The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
April 26, 2010

Plastic-Free Dental Floss? Not Quite.


DenTek plastic floss pick

Cool photo, huh? It’s a plastic DenTek floss pick. I see them all over the streets around here. Our litter bugs have good oral hygiene. Anyway, this one did not come from the gutter.  It is MY plastic floss pick. The Teflon (boo hiss!) tape finally broke last week after many, many uses. No, I wouldn’t buy plastic floss picks myself, but in a moment of desperation, having forgotten my own dental floss, I begged one from a coworker. I’ve kept it in my desk drawer at work and cleaned and reused it over and over again.

Now that it’s broken, I won’t be going out to buy a package of plastic picks with their toxic Teflon floss, even if they can be washed and reused over and over again. And I’m also not going to wash and reuse regular dental floss, as some uber-greenies have suggested. Any floss that’s tough enough to stand up to repeated uses is probably made of some scary material that I don’t want in my mouth anyway.

Here’s a run down on the choices out there:

Eco-Dent dental floss in a cardboard boxEco-DentMy 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.

  1. Most commercial facilities process their compost at a much faster rate than 180 days. At Jepson Prairie, the facility that handles San Francisco’s compost, the material is “cooked” for 60 days and then “cured” for 30 days. Would DenTek picks break down in that short of a time?
  2. The floss picks come in a big plastic bag, so there’s really no plastic savings there. The company advertises the bag as recyclable, but unless they are willing to take back that bag and recycle it themselves, it’s not likely to get recycled anywhere.
  3. The floss itself is Nylon, so where is the benefit over regular Nylon dental floss?
  4. The “natural” picks don’t work well. In short, according to reviews on and, they suck. Users complain that the floss doesn’t slide well and breaks too easily. So the argument can’t even be made for washing and reusing them over and over again like I did with my toxic Teflon pick.
  5. Way more materials and energy go into producing floss picks with their plastic handles (regardless of what the handles are made from) than plain dental floss. Unless there is some reason why you can’t use regular dental floss and must use a pick, I’d recommend skipping these.

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?

One Final Word

I’d love to hear your solutions for greener, less plastic dental hygiene. But I’m not willing to go to extremes to get the plastic out at the expense of my mouth.  Part of my goal with this blog/project is to find out just where my limits are — to learn what I am and am not willing to give up. The changes I make don’t have an expiration date. They have to be sustainable for a lifetime.

And one more word after that.

My dentist founded the Eco Dentistry Association, which supports dentists everywhere in finding greener ways to practice dentistry, from reducing unnecessary disposable plastic to finding less toxic treatments. Refer your dentist to the organization’s web site for more information.


The Green Office

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124 Comments on "Plastic-Free Dental Floss? Not Quite."

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I am also looking for alternatives for dental floss but I couldn’t find a more organic one here in my country (Philippines). But then I discovered this portable water flosser, called Pocket Flosser, in Kickstarter and I think it’s a great alternative! Water flossers works just as good, or even better, than dental floss. It’s basically water pressure pushing food debris (and even plaque) off. What’s great about this is that it doesn’t need any electricity or even batteries so you don’t have to worry about energy. It only requires easy manual hand pump to accumulate pressure then it’s just… Read more »

We have a product here in Australia. 100% biodegradable and vegan, haven’t looked in to it more closely though. Pearl Bars make them :)

STIMUDENT-Wood, minimal plastic packaging. Unsustainable point of interest: wood grown in USA, made in China.

That’s what I use. But they can’t get further up the tooth. I’ve been unsuccessfully looking for a floss holder made of stainless steel, bamboo etc. instead of plastic. None exist.

You are environmentally conscious about plastics but not vegan? So the environment doesn’t matter if a personal preference of taste (since it is NOT a necessity to eat meat) comes to question?

Plastic does very specific damage to the environment that is not equaled by anything else. There is no such thing as “responsible plastic usage.” Meat eating is damaging to greatly varying degrees, from very little damage to very much. As consumers we can make choices about what kind of meat we buy that greatly minimizes that damage. The same cannot be said of plastics. Also, animals are a very integral part of sustainable agriculture, so going vegan doesn’t actually address the role that animals must play in growing sustainable food.

Plastikfreie, vegane und kompostierbare Zahnseide? – Wasteland Rebel

[…] sein, bei der man zumindest an Verpackung spart. Es gibt keine Plastik-Box, aber stattdessen wohl eine Plastikfolie innen und Plastiksticker außen. Außerdem bekommt man gleich 90 m zu einem relativ günstigen Preis von 8,40 €, was 0,93 € pro […]

Natural Cures for Gingivitis - Root + Fettle

[…] very many natural dental floss options that are plastic-free and eco-friendly! Check out this post for some insight into plastic free dental […]

oh, and as far as toothpaste, this stuff is amazing, except going the wintergreen route is by far the best, b/c it’s got that rootbeerish taste while still being minty, but isn’t so harsh on the tastebuds, so you can actually eat food right after no problem. you can use the recipe below as a starting point, and just look at the photo of the earthpaste container online to see what ingredients are in the wintergreen flavor. it really is the best. the xylitol does come in a plastic bag, but it lasts a long time. or maybe someone knows… Read more »

has anyone ever tried just using cotton sewing thread? i saw someone online mentioning it. i am still using regular dental floss, but thinking maybe i can switch to cotton thread… i bet that it being more abrasive is actually helpful. now i just wonder if i can get it between my teeth without it breaking? hmmm… even if i can’t, and had to use the polyester sewing thread, it’s still a lot less packaging than dental floss. oh, and i am going to switch to using licorice root as my toothbrush!

Have you considered Stim-u-dent? They are biodegradable wooden picks made from managed US forests and even the packaging is compostable/recyclable. No plastic involved whatsoever :)

Argh! So I just received my order today, and, instead of receiving the refill spools packaged in cardboard boxes that I ordered, I received 200-yard spools in plastic dispensers! >:[ They didn’t even call me before shipping to let me know about the change. Made in China, too, so probably extra toxic. In the future, I will buy POH’s refill spools since POH specifically aims to reduce plastic packaging (so I know they won’t switch things out from under me). Their floss is made in the USA, too.

Dental floss are not good for your gums, they can harm them and They are not necessarily doing a good clean up.I use a device calles “Silonit”, it’s a local product in my country (but I’m sure there is other companies that manufacture such a product). basically it cleans your teeth with the water pressure, “Silonit”=jet. And it is an excellent cleaner and you can see and feel a difference. but .. there is waste of water and it is made out of plastic (although I’m with my Jet years!)

Why can’t floss be made out of cotton?

Shortly after I posted my previous comment, I decided to buy 200-yard spools of unwaxed nylon floss (the kind typically used in dentist offices). It’s nylon floss, but that’s the same as any other floss (unless you buy silk floss) and better than toxic PTFE floss. I buy unwaxed floss, so I don’t need to concern myself over whether it was coated with plant- or petroleum-based waxes. Additionally, each spool is packaged in a cardboard box, and I reason that I am reducing packaging by buying 200-yard spools. It’s cheap, too!

I just discovered POH NoWax floss. It’s a nylon floss that comes in a hard plastic case with a metal screw top. You can buy refill spools though, so you don’t have to worry about discarding plastic/metal cases every time you need to replenish your dental floss. The refill spools are sold in a cardboard box (three 100-yard spools per box). According to The Soap Dispensary’s September 2012 review, each refill spool is wrapped in paper tissue, but I think it’s possible that “paper” could be polypropylene. I am not sure about that or the cylinder around which the floss… Read more »
Plastic Free July: The End! | The Green Lips

[…] floss. A quick google search came up with a few options for less-plastic or even zero-plastic alternatives — something to keep in mind when I run out of my existing […]

You can buy or make an essential oil blend that is a very healthy option to replace toothpaste (use oil blend straight on your toothbrush) and mouth rinses (use with a mouthful of water or whatever other liquid you prefer) and to enhance the effectiveness of any floss or toothpicks you are using (just touch the dropper lightly to your finger and rub the floss or pick). If making your own, remember that it is important to store them in either dark brown or (to be super-protective) to use a Violiv purple glass bottle, and a dropper top. If you… Read more »
I make my own toothpaste using bentonite clay, arrowroot powder, coconut oil, and a few drops of peppermint, cinnamon and eucalyptus oil, plus a little birch xylitol. I ignore the recommendations about toothbrushes and use mine until the bristles start to seem broken, dipping it in Everclear to keep it germ free. Lasts about a year. I’d be willing to switch to the recycled plastic one you mention, imho the other options are just a lot of green hype. I don’t bother with mouthwash, and use doubled cotton thread for dental floss. Does come with a plastic spool these days,… Read more »

There are 100% Biodegradable and Vegan toothbrushes readily available on the market, most commonly Bamboo-based! :)

Dentist: Dental Floss | Obibini Bruni

[…] this post, I learned that some people wash their floss and reuse it, however I quite agree with MyPlastiFreeLife‘s statement that if the floss can live through repeated uses is likely made of materials […]

Thanks for a great blog idea. May I suggest a few ideas: Using a miswak (a tree twig-wiki) instead of a toothbrush. Using toothpowder instead of a toothpaste, I suppose since they’re not pre-mixed with water they come in smaller packages with more # of uses. Using Hydrogen Peroxide (mix 1:1 with water) instead of mouth wash. I hear mouth washes can harm the digestive and immune systems by killing too many good bacteria and H2O2 is supposed to be healthier (I haven’t actually verified this rumor). And about dental floss I’m in the search myself, but did you know… Read more »
Flossing | Every Week is Green

[…] 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 […]

It’s not hard to make your own toothpaste. If baking soda is too harsh you can use bentinite clay or salt instead or just leave it out all together. I’m using a mixture of calcium carbonate, coconut oil, baking soda, and essential oils. It’s cheap to make and so far been very effective for me.

Right now, I’m using baking soda with added essential oils: peppermint, tea tree, cinnamon, and clove. After brushing, I mix some with water to rinse and gargle. It’s great.

As usually very good information i used to use A. Vogel Herbal Mouth Wash besides being in a glass container it was great mouthwash but the last time i check it is no longer available so will check out i have used Eco-Dent floss for years and love it. But i had avoided bamboo toothbrushes because of the boar bristles. i am sure you are very busy but hope you will update this blog to promote the great work of Brush With Bamboo as other vegans might be more open if they saw an alternative without boar bristles (i have no problem with using used… Read more »

Hi.  Sorry… I know this comment is a few months old, but I just discovered it in my spam folder.  Anyway, I wanted to let you know that since this post was published, I did review Brush with Bamboo.  Here is the review:  /2013/08/brush-with-bamboo-is-my-new-favorite-toothbrush/

As far as mouthwash goes, I use coconut oil once a day, swishing for roughly 5 or 10 minutes and have noticed a definite improvement in my teeth since I started.  Coconut oil is known for having great antibacterial and antifungal properties.

This may not be as effective, but one alternative I’m used to floss is Stim-U-Dent plaque removers.  They are small wooden flexible sticks.

So, I”ve read that the fluoride and the glycerine in many toothpastes actually prevent a tooth from remineralizing;  and some who used nice, healthy oils in their homemade tooth cleaners found better tooth healing after leaving them out.  And easy does it on the baking soda, per some, as you don’t need to scrape off any more enamel.  Google Dr. Judd or Dr. Phillips on “blotting technique” and “good teeth from birth to death.”  Fascinating.  Saliva and a tiny touch of essential oil may be all that is needed on a daily basis, with weekly or monthly baking soda polishing.

Plastic-Free Ericka Moderator

@Livia Interesting, thanks for sharing!

Thanks for the post..It is really great. There are also non-toothpaste brushes called ionic brushes that use
titanium dioxide to kill bacteria around it. Kind of amazing if they
work like the tests show. anyone could tell me about

davidrose Here’s a study comparing sonic toothbrushes and ionic toothbrushes.  These researches found the differences to be insignificant.

As for floss, possibly consider something like the sonicare airfloss? it’s expensive and plastic, but you’d be able to use to for a long while

Hi there,  I am from Germany and have found a plastic free dental floss in an online shop that also ships internationally.  It is rather pricey in that particular shop but there are others that sell it cheaper, at least here in Europe. Maybe there are shops like in the US as well who carry that brand. It’s called “Le Négri” dental floss. It is natural finish and comes in a metal tin.
I am not sure if I can post links here but if so this is what it looks like:

@Daniela Hi.  Do you know what the actual floss is made of?  The page does not say if it is Nylon or cotton or some other material.

Hey Beth, it is made from pure silk.

Please update on the Bryton Pick. I’m looking into getting them since my boyfriend uses those ‘hard to reach angle’ floss picks 10+ times a day. Please review them, or at least let us know if your dentist thinks they’ll work like floss. Thanks!

Hello. I found this post while searching for some way to cut down on the huge amount of plastic floss casings I use that I seem to drown in sometimes. It’s sad that there aren’t that many options out there…barely anyone who doesn’t use them. Thank you for making such a comprehensive post and helping out my search.

Is there a problem with beeswax? I was planning on making some beeswax coated cotton sheets to use instead of plastic wrap this weekend

Instead of using the plastic throw away floss pics I find that using a re-usable floss holder is a great solution. Their are a few of them on the market, but I find the E-Z Floss brand to work well for me. It’s small enough so easy to travel with but I can still get to the back of my teeth. It doesn’t solve the “floss problem”, but it can be used with any kind of floss. I have a friend who recommended this one who claims that he has been using it daily for more than 10 years. To… Read more »

I am also considering green dental floss, and am going to experiment with sinew/cured animal tendons.

I was trying the baking soda toothpaste recipes and they didnt work for me as well – too hard on my teeth and taste is bad. I ended up making the toothpaste out of white clay powder – it is much softer and healthier basis. I just add tea tree and mint essensial oils for desinfection and smell/taste. Thanks for the floss review!

Hi, I have been searching forever for reusable or natural alternatives to floss and dental hygene. I love the idea of using the strings from Agave leaves to  floss plus they are stronger! If someone could market this idea it would be amazing. Here is a video of a man using the Agave string to floss.   There are also non-toothpaste brushes called ionic brushes that use titanium dioxide to kill bacteria around it. Kind of amazing if they work like the tests show.   Then of course as you know Miswak from Peelu or Neem tree are… Read more »

Here is the link I meant to post  to the ionic brushes that use titanium dioxide

Hi, I have been searching forever to find a good natural or reusable floss.  I love the idea of harvesting floss from Agave plant. The leaves can be stripped to make strings that are stringer than dental floss and totally natural, if someone marketed this it would be amazing, I would  buy a pack every month. Video of someone flossing with Agave strings Also Miswak sticks from the neem or peelu tree are a time tested natural way to clean your teeth, I wish i could find some that are not individually wrapped  in plastic. Also check out these… Read more »
Hi, I have been searching forever to find a good natural or reusable floss.  I love the idea of harvesting floss from Agave plant. The leaves can be stripped to make strings that are stringer than dental floss and totally natural, if someone marketed this it would be amazing, I would  buy a pack every month. Video of someone flossing with Agave strings Also Miswak sticks from the neem or peelu tree are a time tested natural way to clean your teeth, I wishIi could find some that are not individually wrapped  in plastic. Also check out these brushes..they… Read more »

My solution to the the dental floss problem is to reuse. But, my husband refuses to do so. We find dental floss at church rummage sales at the end, when it’s fill a sack for $1. By that point, if the floss hasn’t been purchased by someone else, it would likely be pitched anyway. When the floss is finished, we pull off the metal cutter and recycle it, and recycle the plastic case. We haven’t had to buy floss from the store or take samples from the dentist in many years.

I have a nail brush with bristles apparently made from cactus thorns. The bristles are surprisingly soft, and really gentle on my sensitive skin.
If they can use them for nail brushes, surely they would work for toothbrushes too…
Anyway, you should consider making your own toothpaste. There are recipes online! 

I use the “Environmental Toothbrush” ….made from bamboo and polymer, which they claim is totally biodegradable. They come wrapped in paper in cardboard boxes. I stopped using any toothpaste and haven’t noticed a difference in whiteness. For a mouthwash, tea made from fresh thyme leaves is ok (and not as awful tasting as I thought it might be).

My dentist here in France laughed at me when I mentioned using floss everyday, saying that that is so American. Flossing is not common in France! My dentist doesn’t use floss himself. There are just some practices that we, Americans, have gotten so used to, we don’t even question them anymore. Same goes for mouth wash; if you want to use one, make your own with some water and a few drops of tea tree essential oil (or another antiseptic essential oil like lavender).

How do you buy the dental herb tonic? is it possible to do so without a dentist? it’s just mouthwash, right?

Hi Dora. This particular mouthwash is only sold through dentists, unfortunately, so you would have to have your dentist order it for you. I actually haven’t been using it lately because I want to avoid the plastic cap and the plastic label.

I was also skeptical about using the Butler gum stimulator in place of dental floss, as recommended by the Zero Waste Home. In the hopes of reducing waste, though, I decided to give it a try. After six months, and a follow-up visit to the dentist’s office, I have to say that it really does work. My dentist even marveled that my gums were healthier this time around. There’s a trick to using the stimulator tool correctly as a floss substitute: you have to remember to guide the rubber tip around the entire gumline (front and back of each tooth),… Read more »

I don’t think the rubber doodad mounted on a holder is for flossing – I think it’s for stimulating the gums. I love that thing with a passion, but still need to floss.

Damn those bad tooth genes!!

Check out the zero waste home bathroom. She had plastic free alternatives. Also read the comments someone talks about a compostable toothbrush.

Why not just use a heavier thread for dental floss. You can buy it at a sewing store on a wooden bolt.

My husband and I have been using Tooth Soap for years, and just recently we tried the (more accurately named) Tooth Shreds (from Rose of Sharon). Tooth Soap comes in reusable brown glass jars with plastic lids. Tooth Shreds comes in metal tins. Both are bits of soap, already shredded. You take out one shred and bite it, then scrub it with your toothbrush until it foams up. Because they’re already shredded, there’s little or no hygiene problem. Using soap is a different experience from using toothpaste, but it’s one I’ve come to prefer. I don’t mind the slight soapy… Read more »

Floss is something i use regularly but completely overlooked in my weekly challenge total.
thanks for the less plastic ideas, although i will use up what i already have first.
i have tried Tom’s toothpaste (and originally picked it for it’s non-plastic tube) but my husband complained about the taste.
We are currently using Jason ( Sea Fresh, but will probably switch back when it’s gone.

HI Veena. These days the Preserve toothbrushes come in a plastic mailer envelope that you send back to the company with the brush. They told me that they recycle both the brush and the mailer. As for those that still come in a box — the box is made from tree cellulose, not petroleum-based plastic. Still, it is a lot of packaging, isn’t it?

yea, but what about the plastic box that the preserve toothbrush comes in….seems like a big bummer and waste….is it recycled also, is it recyclable?

i struggle with this one myself as a person striving towards a plastic free life.

and i do pretty well.

toothbrushes are hard, i think, if only i could grow neem then i could do like they do in india and simply use a twig to brush my teeth…no waste.

I make my own toothpaste and keep it in a glass jar with a metal lid… first it took a while to get used to the flavor(because of the baking soda) but after just a couple of weeks I was in a situation where I had to use regular toothpaste and you know what?….it was disgusting. I found that I could hardly stand the taste of regular toothpaste because it tasted too sweet to me. I love my toothpaste, it’s plastic free, doesn’t have any odd or ingredients, fast and easy to make, and cheaper in the long run too!!… Read more »

hmmnnn, I’m definitely going to have to read more of the posts I’d missed as a relatively new visitor. there is so much to think about! I had jumped from here to add ecodent to my cart, came back to read more and find the product has more plastic than you thought. will have to research more…would definitely like to find an alternative to the little plastic container types of floss.

Eco-Friendly Dental Hygiene « Eco Lesbo Vego

[…] toothpaste tube that Beth Terry of Fake Plastic Fish uses in her very comprehensive post entitled Plastic-Free Dental Floss? Not Quite, but again, I’d have to ship it from the USA and I try not to do that. Buy local, […]

I am giving a DIY Dental workshop tomorrow! WHAT: Natural Dental Care Workshop WHEN: Monday September 20 6 to 8pm WHERE: Anarres Natural Health, College and Ossington REGISTER: In my new workshop by request, Natural Dental Care, we’ll discuss the germ, decay and odour fighting properties of essential oils, explore deodorizing and whitening ingredients and carriers and how they “work”, look at natural tooth and mouthcare products and earth friendly options, then you’ll make a custom mouthwash and breath freshener, plus a custom tooth paste or powder to take home. I am going to point the participants to this… Read more »

I forgot to mention that I was given a pick sort of instrument with a rubber tip to use to poke around the gums in between teeth, front and back sides. Has anyone any option on these?

As I just recently found a great dental hygenist, I learned that my mostly vertical action of floss doesn’t clean properly. Probably most know that the floss should be moved to follow the path of the teeth, moving the floss down the side of one tooth, into the valley of gum and a little way up the next tooth. Then reverse directions, starting at the top of the next tooth, back down into the valley of gum just in. BTW I’ve never used those throwaway flossers; now that I’m flossing with more awareness I don’t think they’d be as controllable… Read more »

Dear Beth check this out

I personally know the product and its pack is made with biodegradable paper or with BOPP (Plastic and paper).

The paper one is absolutely amazing!! and very green.

Okay, so I have looked at the product on a desktop computer now. Is each individual length of floss wrapped up in a separate package? I’m honestly trying to figure out how it’s green because if it’s what I think it is, it will create so much more packaging waste than one box that contains 100 yards of floss.

Hi Andrea. It looks like the floss comes in plastic containers? Is that right? I am looking at it from my mobile phone so maybe I’m not seeing the picture properly.

Dear Beth and all, I am a freak when it comes to Green oral hygiene. I found this amazing product that is currently being sold in Latin America. Is a Single use floss sachet made of biodegradable paper and you can have it with natural silk or nylon. I emailed them about the product and they mentioned that are currently in the process of experimenting with other natural fibers to replace the nylon. They use Natural flavors. I bought a pack from their American Distributor (Fresh & Go) – Try searching single floss sachets and they are great. I think… Read more »

I make my own mouthwash. Take an old bottle and lid that you can reuse. Add a teaspoon of salt. Add a couple drops of essential oil (I use peppermint and eucalyptus). Add water and shake. My dentist recommended salt water as a mouth rinse because it kills germs.

It is worth learning about Weston Price’s experience in dental hygiene. He was a dentist in the early 1900s who traveled the world to find people with healthy teeth and find out why “modern” humans had such unhealthy teeth. He found that people following a traditional diet inevitably had healthy teeth, generally without any need for floss or toothpaste. Why? Well, look into it. But it comes down to diet: raw, full-fat milk from animals on pasture, animal products from healthy animals, traditional fats, foods from the ocean, and fruits/vegetables from highly mineralized soils, and cultured/fermented foods. sunshine, a good… Read more »

how about using a Miswak? (aka Siwak)
this is a certain type of twig that is chewed on traditionally used by Muslims
you soften it up by chewing on it and the fibers spread out and go between your teeth, has been used for centuries

I have no affiliation with this site, I just want to save myself some typing:

unfortunately when we go to buy them now they come in a plastic sheet, guess everyone is paranoid about microbes, but if you start to look around, maybe some ethnic food shops, you can find them bundled

Great article, Beth. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I stoppped using Toms of Maine once they were bought by Clorox. I’m trying out some homemade recipes for myself and other brands for hubby who isn’t ready to leave commercial toothpaste. Have you found other toothpaste brands that have a non-plastic tube? I can order my things from a Frontier Coop. So, it’s sometimes difficult to see packaging before buying. I did find an all-natural, vegan dental floss on a cardboard spool, in a cardboard box while in Santa Cruz last year. I’ll try to track it down again for… Read more »

Wow, Zo, if you can track down that dental floss, I would love to know more about it. I just discovered yesterday that in addition to the little plastic baggie inside the Eco-Dent box, there is also a plastic spool.

I don’t know of other toothpaste brands in metal tubes that can be recycled. But I’m always open to hearing about other options.

I was wondering when this was gonna come up. I read a post about someone not being able to find a plastic free floss and I also suggested using thread. I can only assume silk would work better since that’s what people used to prefer. But is there any way of knowing what the thread was treated with unless it states that it’s unbleached and undyed? And even then, would it be sterile? Eco-Dent’s website says this about silk: “Silk production involves chemical sterilization and can be dangerous and involve child labor.” Radius’ website has this to say about child… Read more »

Wait, who says you have to kill the boar to harvest the bristles? Can’t you just yank some out, like shearing a sheep for wool? Maybe I’m wrong.

“On my naming day when I come 12 I gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly ben the las wyld pig on the Bundel Downs any how there hadnt ben none for a long time befor him nor I aint looking to see none agen.” — Russell Hoban, “Riddley Walker”

Great timing! I recently found Radius silk floss and love how it works on my teeth. I have very close spacing. I just emailed the company to ask if they would start selling refills. The floss container is a very sturdy plastic and could be re-used for a long time. Maybe I should modify my request that they offer refills, wrapped in paper (not plastic) and on cardboard spools, not plastic. I just got out my 100% cotton sewing thread to give it a try. 1st try without beeswax: broke. Wouldn’t even go between my teeth before it broke. 2nd… Read more »
Great post, Beth. Like Melanie, I’ve wondered about taking cotton thread and running it over beeswax, which is supposed to strengthen it, and using that for floss. When I’ve used up the flosses I have all over the place, I’m going to try the thread. Carefully, though…it could cut the gums, I think…or maybe only the nylon thread would do that. I’m thinking of doing a ‘send back your used toothbrush attachements’ to Braun. I love their electric toothbrush, and I use the brush attachments until the bristles are all spread out, because I hate throwing those things in the… Read more »
Lara, I know nothing about Amway. I just know that if their products come in plastic packaging, I would not buy them. Crap. I should have mentioned my plastic Invisalign retainers that I wear every night of my life. I do know that Invisalign is BPA-free. However, what other chemicals could be in the plastic, I don’t know. Ironic, isn’t it? But without the retainer, my teeth are so crooked, I can’t clean them properly. I should post a pic of what they looked like when I was a kid. Maybe I’ll wait until Halloween because it’s scary. Heating plastic… Read more »

Lara, I have a similar worry. I have to wear a night guard because I grind my teeth–if I didn’t, I’d lose all my teeth because of gum recession. Our new dentist does only night guards made from a thermal plastic that has to be heated up before you put it in your mouth. (!!) Every time I put that puppy in my mouth I cringe. Heating plastic? DNW.

I may switch to Eco-Dent, though.

I too am worried about the plastic retainer I use at night. I read you use one too (tought perhaps of a different material. Mine is hard and transparent plastic). Have you asked your green dentist about the possibility of leaching chemicals? I’d like to know if it’s better to get a new retainer as often as you can, to avoid the old chewed plastic in case that it gets easier for it to release the chemicals; or maybe new plastic is loaded with chemicals because they haven’t “washed” into our mouths. Scary :( One of my friends has started… Read more »

Hi Mitty.  Maybe my teeth are too close together.  I couldn’t get the stimudent between them.  Or maybe I’m doing it wrong.

The Stimudents are easy to use; you just poke it straight between your teeth up near the gum line and pull it straight back out. They are very effective. I’m not sure where the wood comes from–it seems logical that they might be made from scrap wood from another manufacturing process, but that may well not be the case.

Kelli aka KirkBerserk

Hi Beth!
Hooray! I’ve been wondering for the past year what it is you do for floss! It’s actually when I’m flossing my teeth that I end up thinking about your site the most, mostly because it’s when I start feeling guilty about my plastic floss. I couldn’t fathom the thought of NOT flossing (although, I took quite a break in the beginning of my eco-frenzy), but I didn’t know what alternatives there were. So thank you for giving me the breakdown on the best flosses! :)


Thanks for the link on the genetic factor in oral health. I always suspected that was the case!

Dana, I forgot to mention before that unlike Leanne who apparently inherited great genes, I inherited crappy ones when it comes to my mouth. My paternal grandmother had all her teeth out in her 50’s and wore dentures for as long as I knew her. My maternal grandmother kept her teeth but had to have massive amounts of dental work to save them. Both ate very healthfully and brushed regularly; however I don’t remember ever seeing floss in my maternal grandma’s house. My parents have both flossed and used a water pik after being diagnosed with gum disease, and were… Read more »
I hate those stupid picks!  They always give little packets of them to my kids free at the dentist (along with a toothbrush, a plastic tube of colgate and stickers, all in a vinyl bag).  Last time my husband took my son, I instructed them both to say “no” to the goodie bag (I said they could take the toothbrush, though, since he’d need one of those anyway)…they misunderstood and left the bag behind, but brought home the picks, paste and brush.  Grr.  I do love Tom’s and Gentle Floss, and I’ve been saving up old toothbrushes for years, hoping… Read more »
Hello! First time commenting, but I’ve been reading for ages… I am sitting here with a Radius sourced toothbrush in one cart and a Preserve toothbrush in another, and I can’t decide which of the two to get. Beth, you obviously prefer the Preserve though still recommend the Radius. I have no special toothbrush needs and so my only concerns are 1) environmental and 2) pricing (spouse and I are both unemployed). Since the replacement heads on the Radius aren’t too much cheaper than the Preserve brushes, the price issue seems to be sort of a wash. Would you mind… Read more »
If it’s not too late, I recommend the Preserve toothbrush because the company takes back and recycles the whole thing. Plus it’s made from recycled plastic. The whole mission of the company is recycling. And while I wouldn’t use some of their products myself (recycled plastic food containers, for instance) I do want to support companies that practice Extended Producer Responsibility. I believe with the Radius, you throw away the heads and keep the handle. I don’t think there is much recycling going on there. It’s just that there is some plastic saved since the handle does not have to… Read more »
How funny. Just this morning I was flossing (I don’t do it often) and I wondered if I should put it in the bathroom trash, which gets put in the compost. I guess I should go dig it out =/ Nice to know about the SLS free toothpaste. BF refuses to use anything but colgate, and I go along with it, got fed up of paying more for supposedly natural toothpastes that had the same nasty ingredients. I’ll see if they have that one in the UK. Also I didn’t know you could recycle the container with the toothpaste residue.… Read more »
Hi Leanne.  I appreciate your point of view.  But the fact is that dental health is actually hereditary. I’m not surprised that all the members of your family have great smiles without flossing.  You’ve got great genes! For me, if I didn’t floss, I would lose my teeth to gum disease.  I didn’t floss for years, and I ended up with terrible gingivitis and bleeding gums.  I had to have several procedures, including root planing and laser treatments, to get them back into a healthy condition.  Since I have been flossing regularly, the recessions have stopped, the bleeding… Read more »
I can’t help wondering what oral hygiene practice we’re supposed to do next? What oral wonder product will be released on to the market next? You can bet, whatever it is, it will be costly, take time, and will NOT make any *visible* difference to the whiteness and straightness of our snappers! First it started with brushing our teeth. Fair enough. But since I was a kid, the “improvements” have included flossing (does ANYONE over the age of 30 who isn’t a dentist actually, really-truly floss? I don’t), mouth washes, tongue brushes, gargles, electric toothbrushes (supposed to be better, depending… Read more »

Unfortunately, the mouth rinse can only be purchased through a dentist.  But maybe if you ask, your dentist will order it for you.

I saw your picture of your supplies and realized my bathroom cabinet looks identical (with a blue Preserve brush, that is!). I just recently discovered the SLS-free version of Tom’s of Maine and my ever present sensitive teeth are feeling relieved! It’s funny, we take the harsh chemicals OUT of a product and we immediately feel better… I was wondering the other day what to do about floss, but I guess there’s no getting around it. I just have to floss! I also use EcoDent so it’s really cool to see that you enjoy and promote it! Is your mouth… Read more »

Desert Essence also has a natural floss. It does, however, come in a plastic box. They also have a toothpaste, mouthwash and toothpicks.

Oh right. I forgot to mention Desert Essence. But it’s off limits to be too because of the plastic container. Do you know what the actual floss is made from?

How about tooth soap? The product is quite excellent, and if you get the peppermint version it’s really not awful. I know you’re thinking ew, soap, but it’s only the fragrance oils that are added to soaps that make them taste nasty. And your mouth feels CLEAN afterward. One of my friends took his daughter to the dentist after having switched to tooth soap, and got great remarks! Why can’t you use something like a cotton embroidery floss on a wooden spool for flossing, rather than all this other stuff? Flossing is meant to clean between your teeth, which needs… Read more »
Melanie, how do you keep tooth soap from spreading germs to others? I assume it is like a bar of soap, right? We use soap bars for washing our faces and bodies, and we use bar shampoo (Well, we did. Now we use baking soda.) as well as lotion bars. But I wonder about putting different toothbrushes into the same tooth soap. How does that work? Also, I doubt embroidery floss would be strong enough. And since it’s not waxed, it might not slide in and out easily. The original dental floss was made from silk, but the silk industry… Read more »

Thank you so much for posting this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is amazing.

Peggy, on the web site, they say the starch is from tapioca, potatoes, and wheat.  They don’t mention corn.  But either way, I’m not in favor of any plastic picks (whether bio-based or petroleum-based), which I hope came across in my post.  To me, plain floss is better anyway.

Okay, Jen, you are going to have to explain that to me.  We actually have a box of Stim-U-Dent in the medicine cabinet.  I think they must be Michael’s.  I never knew what they were for.  But I just tried using them, and they don’t fit between my teeth like dental floss does.  So I’m not sure how I could use them to clean between my teeth.  Have you been using them?  Can you enlighten me?

Those compostable starch picks are made from monocropped GMO corn, over-fertilized, sprayed with pesticides, herbicides and other things that do more harm than a piece of recyclable plastic, IMHO. But I know plastic is your nemesis.  Just another angle. I really like my Water Pik. I’ve had it for 15 years and it’s still going strong. It creates no waste and my dentist is pleased with it’s effectiveness for my particular mouth. I use Weleda toothpastes. Baking soda was way too drying for my gums.

My hygenist recommends these:
They do have a thin plastic wrapper, but the package is cardboard and the product is wood – so all compostable. It’s not exactly a substitute for floss, but sort of and it keeps your gums healthy.


I was just wondering about this this morning….thank you! the pick is so scary…and the kid dentist my kid goes to (age 4) gave a HUGE bag of them to us for him. scary.

thanks as usual!