There's a hoary old urban legend about a high-level meeting of toothpaste executives trying to come up with an idea to sell more toothpaste. A lowly cleaning woman overhears the meeting and suggests her own idea - make the hole bigger.
Have you ever actually read the instructions on a tube of toothpaste? They say "Use a pea-sized amount". But the photograph on the box always shows a long "worm" of toothpaste on the brush - that's about four or five times as much as you actually need.
But don't take my word for it. Last night I picked the brains of a friend of mine, Geoff Taylor, retired Dean of Postgraduate Dentistry at the University of Manchester. I asked him whether toothpaste was necessary at all, or whether thorough brushing without paste would suffice. I've tried brushing my teeth without paste sometimes when we ran out. It tastes pretty nasty, as all the bits of stuff you brush loose are released into your mouth. Mint-flavoured toothpaste makes brushing much more pleasant. But once you rinse with water and eat your breakfast, it doesn't really make any difference -your mouth just tastes of coffee and corn flakes by then regardless of what you used to brush your teeth.
Geoff said that toothpaste is worthwhile, especially for children who should use a fluoridated toothpaste. But he pointed out to me that everybody uses far too much toothpaste because of the images used in marketing the stuff. He recommends that you spread your toothpaste across your brush, not along it, to get a pea-sized amount.
He also said that, in his professional opinion, mouthwashes were not necessary for dental health. And he told me that people should floss if advised to by their dentist, but it is not necessary for everyone.
You're not going to save enough money to retire early by using less toothpaste. Nor are you going to reduce your carbon footprint significantly. But it's a lesson in using your brain to reduce overconsumption without hardship. What else are you using too much of because of sneaky marketing? When you wash your hair do you always "rinse and repeat"? Then you're using twice as much shampoo as you need to. It's hard for a company to get twice as many customers, but it's quite easy for them to persuade their existing customers to use twice as much. Read the instructions and think hard - how much do you really need?
One final thought; have you noticed that toothpaste tubes dont stay rolled up nowadays when you get to the end of the tube? It says here that's so you can always see the whole logo.