It is infuriating that this product is supposed to be disposed of every three months, or so. Reducing our use of toothbrushes is not an option, except in cases where alternatives are available. Based on a Google search, there were a few alternatives, however the one I found most fitting is the aforementioned chewing sticks (see my posts on paste and floss). It seems the most popular root is the miswak, however I am sure there are a few other roots out there that are also useful in the same way. I find this is a great compromise if you prefer to reduce, but continue to maintain oral health.
If you prefer to keep using a conventional toothbrush, is reusing an option? First of all, I found on one link that the recommendation to change the brush every one to four months (depending on the dentist) has more to do with wear and tear than with sanitation. This makes sense to me, however I guess I do not brush overly forcefully, as my brushes do not seem to ever get used up. That being said, elsewhere, there were only hints about this, so I just might ask my dentist about this when I see him again. If this is true, some may have difficulty waiting as long as I might have to before changing it becomes necessary, due to the “gross factor”; at least in North America, there is a profound fear of bacteria (which companies profit from, more than it protects us). Because of this, it would be prudent for at least our peace of mind to clean our brushes regularly; and various options for cleaning exist:
– basic cleaning includes rinsing your brush before and after brushing, I would add that moving the bristles around with your thumb is a good idea, then make sure to store it upright, in a dry place
– soak the brush in vinegar, though I am sure other natural cleaners, such as baking soda and lemon could also work just as well, or some combination. A few authors recommend using commercial sanitizers, while others see no use in it; I personally would not touch them, as I do not know what ingredients these products contain and see no reason to increase my consumption unnecessarily. Anyhow, I tend to have natural products in my house that can serve as cleaners, such as those mentioned
– the last one I will mention is putting the brush on the top rack in the dishwasher when you run it. This is another one that seems to have opinions on both sides. If you trust the detergent you are using (I do hope it is natural) to clean your dishes, especially of allergens, then I do not see a problem with this option
When your brush becomes worn, then you can find alternative uses for your brush, many of which include household cleaning, some of which include arts and crafts. See below for a few of the links I liked and come up with your own ideas on what to do with your old brush! Now that I have already discussed prolonged usage and then mentioned that there are uses for your toothbrush afterlives, should I really discuss recycling options? There will be a point when you will no longer be keeping a brush, so what then? Can it be recycled? Depending where you live and which brushes you buy, these are not generally a recyclable item. If you want to throw it in your bin, then you will have to check what can be recycled locally. If you would like alternatives, there are various brushes made from recycled plastics, which can then be recycled. Also, biodegradable materials are used for some brushes, as well as some products which have replaceable heads, allowing for minimal disposal. Check out the links below for some reviews of these different options.
Personally, I will definitely continue to use a combination of the above cleaning methods to clean my current brush until it finally begins to show some wear. Afterwards, I am still undecided. I think my preference would be to start asking Ghanaians (or visitors to Ghana) to bring me some chewing sticks, since I know I like the taste of those and more importantly, they are completely biodegradable. If I start now, by the time my brush finally shows some wear, I should have enough to last me a while, at least until someone else brings me more sticks, or until I can get them on my own.