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.

I’m going to discuss green(er) flossing options.  But first, an update on my current efforts to de-plastify my oral hygiene. Sadly, it’s one area of my life in which there is still a lot of plastic, although significantly reduced. I’m not willing to compromise too much as far as my teeth and gums are concerned. Bacteria in the mouth have been linked to serious systemic illnesses. Plus, fillings and crowns and other dental work are not particularly eco-friendly, even if you do have the greenest dentist in town.

Here are the supplies I use:

Eco Friendly dental toothpaste, mouth rinse, dental floss, recycled toothbrush

Toothbrush

I use a Preserve toothbrush made from 100% recycled polypropylene plastic, the kind that yogurt cups (and Brita filters!) are made from. Preserve will take back the toothbrushes, as well as all other number 5 plastics, at the end of their lives and recycle them into new Preserve products. While I have a problem with community recycling programs that ship their waste off to China, I support companies that practice “Extended Producer Responsibility” and take back their own waste.  What’s more, Preserve does the recycling here in the U.S. rather than abroad.

Other Options:

Wooden toothbrushes with natural boar bristles. As you can see from the link, the toothbrush comes in a plastic case, so what’s the point?  And second, I personally don’t like the idea of killing a boar for a toothbrush. While some companies claim their bristles come from humanely raised boars, I am skeptical. (And no, I don’t eat meat anymore either. But that is a recent, personal development and not necessarily relevant to this blog.)

Plastic toothbrushes with replaceable heads. Fuchs Ekotec and Radius Source with recycled handles are examples. These options are certainly better than buying all new virgin plastic every 4-6 weeks.

Toothpaste

After trying unsuccessfully to use various baking soda concoctions, and finding that all of them were too harsh for my teeth and gums, I finally reverted back to toothpaste. I keep it as waste-free as possible by 1) Using a very tiny amount. (It’s not the toothpaste that’s so important as the motion of brushing and especially the flossing.) 2) Choosing Tom’s of Maine SLS-Free toothpaste because that company too has a take back program for its aluminum tubes. After removing the plastic cap and threads, you can send the tube to:

Tom’s of Maine
Consumer Dialogue Team
302 Lafayette Center
Kennebunk, ME 04043

A note on BPA: It’s true that the lining of a Tom’s of Maine aluminum tube, like all aluminum containers, may contain some BPA. However, it’s also true that many other plastics contain chemicals that can leach. What chemicals are in plastic toothpaste tubes? We don’t know, and manufacturers won’t tell us. So my choice is a recyclable metal tube with less plastic.

Mouth Rinse

My dentist recommends Dental Herb Company Tooth and Gum Tonic. It is very concentrated, so I use a tiny bit diluted with water. The rinse comes in a glass bottle. Unfortunately, as you can see, the cap is plastic, as is the label. I tried making my own mouth rinse early on, using various herbs and spices in vodka. Then I learned that alcohol is too harsh. The tonic I now use is alcohol-free. It’s basically herbs and essential oils in a base of water and vegetable glycerin.

Dental Floss

So, about those flossing options I mentioned above. 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.

Eco-Dent dental floss in a cardboard boxEco-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.

  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 Amazon.com and Drugstore.com, 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.

Leave a Reply

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


Guest
Helen
22 days 14 hours ago

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 is wrapped, but I like it better than the Eco-DenT GentleFloss.

Guest

[…] 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 […]

Guest
Laure
2 months 6 days ago

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 don’t have a bottle yet, you can buy one at many health food sections/stores or online. Or buy something that comes in a dropper bottle and reuse it.

I sometimes add an essential oil blend to a tiny jar of coconut oil to swish with before brushing, then to brush with (don’t spit oil in sink or toilet, though – it can clog things over time). You can make your blend as strong or mild as you like. I agree that baking soda is too rough on teeth to be a regular dentifrice, but rinsing with water and baking soda will help bring down the acid level in your mouth quickly after a meal.

To buy a pre-made essential oil tooth blend – or to learn what ingredients you can use to make your own, visit:

https://www.orawellness.com/OraWellness-Brushing-Blend/orawellness-brushing-blend.html

I’ve tried different gentler powder combo’s – arrowroot, bentonite, calcium carbonite, etc. – they seem to aggravate my propensity toward tartar, though a lot of people do great with it.

I tried a brush with a replacable head, but didn’t like how harsh the bristles were, nor that the total length was not compatible with my little reusable mesh organizer bags that I use both in my bathroom and when I travel.

I’ve experimented with neem toothpicks that, when chewed on enough, become like miswaks with a brushy, fibrous end. They don’t get all the stuff from between my teeth, though, and mine came in a plastic container.
there are places that sell the original miswak sticks online. From an environmental standpoint, I like the miswak idea best of all, but it is very time consuming. I’m also intrigued by the blotting method, which is a whole other topic.

I’ve used different natural brands of floss, but can’t seem to get around the difficulty of the plastic box. The one on my desk right now (that prompted my internet search) can be popped open,so….why couldn’t these companies sell the tiny replacement spools to pop inside of them? You could have all the floss you need for the foreseeable future, and buy it in a cloth bag with a drawstring,( or to be hygienic, in a small, re-usable plastic box to keep them dry in different storage settings). Even wrapping each tiny spool in a tiny sliver of sealed plastic would be a huge improvement over the current wasteful packaging. I realize that might not be good for business for the floss manufacturers, but it is a thought.

Guest
karen
2 months 23 days ago

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, although I’ve still got some old stuff on wooden spools I’m using up.

Guest
RowanCooke
6 months 23 days ago

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

Guest
Dentist: Dental Floss | Obibini Bruni
7 months 2 days ago

[…] 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 […]

Guest
sarah
8 months 29 days ago

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 little hunter gatherer 3year olds use real natural flosses in their jungles? Cute scene from a documentary I watched. I thought floss was a modern invention and that’s what wiki claims too!

Guest
10 months 15 days ago

[…] 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 […]

Guest
OrionAntares
10 months 29 days ago

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.

Guest
BethTerry
10 months 17 days ago

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.

Guest
1 year 3 months ago

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 http://www.dentalherbcompany.com/. 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 leather or local, humanely harvested honey but know a lot of vegans that are not so open.) i would like very much to share this blog but will wait and see if the update to add info on Brush with Bamboo is something you can do. Also thank you for the info about Tom’s of Maine i did not know about his take back program If i did not have very sensitive teeth would switch from Eco-dent tooth powder to his but i have to use Eco-dent as it really helps. My husband uses Tom’s and i will be sure he knows about the take back program. Have you checked out this? http://tv.greenmedinfo.com/homemade-coconut-oil-based-toothpaste/#sthash.K2L78m8k.dpuf

Guest
BethTerry
1 year 1 month ago

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:  http://myplasticfreelife.com/2013/08/brush-with-bamboo-is-my-new-favorite-toothbrush/

Guest
Lora
1 year 7 months ago

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.

Guest
Cynthia
2 years 18 hours ago

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.
http://www.walgreens.com/store/c/stim-u-dent-plaque-removers-mint/ID=prod6015932-product#descriptionNamedTab

Guest
Livia
2 years 1 month ago

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.

Guest

@Livia Interesting, thanks for sharing!

Guest
2 years 3 months ago

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

Guest
BethTerry
2 years 3 months ago

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

Guest
Kay
2 years 4 months ago

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

Guest
Daniela
2 years 4 months ago

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: http://www.manufactum.com/dental-floss-p1402108/

Guest
BethTerry
2 years 4 months ago

@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.

Guest
Daniela
2 years 4 months ago

BethTerry  
Hey Beth, it is made from pure silk.

Guest
Allison
2 years 5 months ago

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!

Guest
BethTerry
2 years 5 months ago

Hi Allison… sorry I forgot to check with my dentist.  But I’m guessing that different dentists might have different opinions.  Want to check with yours too and see what they say?

Guest
Lynn
2 years 6 months ago

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.

Guest
2 years 7 months ago

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

Guest
BethTerry
2 years 7 months ago

Beeswax is not vegan, that’s all.  I personally use beeswax, but other people do not.

Guest
2 years 7 months ago

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 me that seems to me to be an acceptable use of plastic.

Guest
2 years 7 months ago

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

Guest
Katya
2 years 7 months ago

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!

Guest
lindsayseligman
2 years 8 months ago

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. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmT3LTQ6Q88
 
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.
http://www.soladey.com/about/how-it-works
 
Then of course as you know Miswak from Peelu or Neem tree are time tested ways of brushing. If anyone has found a source of these that are not individually wrapped in plastic, please let me know!

Guest
BethTerry
2 years 7 months ago

@lindsayseligman HI Lindsay.  I did find a source of neem sticks without plastic!  But you do have to ask.  I tried them and they weren’t for me, but I know lots of people do like them.  Here’s my post about it:  http://myplasticfreelife.com/2011/06/verdict-on-neem-chew-stick-toothbrushes/

Guest
lindsayseligman
2 years 8 months ago

Here is the link I meant to post  to the ionic brushes that use titanium dioxide
http://www.soladey.com/about/how-it-works

Guest
lindsayseligman
2 years 8 months ago

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  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmT3LTQ6Q88
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 brushes..they use a titanium dioxide rod to kill bacterial around it..really amazing if it works.

Guest
lindsayseligman
2 years 8 months ago

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  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmT3LTQ6Q88
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 use a titanium dioxide rod to kill bacterial around it..really amazing if it works.

Guest
2 years 9 months ago

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.

Guest
Jay
2 years 11 months ago

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! 

Guest
BethTerry
2 years 11 months ago

Hi Jay.  That’s really interesting about the cactus brush.
 
Since writing this post, I have written another one about various toothpaste alternatives here:  http://myplasticfreelife.com/2011/08/searching-for-the-perfect-all-natural-plastic-free-toothpaste-or-powder-or-soap-or/

Guest
Monika
3 years 10 days ago

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).

Guest
Annie
3 years 1 month ago

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).

Guest
Dora
3 years 5 months ago

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

Guest
Sandra
4 years 14 days ago

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), not just in between teeth. It sounds harder to do than it is, and once you get the hang of it, cleaning teeth this way will take the same amount of time as flossing.

Guest
mairsydoats
4 years 3 months ago

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!!

Guest
emma
4 years 4 months ago

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

Guest
Bert
4 years 5 months ago

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

Guest
Anne
4 years 6 months ago

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 taste and my teeth feel considerably cleaner than they did when we were using regular (green, flouride-free) toothpaste, and neither of us has had any dental problems since we started using it.

Guest
Katie M
4 years 7 months ago

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 (http://www.jason-natural.com/products/oral_care.php) Sea Fresh, but will probably switch back when it’s gone.

Guest
veena
4 years 7 months ago

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.

Guest
KelseyJoy
4 years 8 months ago

I make my own toothpaste and keep it in a glass jar with a metal lid…..at 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!! It also doesn’t get all foamy in my mouth which I love because the foam from the other stuff makes me gag. :P
Here’s a link to the recipe I use:

http://www.oldpathsfamilyfarm.net/blog/2008/04/04/yummy-homemade-toothpaste/

P.S. I add more stevia and mint in mine then the recipe calls for.

Guest
4 years 8 months ago

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.

Guest

[…] 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, […]

Guest
4 years 11 months ago

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: http://www.anarreshealth.ca/node/874

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 entry – could I print it out for them? Better than me just spouting off YOUR research!

I use the replaceable head type of toothbrush, and my dsaughter used the natural bristle – in the inane plastic case, until an evil relative bought her an electric princess toothbrush that you can’t even replace the batteries for. That’s probably even worse than the evil relative who bought her 5 sunglasses at once because “they were on sale!”. Oh, yeah, my boycott thing is only for FULL PRICED plastic. Silly me!

I MUST get my back bone up to REJECT these gifts instead of whining about them. It’s evil to give a kid something behind their parent’s back and put the parent in the position of taking it away. Grrr.

I make my own toothpaste and mouthwash/breath freshener, and am working through umpteen dental floss containers we already have.

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Reenie
4 years 11 months ago

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?

Guest
Reenie
4 years 11 months ago

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 as a longer line of floss. Also, my new dental hygenist recommends that I hold the floss with middle fingers and use index fingers to control ascent and descent of floss. No sharp up down, but flowing around the sides of the teeth and in the gum region in control flowing action. My former error in flossing was to do mostly vertical movement of floss, the old idea that I must rush. But that up and down-only floss motion will not clean thoroughly, especially near gumline.

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Andrea Echavarria
5 years 10 days ago

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.

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Andrea Echavarria
5 years 11 days ago

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 companies like Eco-Dent and Radius should take advantage of this product to replace picks and add a new innovative biodegradable sachet to their ON THE GO markets.

Here is there website: http://www.macrolab.com.co and they seem to be related to http://www.panaceadental.com (american subsidiary)

It is a great product try to post a picture from their website….

Andrea

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Julie
5 years 1 month ago

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.

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Kristin
5 years 2 months ago

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 amount of raw foods, good water… happiness!

I was vegetarian for 14 years and I have a deep respect for the vegetarian way of life. But to regain my health and particularly my dental health I have found a balanced, radically healthy, animal/plant diet makes the most sense. I say this particularly as a nursing mom right now.

Look into it: traditional diets and the link to healthy teeth…

Dr. Price literally traveled all over the world and didn’t find a healthy society that was entirely plant based.

I still use dental floss and don’t think I will likely reverse my need for it, but maybe my daughter has a chance to keep her naturally healthy teeth!

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Sakeenah
5 years 3 months ago

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:
http://www.dentalhealthsite.com/what-is-miswak/

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

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Zo
5 years 3 months ago

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 purchasing info…

Guest
5 years 4 months ago

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 labor: “Child Labor – does RADIUS have a viewpoint? RADIUS has signed all of the manufacturing protocols associated with the prevention of the use of child labor. Our own manufacturing facilities are in the USA and we have strict policies on the age of employees.”
But since I doubt the silk is produced in the US, who knows whether their policies apply to the people who produce it. I think it’s worth contacting them to ask about where the silk is produced, what’s involved in the sterilization process and to ask them if they would consider changing the packaging. I read another post about natural flosses that mentioned that Apache native americans used to use fibers from the yucca plant– probably yucca elata but I wonder if other varieties could be used. I was thinking about getting the dwarf variety (yucca nana) as a house plant and making floss out of it, if it would work. Really, I bet any natural fiber would work, as long as it’s strong enough not to break and soft enough not to cut, and if you aren’t a huge germophobe (which I can be sometimes).

I had only recently gotten into the habit of flossing when my sister insisted upon it, but after trying to reduce my plastic waste I found myself not wanting to use it. I would really like to find a good plastic free alternative because I do agree that it’s a not a good idea to skip flossing– I also inherited horrible dental genes.

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anonymous
5 years 4 months ago

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”

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Larkin
5 years 4 months ago

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 try with a beeswax coating: same results. Now I need to track down some silk thread.

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Kim from Milwaukee
5 years 4 months ago

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 trash. I’ll collect a bunch and send them to the manufacturer and see what kind of response I get!

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Elizabeth B
5 years 4 months ago

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.

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Lara S.
5 years 4 months ago

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 selling Amway products. She says they’re more natural and that they’re very concentrated so you use less packaging. The “natural” part, I don’t dare believe much (they do disclose components of their products but I don’t know if they differ or not from other products), but if the products are equally toxic and I can avoid excessive packaging I’d be willing to try some of them. So I was wondering if Beth (or other readers) have tried Amway products and can tell me your opinion about them?

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Mitty
5 years 4 months ago

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.

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Kelli aka KirkBerserk
5 years 4 months ago

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! :)

Guest
5 years 4 months ago

Beth,

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

Guest
5 years 4 months ago

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 to find a way to recycle them (I’ll have to find out if Preserve will take other brands!!). Wish there was a plastic-free alternative to the mouth guard I wear at night to keep from grinding my teeth away.
.-= Andrea´s last blog ..New Favorite Food–Gnocchi =-.

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Jack
5 years 4 months ago

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 convincing me one way or the other on which type to try?
Thanks!

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rachel
5 years 4 months ago

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. That helps.

Guest
5 years 4 months ago

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 on who you ask), tooth soap, tooth mousse, interdent sticks, and gum you’re supposed to chew to increase saliva production.

Oh, and then there’s fluoride in everything. Don’t get me started on that one.

Last year my 102 year old aunt died, with all her own teeth, and I’m damn sure she never flossed in her life. My parents (in their 60s) both have all their own teeth, yet they’ve neither of them ever flossed, moussed, gargled, sticked, tongue brushed, chewed or mouthwashed in their lives. Oh, and they’re healthy too – no nasty side effects from not doing any of the aforementioned.

I know you said you weren’t going to discuss the option of NOT flossing, Beth. But this is comments time (*healthy smiles*), and maybe the key to healthy teeth is eating healthy and avoiding all the crappy food and drink that rots our teeth and makes us sick, rather than trying to clean up the mess afterwards with a stack of expensive oral products.

For me, I think floss is a gimmick. As are all the other products, with the exception of basic toothpaste and a normal, cheaparse toothbrush.

BTW, I remember reading somewhere that discarded floss is starting to be a major cause of strangulation in sea birds. Is this true? I figure if anyone would know, it would be you.

Just my thoughts.
.-= Leanne´s last blog ..This ANZAC Day in Dunedin =-.

Guest
5 years 4 months ago

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 wash sold in grocery stores?

Thanks for this post!
.-= Ryan´s last blog ..Plastic Beach =-.

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Leah
5 years 4 months ago

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

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Melanie
5 years 4 months ago

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 something soft and thin. I’d think it would be great – and can be composted. Cotton biodegrades quickly.

Why has no one done this yet? When I need to get something out of my teeth a thread is the first thing I look for – even if it’s a loose thread on my clothing.

Guest
5 years 4 months ago

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

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Peggy
5 years 4 months ago

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.
.-= Peggy´s last blog ..Monday Morning Rethink: Buzz your Brain =-.

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monkeyjen
5 years 4 months ago

My hygenist recommends these: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000XP4I3C/ref=oss_product
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.

Guest
5 years 4 months ago

Beth!!!

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!
sk