Do Gooder has been on a journey to provide alternative options for dental products since 2017. Dentist Nicky Francis of Do Gooder explains how it all began and talks about the types of products they offer.
Words Lara Wyatt
Good: Can you tell us how the concept for Do Gooder came about and how long ago this was?
Nicky Francis: Two moments started Do Gooder — one woohoo moment, one devastating moment. In the first moment — a lightbulb moment — we were busy throwing out another pile of plastic in our dental practice. This was when the concept of an ecobrush (bamboo toothbrush) and ecofloss (sustainable dental floss) came about. We decided at that very point to make small conscious steps to help reduce our wastage that the dental industry was creating.
Being a dentist it was essential that we sourced good products — products that were good for you as a user while being better for the environment. The second and turning moment [stemmed from my struggle] with seeing kids with terrible toothaches and simply awful oral hygiene turning up in the practice. They had taken days off school and were genuinely unwell. We always asked if they were brushing their teeth, then we followed immediately with the good dentist lecture, blah blah blah. Eventually, it was my assistant who said to me that these kids probably didn’t have a toothbrush. In a heartbreaking moment, I realised how many kids in our region weren’t brushing as they simply didn’t have a brush, or shared a brush in the family.
I had also spent time in the hospital environment where I was pulling out every tooth under general anesthetic (GA) on tiny children. That is truly devastating, I used to end up just sobbing after most GA lists. These kids were sick with infection and pain. Utterly heartbreaking to see, and right here in our own little patch of paradise. Our journey began as Do Gooder in 2017. We want to take steps to help in building healthy, sustainable practices in our industry, our lives and our community.
What was the process like when trying to source sustainable oral care options?
Toothbrushes and floss were relatively easy to find – finding quality ones was a lot harder. Obviously being a dentist, the quality was super important. I’m now adding to the range with ecochews, which is a waste-free toothpaste that we have designed and made here in New Zealand. We are now working on little inter proximal brushes and a dry mouth formula that we have developed. This has been a long and difficult process, but I’m starting to make some good progress now and am really happy with the products.
In the dental practice itself, we have made some great progress. We are going back to the old products that we used to use — things that are re-usable and sterilisable rather than the single-use disposable products that seem to take over everything. It has taken us awhile to source these products as they stopped getting made when single-use plastic took over. But slowly and steadily we are replacing the plastic waste. Obviously, we must be able to maintain cross-infection control. By replacing things like plastic drinking cups, suction tips, dishes that hold our materials, we’ve stopped using a huge amount of single-use plastics. We also use careful cross-infection techniques so we can recycle our paper sterilising wraps.
What options have you decided on that are sustainable and stand up to the challenge of oral care?
Our ecofloss with the refillable bottle has created a total zero-waste product. And it’s just fabulous to use. It makes you feel like you are doing good for yourself and the environment as you use it. The ecobrushes still have nylon bristles. We looked at various other options but they just weren’t good enough to also be good for your oral health. Watch this space as we will continue to work on this area to get a fully biodegradable product. Our ecochews, which are fluoride-free and fluoride-containing, are fantastic. There is no waste at all. They taste great and they are also cruelty-free. Small dentist side note: please use fluoride, it makes such a difference to your oral health and therefore general health.
Through Do Gooder, you donate to several charities. Can you tell us more about this and the charities you donate to?
This is the reason Do Gooder began. We are so excited about the difference it makes. We primarily donate to the dental therapists who are at the face of it all, in amongst the low-decile areas. These people are the most incredible people doing an incredibly difficult job. We need to recognise the work they do a lot more.
Some dental therapists and schools work on brushing in school programmes. This is something that I personally feel is really important, and would like to see a lot more of it happening. I do recognise that it is another responsibility that the teachers then have the burden of doing, and really it is again not something they should have to be responsible for. However, it is shown in studies to make a huge difference to kids’ oral health. And if oral health is good, and there is no infection or pain, they learn and thrive a lot more.
We also donate to other smaller charities and groups when we are approached. We have donated well over 13,000 brushes and will continue to donate. I would like to thank Countdown and all our other fabulous suppliers who have made this possible.
You have vegan floss options. Can you explain what makes this vegan and why other flosses aren’t?
We offer a vegan and non-vegan floss. Many flosses, including our silk option is made from Mulberry silk, which is made by a silk worm and therefore not vegan. It is however completely biodegradable. Other flosses that are around are either plastic, teflon or PLA, and therefore require compostable facilities or disposal in the general landfill. Whereever possible we will continue to provide vegan and biodegradable options.