Simple Swaps: Toothpaste to tabs

Written by Chloe Foreman

We're making good choices with our simple beauty swaps to save your pennies and planet...

The British toothpaste market is worth around £535.6 million, but did you know that almost none of the tubes can be recycled? We all love a breath that’s minty fresh, but who wants to contribute to the mess caused by these everyday items? Fear not. I’ve found a fresh replacement for you to try…

Toothpaste is one of the most difficult swaps I’ve had to face. Most bathrooms are a haven of plastic bottles and tubs, and to be completely honest, you probably don’t need half of what’s in there. But brushing your teeth is essential, and finding something that is not only effective but cruelty free, vegan, fresh tasting and environmentally friendly has been virtually impossible… until now.

These days, regular toothpaste comes in a mixed plastic and metal tube, which makes it easy to squeeze but extremely hard to recycle (although some companies such as TerraCycle may be able to take them). However, as a wet product, toothpaste needs to be kept sealed away from bacteria, so there are not many packaging options. However, as it turns out, toothpaste does not need to be a paste at all.

Teeth-cleaning powders and tablets are great alternatives to paste and they work in much the same way. The powder is simply sprinkled onto your toothbrush, while the tablet needs to be crunched around a bit inside your mouth. Both of these products will foam up in a similar way to toothpaste as you brush, and they come in a variety of flavours. Since powders and tablets come in dry form, there are lots more packaging options to choose from. They are available in glass jars, aluminium tins, paper sachets and even loose, if you can find them in a bulk store and bring your own container. If you do get a chance to visit one, I recommend purchasing a small number of tooth tabs so you can trial it yourself. Plus, these alternatives can be cheaper than name-brand toothpaste. The cost of making toothpaste itself is minimal compared to the cost of its packaging, so why bother paying for it when you can bring an old jar from home?

A word of warning: many natural toothpastes do not contain fluoride. Fluoride is a chemical that helps to prevent tooth decay. Fluoride has even been added to our public water supply because it is essential for children to consume it in order to develop strong teeth. Though you will find fluoride in most regular toothpastes, it is rare to find it in ‘natural’ toothpastes, due to the dangers of consuming too much. The two main dangers of consuming too much fluoride are dental fluorosis and skeletal fluorosis. Dental fluorosis only occurs in childhood but it can alter the appearance of teeth. Skeletal fluorosis is a bone disease that involves the accumulation of fluoride in the bone over many years, but it only really occurs in countries where people are exposed to high amounts of fluoride. This is not a concern in countries such as the UK, which strictly monitors the amount of fluoride in (or added) to tap water.

The decision of ‘with or without fluoride’ is for you to make for yourself, but most dentists will recommend toothpastes that do contain it. I have been able to find a brand called Dentabs, which tastes great (fresh and minty), has recyclable and reusable packaging, and it comes either with or without fluoride. Give them a try – whatever your preference may be, there is an alternative suit.