Dental Series: Bite’s Got It Right

This post is sponsored by Bite, a company dedicated to creating an oral-hygiene routine that is completely zero waste. This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

I heard of Bite about a year and a half ago, when I was first honing in on creating a zero-waste lifestyle. At the time I was starting to partner with companies such asPlaine Products and Bogobrush. I was intrigued to hear of a toothpaste company that was making a paste-less toothpaste. As the name implies, Bite sells toothpaste tabs that you simple chew. My first thought was, “Huh.”

What is Toothpaste?

Toothpaste (as we know it) was first invented by one of the nation’s most famous advertising executives in the early 1900’s who understood that for a product to sell, it had to be effective in creating a habit around said product. He was a very smart man who realized that it would be more successful to sell the feeling of fresh breath rather than the health benefits of brushing teeth. If he could get people to continually crave that minty fresh feeling, then he could get them to continually brush. If they create a habit of brushing their teeth, they will continually buy the product. The addition of a sudsy sensation convinced people that their mouths are actually clean when they use toothpaste.

What if I told you that the paste doesn’t do much to clean your mouth? Rather, it is the brushing techniques that one employs that really removes the plaque and debris from your teeth. It wasn’t until later that fluoride was added to toothpaste. However, fluoride also does not clean so much as strengthen the enamel. If it wasn’t for the fluoride, I would say that toothpaste has no benefit other than creating the mirage that you have a clean oral cavity.

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Things to Know About Fluoride

There are a few facts that we need to get straight regarding fluoride.

  • It has been proven to strengthen enamel.
  • It has been proven to reduce caries (which causes cavities).
  • It has been proven to be especially effective in improving the oral health of low income communities when it’s added to their water systems.
  • When ingested in high quantities, it has been proven to be highly toxic. (Any parent of any child who has ever accidentally swallowed fluoride can attest to this. At the dental office, they vomit before they even get to the door).
  • Some people can get behind fluoride use, others cannot get past the toxic properties.

Knowing that final point, I think that it would be wrong of me as a dentist to promote only fluoride toothpaste. It is important to make the habit of oral hygiene inclusive to different populations with different belief systems. Therefore, we must have alternatives to fluoride. Enter nanohydroxyapatite.

Nanohydroxy-who?

Nanohydroxyapatite is a long name that describes a man-made calcium crystal. It is bio-mimetic, meaning it imitates a naturally occurring component of our bodies called hydroxyapatite. Hydroxyapatite makes up 60-70% of bone and 90% of enamel, the outer protective layer of teeth. Nano-hydroxyapatite are essentially very small crystals that replace missing sections of minerals that have dissolved out of enamel or bone, thereby fortifying both.

It is widely known that bone and enamel are made of calcium, but did you know that free calcium is not something your body can use? Nanohydroxyapatite, however, is readily bioavailable, without any additional processing required. There are multiple studies that repeatedly show the potential that nanohydroxyapatite has in improving both dental materials (when combined with glass ionomers it greatly increases the resistance strength against biting and chewing forces) and tooth minerals.

The most exciting thing is that it has been shown to be more effective than traditional fluoride treatments, remineralizing enamel surface in as little as 10 minutes. Gel that contains this crystal also reduces sensitivity after a session of teeth whitening. Even early lesions which signify the start of tooth decay can be treated with daily use of nanohydroxyapatite. Its ability to stimulate bone growth due to its direct effect on osteoblasts explains why nanoHA is widely used in oral surgery, periodontology and implantology. Lastly, it does not induce toxicity or inflammation within our bodies.

Why Bite’s Got It Right

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Which brings me full circle to my original point. Bite’s got it right. Bite toothpaste recently launched a new summer flavor, Watermelon Hibiscus, that contains nanohydroxyapatite instead of fluoride. It also contains xylitol, which is a sugar substitute for sweeteners that I recommend to all my gum-lovers out there. The tabs come packaged in a glass bottle rather than a plastic tube, making it zero-waste. (They also have wooden toothbrushes that are vegan-free. cruelty-free, and extremely light – perfect for a biodegradable option when backpacking through the woods this summer.) Each bottle contains 62 tabs, which would last one month if you brush every morning after breakfast and every evening before bed.

Now, it doesn’t work like the toothpaste that you grew up with. When I first tried Bite, I did in fact think to myself, “Huh.” You take a tab and bite into it. My first thought was to swallow it like candy (perhaps it was the watermelon flavor that threw me off. I’m sure the mint flavor would be a bit different). For obvious reasons, you aren’t supposed to swallow it. Instead, you take a wet toothbrush and start brushing. The chewed up tabs dissolve, although you can’t expect the same sudsy sensation as traditional toothpaste. After brushing, you spit out the contents like you would with toothpaste. You may be surprised to find solid pieces of the tab still left, which is nothing to worry about. I have found that no matter how long I brush, not all of it dissolves. A trick is to chew it very well because the smaller pieces have an easier time breaking down once brushing.

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I know this all sounds weird. A dentist not forcing fluoride treatment. A toothpaste company that’s zero-waste. Tooth brushing without suds and minty freshness. Unfortunately, the man who first invented toothpaste, his name was Claude C Hopkins by the way, has got one thing straight. Pepsodent, his invention, created the fresh feeling and suds which revolutionized America’s relationship with tooth brushing. Prior to the early 1900’s Americans did not brush their teeth. Afterwards, they don’t feel clean without mint’s tingly sensation. And all I’ve got to compete with that are boring facts.

But you know what? Bite may be on the verge of something here.

If we can dissociate Americans from that nostalgic, socially-learned feeling long enough for them to understand a few things (such as brushing technique reigns supreme), maybe we can turn away from decades of sodium laurel-sulfate use towards zero-waste planet-loving, non-toxic body-protecting products that are good for both the environment and our health. Isn’t that what we are moving towards these days?

All I’ve got to say is, try it. With an open mind. Understand why it is that you are so tied to traditional toothpaste. Who knows? You may like it.

This post was sponsored by Bite. The information regarding Claude C Hopkins was from “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. To learn more about nanohydroxyapatite, you may find Ann Stomatol’s literature review published in 2014 a good read. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

The Ever-Growing List of Things I Have Given Up in the Name of Creating Less Waste

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Hearing about the environmental impacts of our everyday lifestyle choices can be a bit overwhelming. The realization that 300 million tons of plastic is produced each year, and that half of that is meant to be single-use can be very depressing. One may want to change that statistic, but it is easy to feel like the power of one is so small. I am here to tell you that it is not. Because the power of one turns to two and then to four, and so on. Imagine, if only 20% of the world’s population changed their consumption so as to create less waste, that would mean that there are 1.52 BILLION people who are consciously choosing not to use a plastic water bottle every day they go to work. Multiplied by the number of days in a year, and you can see the tremendous impact that may have. Extrapolate that to also forgoing plastic bags at the groceries, and to-go utensils at a fast food restaurant, and you’ve got a big dent in plastic consumption already. So we must try. I believe that each individual can contribute to a massive change.

Related Posts

The question is, “where to start?” That, itself, can be overwhelming as well. I am here to say that starting the process is very simple, and easy. You don’t have to go zero-waste like, TODAY. That’s very unsustainable, and will probably make you want to quit faster than anything. We want the change to be slow, but steady. Choose one change that you can make each month, or week, or if you’re like me, each day. Practice that change and if you slip up, no worries, you learn and you can continue on for the next time. We all have slip ups! And we also all have our limitations. If you try to implement a change and you REALLY cannot stick to it, then that’s fine. Try a different one. Maybe come back to it at a later stage, when you’re more well-versed in letting waste go. All I know is that over time, the changes become easier and easier. I want to show people that creating less waste is a simple act of being mindful of what we do. It is easier than most think, and has impacts more than just environmental, which you must discover for yourself. The only way I can think of showing people, is to make a list of things I do myself.

My tips?

Start with one.

Practice, practice, practice.

Have a reason, “Why”.

Be okay with failure.

Just try.


 

  • Plastic drink bottles – I now carry around a re-usable water bottle wherever I go. The reason is two-fold. First, I am ALWAYS thirsty. And second, you never know if you will have access to water sans plastic where you go. You can be going to a friend’s house and all they still have available is water packaged in bottles. So I take my water with me, everywhere.
  • Plastic Grocery Bags – Bring your own re-usable grocery bags. I was so happy when the law got passed that grocery stores will charge an extra fee for plastic bags, but I was unhappy at how little it curbed people’s habits. People’s number one excuse? “I accidentally leave it at home”. Do what I do, and keep it in the back of your car, always!
  • Plastic produce bags – I never package my produce in plastic anymore. I just grab my fruits and veggies and throw them right into my grocery cart. I also have two mesh bags to keep together bunches of stuff, such as brussel sprouts for instance. Anything that can be difficult to put on the conveyor belt at the check-out stand in one go. But mostly, I go without. Why do we need separate bags for our produce? Even the wet lettuce just gets thrown into the bin. It’ll dry on it’s own.
  • Paper Towels – I wrote about how I nixed paper towels by replacing them with rags. Even better, our rags are a collection of old T-shirts amongst us three roommates.
  • To -go cups – I carry around a Keep Cup in the back of my car at all times. Even though this is useful for coffee mostly, it can also be used for soda from a soda machine. It is actually my universal cup. The lid seals and I can throw it in my purse, even with liquid in there! It’s my favorite.
  • Frozen foods – There are some types of food you just can’t buy without plastic. Frozen foods is one of them. I have not bought frozen foods in over a year. The cost for convenience is just too great. And my health is better for it, too! In general, I try not to buy anything in plastic when we go grocery shopping. Plastic jars are traded in for glass jar alternatives. Meats and cheeses are purchased fresh and wrapped in paper. Pasta and bread and ice cream are made at home, using ingredients that could be bought in paper bags or glass containers. I even bring my own jar to get fresh squeezed orange juice, or cold brew, or peanut butter. The list goes on, here.
  • Plastic utensils – I actually carry around metal spoons, forks, knives, straws and wooden chopsticks in my purse, all the time. I have a utensil holder that keeps them clean and together, too.
  • To – go containers – I have been seen to pull out a tupperware from my purse to package the food that I don’t finish when we dine out.
  • Fast food, in general – This is another one that is better for our health. Fast food is typically wrapped individually, and sometimes contain plastic. We will break our fast food streak once every 2-3 months, to purchase things wrapped in paper, I suppose. But in general, even the paper we try to avoid.
  • Single use products for the menstruating person- I wrote about how menstruating persons should invest in a reusable cup, to get rid of single-use tampons and pads. It’s environmentally friendly, and cost efficient to boot!
  • Plastic covers and wire hangers from the dry cleaners – I am one of those people who goes to pick up my clothes from the local dry cleaners, and strips them off the of hanger and out of the plastic right then and there. They look at me funny, but never say anything. They take the hangar and plastic back for re-use.
  • Shampoo, conditioner, and lotion packaged in plastic bottles – I have switched over to Plaine Products, which packages toiletries in aluminum cans that are refillable!
  • Plastic toothbrushes – We have now switched over to exclusively Bogobrush toothbrushes, although I am open to try bamboo toothbrushes in the future.
  • Deoderant packaged in plastic containers – I buy deoderant in glass jars such as this. I wish it were refillable – I guess my next step would be to make some at home in order to reduce waste all together.
  • Gift wrap and greeting cards – I love the way a present looks wrapped up with a bow, all pretty and sparkling. But then I think about what happens to all that fluff once the present is unwrapped. Most likely, without a two year old to play with it, it would go straight to the trash bin. It’s true that we have cut down our gifting significantly, but even those few gifts that we give, they are now given without gift wrap, or covered in a linen napkin, if anything.
  • Gift cards – Money placed on plastic cards; ugh. If we are gifting money, we either write a check, or better yet, hand over cash, so as to avoid wasting a check.
  • Cosmetics – I never was into make-up. Luckily, I never feel the need to wear it. I have created a very minimalist make-up routine, and since then I have switched over to a traditional pencil eyeliner and an eyebrow pencil, which are sharpened to wee stubs, and which are essentially just wood. I used to wear mascara but when my last one ran out, I couldn’t find an alternative without plastic. So I have actually been going without, and no one has mentioned a thing yet.
  • Driving around everywhere – The best investment Mike and I ever made were two bikes. I guess you can’t call mine an investment, because it was a hand-me-down from my old man. But Mike bought a used one from Craigslist for $100. We have now made a huge effort to reduce carbon emissions by biking on weekends to our coffee shop dates, farmers markets, and groceries. Anywhere, really, that we could bike to.
  • Stuff, in general – I have less of everything, which then creates less waste. Why I ever needed multiples of stuff, I will never know. I used to have like fifteen water bottles, over fifty pairs of shoes, hundreds of articles of clothing and accessories.