A toothbrush for life?

Before the very thought of using one toothbrush for your entire life has you reaching for the Listerine, stop and consider: It might actually be wildly practical.

Like other hip personal services out there — Dollar Shave Club, Birchbox — the Goodwell Company has reinvented a key aspect of grooming: in this case, the art of brushing your teeth. Sign up as a subscriber and they’ll send you a new changeable bristle attachment every month. No nasty bacteria build-up — or waiting till your next dentist visit to get a freebie toothbrush to replace last year’s.

It’s a fresh perspective, considering the billions of plastic toothbrushes that probably get dumped in landfills each year. If you change your toothbrush every three months and live till you’re 80, that translates to hundreds of brushes in your lifetime. So why not hold on to one and just swap out the brush head? An obvious and good idea — that’s not exactly new. There are dozens of brushes on the market with swappable heads, from major players like Oral-B and Phillips Sonicare.

You can toss the changeable part of the brush in your garden and it will compost.

But what’s unique about Goodwell is you can toss the changeable part of the brush in your garden and it will compost. That’s because the brush head is made from a bamboo composite and the charcoal bristles consist of binchotan, a fiber commonly used for purifying water and air. The brush’s creator, industrial designer and engineer Patrick Triato, says he was inspired to use binchotan when he came across the material during a trip to Japan. (Triato admits the bristles’ black hue might present a challenge for Westerners.)

Dr. Vladimir Spolsky, a dentist and expert in preventive dentistry based at UCLA, told OZY he’d never heard of binchotan being used for a brush; and since no research data has been published, he’s skeptical about its effectiveness. Whatever the material, though, Spolsky says the main goal of brushing is to remove plaque or “biofilm” from our teeth. He says manufacturers have tried natural materials like pig bristles in the past, but they were damaging to the gums. Around World War II we started using nylon bristles; nowadays, brushes have become softer thanks to a variety of synthetic fibers.

OK, so the jury is still out on whether a sustainable binchotan brush is the optimal choice for your pearly whites, but from a design perspective, the Goodwell toothbrush looks pretty darn sleek. It costs $45 for a starter kit that includes the lifetime brush handle, compostable brush attachment, flosser attachment and tongue scraper attachment. Replacement attachments start at $14.99 for a three-month subscription; six- and 12-month subscriptions are also available.

“As a designer, I was kind of geeking out on what I can do with different materials and processes,” Triato said, adding that the brush handle might eventually connect to a fork and spoon attachment for camping. A data tracker to track your oral hygiene habits is also in development.

Bet you never thought your toothbrush could morph into a virtual Swiss Army knife for all your mouth.