Is dental floss as bad for the environment as plastic straws? Alternatives to the plastic straw are in high demand right now. But why hasn't the same trend taken hold in the world of dental floss? Have you ever thought twice about using the floss samples they give you after every visit? It's about time. Because the environmental and health impacts associated with generic flossing may surprise you.
Is flossing more important than brushing your teeth?
Perhaps plastic straws outshine dental floss in the sustainable market because... People don't actually floss? If so, I'll leave you with this thought: The goal of brushing your teeth is to get rid of bacteria and plaque buildup that can lead to oral disease... But brushing your teeth only reaches the front and back surfaces of your teeth, leaving 35% of plaque and bacteria buildup untouched (1). In fact, dental surgery doctor Ann Laurent admits, "if you had to pick one, flossing is more important than brushing if done correctly," as the crevices between your teeth create a perfect home for bacteria to feast (2). So maybe you need to hear it from someone who's not your dentist... If you don't already floss daily, you should!
How is flossing bad for the environment?
At the beginning of the anti-suction tube movement, 182.5 billion plastic suction tubes were used each year in the US alone, making them a massive contributor to plastic pollution (3). Similarly, if every person in the U.S. flossed according to ADA recommendations, 2.5 billion floss dispensers would be discarded each year. You might be thinking that 2.5 vs. 182.5 billion is nothing... but consider the size of each item. Floss dispensers weigh about 144 times more than a straw. That's a huge amount of plastic waste. And like disposable plastic straws, floss dispensers aren't recyclable or reusable - these types of plastics usually don't even make it to a landfill. In fact, 32% of single-use plastic is left to flow into our gardens. That's the equivalent of pouring a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute (4). In addition to the damage caused by dental floss dispensers, the floss itself is made of nylon coated with synthetic wax - it is not biodegradable and therefore not recyclable. Even worse, the sturdy design of dental floss allows it to wrap around and suffocate wildlife.
Is dental floss toxic to humans?
Have you ever been advised by a friend to stop using non-stick pans? That's because non-stick pans are coated with toxic chemicals called polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that can leach into your food - and end up in your bloodstream. PFASs are linked to liver damage, cancer and developmental problems. They can compromise the immune system and linger in the body and environment for years (5). Like non-stick pans, generic dental floss also contains traces of toxic chemicals. By using generic floss daily, you may be unknowingly ingesting these chemicals, allowing them to seep into your body and the environment. A 2008 study - yikes... that was 14 years ago and the issue is still rarely talked about? - found that women who used Oral-B Glide floss had elevated levels of PFAS in their blood (compared to women who didn't floss) (6). But don't worry - non-toxic flossing materials do exist, so let's dive into some alternatives.
What are some safe, eco-friendly flossing alternatives?
Luckily, there are plenty of natural flossing options out there - with no waste - and they need your help to get the recognition they deserve. Here are some popular material substitutes for generic floss and dental floss dispensers:
Silk: Silk thread is natural and biodegradable. Keep in mind that silk is not vegan, and when silk is harvested, it is not always cruelty-free. But you can be sure that the eco-friendly floss brands mentioned in this section are 100% cruelty-free. Bamboo: Bamboo thread is natural, biodegradable and vegan. It's also free of preservatives, gluten and artificial colours and sweeteners. Many bamboo straws also contain activated charcoal, which is in high demand these days when it comes to cleaning your mouth.
Cornstarch: corn-based floss is another biodegradable, vegan alternative that has the same benefits as bamboo - just another option! Refillable dispensers of glass or metal: if you've entered the world of eco-friendly straws, the benefits here are obvious, as one of the main goals is to reduce plastic. Glass or metal dispensers can be reused again and again, making them a no-waste product. Flosser Pro: Of course, our Flosser pro uses high-pressure water technology, allowing you to easily reach every area in your mouth and ensuring the best cleaning without harming the environment.