and incinerators.

I feel particularly bad about the number of vibrating toothbrushes I’ve binned. Especially as until relatively recently, I never thought about taking the battery out first… (See my piece on why this is BAAAAAD practice!)

My last pulsar.

Mind you, I can’t really blame anyone who does bin these without thinking. WTF do these recycling symbols on the back of the packet mean?

  • The wheelie-bin with the cross through it is the symbol of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive of the EU. I read the Wikipedia page on the subject and it’s bloody confusing. But I think it means it has to be recycled properly – in other words, the battery has to be removed before binning it. This instruction should be in big black capital letters on the packet!
  • The initials CE apparently stand for Conformité Européene, which is French for European Conformity and means the gadget has passed certain tests expected in its category.
  • The third symbol is the most confusing of all, because a lot of people think it signifies that it means “recycle this”. Nope. This is called the Green Dot. (I know, it’s not green in the picture, another source of confusion…) This does not mean that the packaging can be recycled, will be recycled or has been recycled. It is merely a symbol used on packaging in some European countries and it shows that the producer has made a financial contribution towards the recovery and recycling of packaging in Europe. And no, we don’t have any idea how large this financial contribution might be, or whether they are taking steps to change their packaging. In other words, it’s meaningless. It’s just a feelgood symbol for the manufacturers, akin to the squillionaire banker who tosses 50p to a beggar and feels he has done his charitable best.

So what can we do?

Don’t worry, you won’t end up with teeth like this…
Photo by Mikael Kristenson on Unsplash

Ironic Toothbrushes

It’s sobering to think that every single toothbrush you have ever used is still out there somewhere, buried in landfill or bobbing about in the ocean.

We have to start buying bamboo toothbrushes. However, the ironic bit about these marvels is that the truly compostable ones are made with pig bristles, which is an anathema for vegetarians and vegans. Personally, I wouldn’t have a problem, but reports are mixed on their effectiveness. You can buy them here at www.lifewithoutplastic.com.

So the most effective brushes have nylon bristles. One make – Eco-Bru – actually recommends that we remove the bristles (recyclable BPA-free nylon) when the brush has passed its best and pop them in the recycling prior to chucking the brush. Oh Lordy, another task. I suppose they mean well and at least the handle won’t be around to haunt future generations.

Another irony – makers of sustainable toothbrushes got very excited about using Nylon-4 for the bristles. Nylon-4 is a petroleum based plastic that biodegrades in months. However, there are only a few manufacturers of nylon-4 around so ethical toothbrush makers are forced to use less friendly plastics. Brush With Bamboo uses only 38% nylon, the rest is made from castor bean oil. All hail, the humble castor bean! Who knew?

And a final irony – they’re not yet in all the shops so you may have to order them online – more packaging waste! However, although our local Boots doesn’t sell them, I found two in Superdrug yesterday. Only two, but it’s a start. I bought them both. Which I guess means that Bicester is out of bamboo toothbrushes.

These toothbrushes were found on Midway Atoll, a wildlife refuge in the N Pacific Ocean, approx 1,300 miles from the nearest city. Convinced yet?
Picture from Green Eco Services, awaiting permission.

The other truly organic way to clean your teeth is either with a neem stick or a miswak stick (pictured). Both are types of twigs that apparently contain hygienic properties ; you nibble off the bark, then chew the interior to loosen the fibres, and finally you brush your teeth. Sounds like an awful faff and I’m not sure I’m ready for them. You can buy them on Amazon, but most seem to come from abroad. More postage, more packaging.

I also came across something called a toothwak… it comes with replacement bristles which screw in and seems to be the only truly biodegradable brush. But I’m not sure I like the look of that see-through panel of film… looks like plastic to me!

You can buy the toothwak here – a knowledge of Turkish will help.

Toothpaste

Yep, we have to stop buying conventional toothpaste. Last year, leading brands in America alone sold 423,500,000 units of toothpaste. That’s 423,500,000 plastic tubes heading for the bellies of sea creatures.

This albatross died because its belly was full of our plastic waste. We have to change.
Picture from the Midway Film project, awaiting permission.

There are plenty of alternatives – all you have to do is search for “plastic free toothpaste” and a host of options will appear on your screen. I’m not going to list them all, but you could try Denttabs for instance. And Lush sell something called Toothy Tabs. Click on the links to purchase. And no, I’m not making money on your clicks.

Toothpicks

When I finally finish my stack of shaming plastic picks, I shall move on to these brilliant yokes which are made mainly from corn starch and are vegan-friendly.

I nicked this pic from The Humble Co. but since the link will take you to their shop, I don’t think they will mind too much.

Dental Floss

Yes, an awful lot of dental floss is made using plastics. It’s so depressing, really it is. And it comes in plastic containers. So we have to change. There are many options out there, however. Try The White Teeth Box; their floss is 100% biodegradable, and the little bottles are glass and metal.

Mouthwash

Entirely unnecessary if you clean your teeth properly. It kills the good bacteria in your mouth as well as the bad. And where does the bottle go afterwards?

An even better plan

Keep asking for these products in your local chemist and supermarket because at the moment, you can only get many these items by post. More bloody packaging! If they haven’t started stocking them, ask when they plan to do so. Ask if you can go on a list to be informed when they do start stocking the items you want. Nudge, niggle and nag.

What you will save

Um, probably nothing much financially. But the planet will be awfully grateful.

And finally…

Sorry there has been such a long gap since my last blog. I’ve been writing my musical and these pieces take a LONG time to research and write. And then there are two dogs to be walked… so to sign off, here’s a picture of the photogenic Miss Pips and her glorious plastic-free teeth. Meanwhile, do please keep sharing the blog, I’m hugely grateful for all help.

Piper: A Dentist’s Dream

Credit – photo at the top of a perfect smile by iamSherise on Unsplash and heavily cropped by me. Sorry!

7 thoughts on “GOB SHITE

  1. My dentist insists that the only way I can care properly is to use TePe Interdental Brushes – after brushing conventionally. I have explained to her that a single use plastic device is no good for the future if the planet and that – although precious to me, my teeth really count for very little in the grand scheme of things. I have wondered if she gets a payout for each recommendation.

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  2. Thanks Dillie, I’m loving this blog! Plastic is insidious. It’s bloody everywhere. Thanks for doing the research and finding some decent alternatives. It’s always a good read and it’s been really helpful too. There’ll be no more toothy related plastic in this house! Cheers

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  3. Evening Dillie,

    Thanks for the info on recycling symbols. Scarily I assumed that the symbol at the bottom meant that the packaging could be recycled!!

    I’ve turned into a eco evangelist, and during my last shopping trip, I tutted and shook my head about just how much plastic is out there and will eventually end up in landfill

    (FYI Theres not much in the way of bamboo toothbrushes in Aylesbury either…)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Do what I did. Have chemo, made my teeth all wiggly till most fell out, then got implants. Only top ones, I couldn’t afford both, but as I have quite an overbite no one notices my lack of a bottom set. No poking and flossing needed, just a quick scrub with a little toothbrush..
    Please don’t tell me they’re made of plastic ! Please,please don’t.

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    • It doesn’t matter if they are. It’s give you your smile back. I’m not anti plastic – it’s the most amazing stuff. And yours – if they are – are hardly single use plastics !!! There is no moral high ground here on this blog.

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