Flossing

So the topic of today’s post presented itself to me a few days ago when I vowed to myself to floss more often, only to pick up my dental floss and realise that it had nearly run out. A bit inconvenient, but I decided I’d have a think about what was best to buy next before I headed down to Boots as usual!

What bothers me most about the dental floss I use is that it comes in a plastic container, which of course has to go to landfill once the floss has run out. Plus the floss itself is designed to be disposed of after one use. Just a quick search on Boots’s website found five pages of floss-related products, the vast majority of which – excepting an expensive Rechargeable Power Flosser – are disposable after one use.

My next thought is – is flossing essential? Unfortunately, as I’m not a dentist, I don’t feel qualified to answer this question, but I have made a mental note to ask my dentist the next time I see her. It would be great to know her stance on it, but then I’m sure that dentists have differing opinions on this anyway. Do you know what yours thinks?

So for now assuming that I would like to keep flossing, what can I do instead? I have found a great article written by Beth Terry of the blog My Plastic Free Life, which runs over a number of options (in this post she also discusses toothbrushes and toothpaste). They are American products, so if you’re not American they might not be available to you, but interesting reading to see the different options out there nevertheless:

Eco-Dent dental floss in a cardboard box

Eco-Dent:My choice, after weighing all the options, is Eco-Dent dental floss. It’s what I’ve been using for the past two years, and I really like it. Unlike any other brand of dental floss I have found, it comes in a recyclable cardboard container. That was the deciding factor for me. While there is a very thin plastic wrapper inside the box and two protective plastic stickers on the outside, the amount of plastic packaging is minimal compared to all other brands.

What’s more, the floss is waxed using 100% vegetable waxes rather than beeswax or petroleum-based wax. The Gentle floss contains enzymes that help break down food particles between the teeth. The Vegan floss does not, as those enzymes are grown on a dairy substrate. Either sounds great, right? Well…

The floss itself is made from Nylon. Plastic. But I’ve compared Eco-Dent to other brands of floss, and to me, it’s the best choice currently offered.

Radius: Radius natural dental floss is made from silk. If you’re vegan, forget it.  If you’re not (I’m not), you still have to consider the packaging. The outer cardboard box can fool you. Inside is a regular plastic dental floss container.

Tom’s of Maine: The floss is made from Nylon with a hard plastic container inside the cardboard box.

DenTek Natural Floss Picks: In addition to their plastic floss picks, DenTek has created an “eco” option: individual disposable floss picks made from compostable starch rather than petroleum-based plastic. According to the company, they will break down in 180 days at a commercial compost facility. And the FAQ on the web site includes a link to instructions for building your own compost bin if you don’t have a commercial facility nearby. It seems like a green idea. But when you dig into the reality of it, you find just more greenwashing.

Bryton picksBryton Picks: Okay, this option just seems weird. I had to post the picture from the site because I couldn’t even figure out how to accurately describe these things. Bryton picks are not floss. Instead, they are made from flexible stainless steel strips that you slide up and down between each tooth. The handle is made from plastic. On the plus side, the device can be cleaned and reused for up to a month, probably longer. But I simply can’t imagine them actually working in the way that dental floss is supposed to work — below the gum line and around the teeth.

I’ll ask my dentist and get back to you.

Glide and other mainstream flosses: They’re made from Nylon or Teflon (worse), come in plastic containers, usually inside plastic blister packs, and are synthetically waxed. So why even consider them?

After doing some reading, I’m really interested in trying the Eco Dent Gentle Floss that Beth recommends. I’ve found it available on Amazon so I might try it (incidentally, I have been feeling unsure whether I want to continue shopping from Amazon so much when I do shop, but that is a big topic so I will save it for another post!)

It’s disappointing that the Eco Dent floss is still made from nylon though – nylon is synthetic, and is made from petroleum products, so you can see why this might be one to avoid. But cutting down on the plastic packaging is a step in the right direction. If you’re more concerned about the nylon, you could try to find a product made of silk (see Beth’s discussion of Radius, above).

How have you got round this problem? Which floss do you use?

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21 thoughts on “Flossing

  1. I used to suffer from periodental disease and my dentist recommended floss for that reason. Then because of said disease I lost a tooth, had a bridge fitted, which made flossing more difficult and I stopped. Now,.I just push my electric toothbrush (I know, I know, but at least it’s more than one use) bristles under the gums and no more periodental disease.

    • I use an electric toothbrush too – I got it way before I started on my going green journey so I thought it’s best to keep it! Sorry to hear you had periodontal disease but great that your electric toothbrush is keeping it at bay 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

      • Thanks! I think there are cases when using plastic is justifiable but that is all the more reason why it is necessary to use it judiciously…

      • Yes, definitely. I used to have a disposable toothbrush AND an electric one(not sure why…!) But now I’ve cut the disposable one out so I feel I’ve saving a bit of plastic by just using the electric one 🙂 It’s an ongoing process 😉

      • Yes, and I feel that it cleans my teeth better too. Maybe there’s a better option out there, I’ll keep looking…

  2. I have given up on using floss as my teeth are too crowded to make this easy. When I wore braces (many, many years ago) my dentist had me use a waterpiik which uses water to force food from between and around the teeth. Here is their site http://www.waterpik.com/oral-health/products/ Yes, they are made from plastic but it’s not disposable plus the water you could then use to water plants etc so no daily waste from using this.

    As for Amazon, I have been feeling the same way lately. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the subject.

    • That’s interesting, I have never heard of a waterpik before but I will do some investigating! I will be paying a visit to my dentist soon so I’ll ask her about this. I had braces too, but I don’t remember any flossing recommendations. Also, nice to hear from someone who doesn’t floss – I assume that your teeth are fine without it then, which is encouraging!

      Yes, it’s been nagging at me for a while, the Amazon thing, but I do love that I can buy second hand books on it, so it’s a tricky one.

  3. What are your thoughts about Dr. Tungs Smart Floss? It’s the best floss I’ve found for how it works to clean between my teeth and I like it so much I actually floss more. Your dentist will likely support you flossing and as I’ve gotten older my teeth with crowns trap food, making flossing a must. I’m vegan, but Smart Floss is not vegan. The disk it comes in says it biodegrades in 5 years under landfill conditions. I plan to try your top suggestion next time I need floss.

    I also support using a tongue scraper for good oral health and I make my own toothpaste.

    • I haven’t come across that one, but thank you for the recommendation. I feel a little hesitant about the container, as biodegrading in landfill isn’t really ideal, but I do like that it’s naturally waxed 🙂 I’ll keep that one in mind if the Eco Dent one doesn’t work out.

      I’ve never used a tongue scraper to be honest though. And I would really like to make my own toothpaste but I have very sensitive teeth and I’ve been told that there isn’t a natural alternative to whatever they use in normal toothpaste to help with sensitivity. Have you found that a problem with your toothpaste?

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

      • I was using Uncle Harry’s tooth powder which is sold in bulk at my local co-op. Then last week I made my own by adapting a recipe, so I used 2 TB of Calm powder, 2 TB baking soda, 1/2 tsp real salt (mix those dry ingredients up) then add to 2 TB melted coconut oil with 5 drops of liquid stevia and 1/4 tsp peppermint extract. It is a remineralizing formula and I like it much better due to how it tastes and cleans. It seem mild, like it would be worth a try. Wish I could just give you a sample to try. I had those items on hand.

      • What’s calm powder? Not heard of that. Sounds like a great recipe though, if you’ve already got everything around already. Do you think your dentist will notice a difference? Maybe toothpaste should be my next topic…

      • Calm is a magnesium powder that can be bought at our local food co-op or via Amazon. It is used to help people sleep, regulate bowels and to supplement magnesium.

      • Ah I seee, thanks for the info 🙂 I’ve just got a sample of Toothy Tabs from Lush to try out, but making my own would be great (and cheaper!!).

  4. Your comments on electric toothbrushes are interesting as the dentist keeps trying to push me to get one and I’ve been rather reluctant – is yours a rechargeable one?

    • Yes, it’s rechargeable but the head is still disposable, which is frustrating. I think it cleans my teeth better than your average toothbrush but that might just depend on how you brush your teeth! Since I’d already had it for a few years I felt that keeping it is greener than throwing it away – what do you think? Do let me know if you get one or not! 🙂

  5. I like my Ecodent floss. It works really well. I too am disappointed that it’s synthetic though. I can buy silk dental floss but it comes in a heavy-duty plastic box and the amount of floss is so small, it seems like a huge waste. I’ll look for Radius. Thanks for the lowdown on floss 🙂

    • I really like it too, I’m so pleased that it doesn’t come in a plastic box. I’ll have to keep a look out for silk floss without the plastic, but, like you, I haven’t found any so far. No problem, thanks for reading 🙂

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