Of course your main question may be – what did people do before flossing? It’s true that dental health was not as good 100 years ago. But dental floss is quite a new invention, invented in New Orleans by a dentist in 1815, when it was made from silk. Way before nylon (plastic) was invented. Wild & Stone Cornstarch Dental Floss is made from cornstarch, coated in candelilla wax, and has a natural mint flavour.
Choose unscented for pregnancy/nursing and medical conditions affected by essential oils (asthma, epilepsy, high blood pressure etc). Be careful as some brands contain the sweetener xylitol (lethal to pets if they got hold of it – avoid if you live with animal friends). Bin floss after use to break down naturally (never leave in gardens, as it could choke birds and other garden wildlife, even if biodegradable).
Dental floss is used by millions to clean debris from food between teeth, to reduce plaque. But most brands are made with nylon (plastic), silk or beeswax (neither are vegan-friendly). Some also contain artificial flavouring and xylitol (lethal if pets got hold of it). If you choose to floss, here are some better brands. If not, then visit a dental hygienist every six month for a professional floss.
There are two types of conventional dental floss. Monofilament is non-biodegradable (the same stuff used for fishing line) and multi-filament is also non-biodegradable (made from a combination of nylon and silk). Waxed floss is recommended for people who have tighter-packed teeth, whereas people with large gaps can get away with unwaxed. Dentists say that people with braces should also floss, though they may need special devices to help make it easier.
The Best Brands of Biodegradable Dental Floss
- Happi Hippo Organics Dental Floss is made from corn fibre, candelilla wax and mint extra. Sold in a paper box (remove the metal tag, before composting).
- Georganics Natural Corn Floss is made from corn-based PLA and charcoal fibres, coated with vegetable wax and flavoured with organic peppermint oil. It’s sold in a glass dispenser that can be topped up with refill packs. Also in spearmint and sweet orange.
How to Floss Your Teeth Correctly
Experts say that one of the worst things to do is to floss your teeth in a mirror, as you get the ‘reversed image’ confusion. It’s actually easier to just floss without a mirror. Don’t snap the floss when it’s between the teeth as it could damage the tissue, instead use a ‘sawing’ motion to slide the floss. When you first start to floss, you may find your gums bleed as they are so tender, but dentists sa this is not really cause for concern, it will stop as your gums get more used to it.
Friendly Floss is a reusable stainless steel tool to floss your teeth. Designed to work with any brand of dental floss, use it in of four ways, then it’s as easy to wash as a teaspoon in the sink or dishwasher. Sold in sustainable packaging, it was invented by a couple who cut the plastic off a pigeon he found with a plastic bag tied around her neck. They worked out that if just 1% of the world’s 8 billion people on earth use single-use floss picks each day, that’s 29 billion pieces of plastic littering our planet each year. Each friendly floss (used with biodegradable floss) leads to all that going away. And it also saves you money.
Designed to be small enough to fit in your mouth with your hand holding it, you should not bang it against your teeth (if so, you are being too forceful or using the wrong tyep of floss). They say the correct floss should easily be used with a slight left-right sawing motion. If the tool still bangs against teeth, then simply stop use.
Do You Really Need to Floss?
We are all told by dentists to regularly floss our teeth, to remove the 30% of plaque that is never removed by brushing alone. Floss is designed to reach the spaces between our teeth were food collects. But it’s difficult to floss correctly (the only proper floss most people get is likely when they visit the dental hygienist every six months). And most floss is made from non-biodegradable nylon or silk (made by boiling silkworms) and usually packed in plastic packaging. So do we need to floss? And if so, how can be make the art of dental flossing more sustainable?
It’s surely the truth that flossing does indeed remove 30% more plaque, which leads to better dental and overall health. But the truth is that proper flossing is quite difficult, as you have to use a special technique, breaking off around 18 inches of floss and holding it in a special way to curve at the base of the tooth to form a C shape, then moving across each tooth. Say this very quietly – but most of us simply don’t go through all this every morning, it’s too much hassle. And one suspects there is a huge industry out there with vested interests in making flossing a complicated add-on that perhaps is not needed.
The purpose of floss (and toothpaste) is to remove plaque (a sticky film made from food and bacteria that forms on the teeth, which can cause inflamed gums – gingivitis). Once it hardens, it becomes calculus which has to be removed by a dentist or dental hygienist using special instruments. If not, then eventually you could lose your teeth (it does take months or years for this to eventually happen). Some say the inflammation can also affect other organs like your heart, so of course we all get a bit scared into flossing correctly.
Is there any hard medical evidence that we need to floss. No. Obviously it’s common sense that cleaning inbetween your teeth is good, but there are few large-scale studies, and it’s more likely that people who floss simply practice regular toothcare (not having sugary foods, regular brushing and dental visits), and this is the more likely reason for better teeth than those who don’t floss.
What To Do If You Hate Flossing
Many people simply don’t have the time or inclination to spend 10 minutes each day wrapping pieces of floss around their teeth (and it’s also uncomfortable if your teeth are packed closely together). In this case, be sure to visit a hygienist every six months for a professional floss (with your scale and polish) to remove any tartar. Water flossers spray water between your teeth, and are also good to remove stuck-on food say if you have a small cavity and are waiting for a dental appointment, to stop food getting stuck in your teeth. Other alternatives include:
Interdental brushes tend to be gentler and easier to use than dental floss, and again can be made eco-friendly. These are thin brushes with wire and bristles, that you gently insert between the teeth to remove plaque. These bamboo interdental brushes have beautifully angled designs and long handles, to make them comfortable and easy to grip. Sold in a pack of four, or multipacks.
Bamboo Interdental Sticks feature BPA-free bristles (remove and bin before composting the handles). Each pack includes 8 brushes for an easy-to-grip way to floss teeth. In 5 sizes to gently slide between teeth and clean food caught in gaps or below the gum line.
Toothpicks are pretty wasteful and expensive, but are easy to use and can be made of biodegradable materials, instead of plastic. Hydro-phil bamboo toothpicks are impregnanted with flouoride and a fresh mint flavour. The triangular cross-section makes them easy to use for cleaning-on-the-go. The sustainable floss sticks are sold in packs of 20 in a recycled cardboard box. Their interdental brushes.
Most dental floss is made from nylon (plastic) or silk/beeswax (neither are vegan-friendly) in plastic tubes that cause litter. Wild & Stone Dental Floss takes things into the zero-waste age. The floss is made from candelilla wax (plant-based) and scented with natural mint, just buy refills for the glass dispenser. So it ticks all the boxes, for you to ethically clean your teeth!
Never leave any floss (biodegradable or otherwise) out in the garden, as it can choke birds and other garden wildlife, just bin to naturally break down. Use with a natural toothpaste (never use ones sweetened with pet-toxic xylitol near animal friends, in case they licked your mouth or the bathroom sink).
do we really need to floss our teeth?
There is actually little medical proof that we need to floss our teeth, but it does remove around 30% more plaque. But to be effective you need to break off around 18 inches of floss and hold it to curve at the base of the tooth in a C shape, then move across. Ask your dentist or hygienist how to properly floss, on your next visit (if you find it too fiddly, use a water flosser instead). They also can remove hardened tartar that won’t come off with a toothbrush, important to avoid inflammation of other organs like your heart.