When it comes to sustainability, some switches are easy (like deodorant and washable makeup-remover pads), but I always seem to hit a wall with toothpaste. Every time I squeeze a toothpaste tube, I think about its plastic body that will inevitably end up in landfill, along with millions of others, like the Colgate version of a Warhol Campbell’s soup collage. Most plastic can only be recycled once or twice, so even the few and far between “recyclable” toothpaste tubes will make their way to the landfill party eventually. But whenever I get excited about a new tooth-care brand that’s nailed its eco packaging and production, I usually discover it’s fluoride-phobic. I can’t compromise the health of my teeth in the name of biodegradable packaging.
Then, last year, Instagram presented me with a botanical-themed ad for a (prelaunch) sustainable toothpaste named Boca. Intrigued, but dubious, I clicked through. Here’s how it’s set up: You get a sustainably packaged duo of toothpaste tubes, one for the day and one for the night, and the company will throw in a bamboo toothbrush. You can opt for a one-off shipment or a monthly subscription. The real attraction? Though you can opt out of fluoride, Boca’s “with fluoride” option contains 1,350 ppm of fluoride. (For reference, the NHS says that toothpastes containing 1,350 to 1,500 ppm fluoride are the most effective.)
Boca’s “day” toothpaste contains a blend of botanical flavours to give an “energising” taste, like ginseng, rose, and mint (along with regular toothpaste ingredients like calcium carbonate, a standard mild abrasive found in toothpaste for removing plaque; organic glycerin, to stop the formula drying out; and hydrated silica, another standard abrasive and safe bulking ingredient). The “night” toothpaste contains the same key ingredients, with botanicals like chamomile instead, designed to be “relaxing” and “calming” as you wind down for the day. It’s worth mentioning that Boca is more watery than your standard toothpaste (due to the lack of sodium lauryl sulfate and bulking additives, which make paste foam).
It takes a second to get used to a reduced level of foaming action, but I got over this pretty quickly (when you’ve tried toothpaste tabs, a lack of foam is a breeze). Two additional points in its favour: Unlike with Johnson & Johnson’s Euthymol (a guilty pleasure for the aniseed taste), there was no stinging in the corners of my mouth or peeling skin under my lips afterward, and I wasn’t concerned about possible hyperpigmentation. (If you were unaware, SLS and foaming ingredients can cause contact dermatitis and inflammation.)
After two months of use, the real test arrived at my long overdue dental checkup. As soon as restrictions were lifted, I pounced at the first available appointment slot. My dentist confirmed perfect oral health as far as cavities and decay were concerned. And though I was initially dubious, the botanical “day and night” concept has grown on me. As someone who’s neurodiverse, I enjoy the play and switch between flavours to keep me engaged in an otherwise boring and monotonous task. I sometimes flip the day and night options, using whichever one takes my fancy, rather than sticking to their allocated time slots.
Since its launch, Boca has introduced a “reuse and refill” subscription system with two options. You can either send your tubes back in a free post envelope, and it will sanitise, refill, and send them back to you. Or, it can send you (biodegradable) pouches of toothpaste that you use to refill your own toothpaste tubes, after cutting the ends off and then resealing them with a nifty Boca clip. But I’m lazy — I opted for the “post back” option.
And a Strategist-recommended electric toothbrush
If you want to pick up an electric toothbrush, Pia Lieb, founder of Cosmetic Dentistry Center NYC, prefers Oral-B electric toothbrushes because they combine vibration and rotation to “remove particles that you can’t even see with the naked eye.” She likes that the Genius Pro 9000 features a pressure sensor that turns red if you’re brushing too hard and comes with a phone holder so you can follow guidance on the app while you brush.
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