That “free” toothbrush at my dentist’s office actually costs a lot
I had a dentist’s appointment today, one of those ones where the hygienist scrapes away the plaque on your teeth while asking you questions about your kids’ summer plans you literally can’t answer, then tells you to floss better. You know, the usual.
Except at this particular visit, I did something a little unusual. When my hygienist asked if I’d like a new toothbrush, I took a deep breath and said, “No, thank you. I’m switching to a biodegradable brush.”
And the world shifted on its axis.
Except, of course, it didn’t. But maybe mine did a little bit.
Look, I like free stuff as much as the next parent on a budget. I haven’t bought a toothbrush since ever: I’ve been privileged enough have dental coverage my entire life, and an additional perk of that coverage was the ritual of being handed a fresh new toothbrush, like a loot bag, at the end of each appointment. Sometimes, I could even pick the colour.
But stories about plastic — in particular, the ways in which single-use, throw-away plastic items have been cluttering our landfills and waterways — have been populating my news feed for months. And toothbrushes (like plastic drinking straws, or plastic-based cotton swabs) are a prime example of the scourge. Our dentists tell us to switch to a new toothbrush every three months. Even if you’re a slacker like me and stretch it to four, that still means chucking three hard plastic items into the trash each year, never to biodegrade. That might not seem like much, but multiply three by 37 million Canadians and that’s 111 million toothbrushes thrown into landfill each year. Approximately a billion brushes are thrown away in the United States annually — that’s 50 million pounds of waste. Roughly 3.5 billion brushes are sold worldwide each year — they all have to go somewhere, and that somewhere is usually landfill. It’s staggering to comprehend.