During my search for low impact dental floss during our most recent Month Less Plastic, I had a few simple requirements: no virgin petroleum plastic packaging, no plastic or petroleum-derived components in the floss itself, and affordable.
I checked our local natural foods market and found dental floss made from silk in a technically recyclable plastic package that’s not recyclable where I live. I was tempted to buy it since it was an improvement over the floss we’d been using that was packaged in plastic and made from nylon fibers (nylon is a synthetic product made from petroleum). Alas, it was expensive, much more per foot than what I had budgeted for floss.
Luckily, I checked one more store, our local Rite Aid drug store. There, alongside the plastic bags of plastic floss picks holding synthetic floss, and the plastic blister packages of plastic boxes holding synthetic floss, I found a cheerful paper box of The Natural Dentist Stim-U-Dent Thin Plaque Removers. The box said “can be used as an alternative or as a supplement to daily flossing.” I thought we might as well give these rather fancy toothpicks a try.
They’re mint-flavored wooden sticks with one flat side and one tapered to a point, thin enough to fit between teeth at the gum line. I tracked down the company website at home and read more: They’re made from basswood from managed US forests (although the wood is shipped to China for processing), they carry the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance. They are “clinically proven to fight gingivitis by removing plaque from between teeth. Clinical studies support a 52% improvement in gingival health! Better than floss!” I was feeling relatively excited, could this really work? Sustainably grown, biodegradable wood plaque removers that come in entirely plastic-free, recyclable (even compostable) paper packaging, be still my plastic-free heart!
Yes, my search for plastic-free dental floss had a happy ending. Granted, I didn’t find floss, but something that works just as well, so far as I can tell. My kids love them – The directions specify that you must “moisten thoroughly in mouth”, and they adore that part, a bit of sucking on a minty pick. Yes, they’re different from floss, but so long as I help the kids with theirs (just like I helped them with their synthetic floss), we all go to bed with clean teeth, all the way ’round.
Don’t toss out those plastic boxes from your synthetic dental floss, though. Now that I don’t have them coming into my life, I’ve learned you can use them for all sorts of things, and I’m always happy to divert any I come across. Instead of sending them to your local landfill or incinerator, they make perfect cases for all sorts of things:
- Corral the bobby pins, barettes, and small hair bands in your purse in one.
- Stash your spare change, bus or subway tokens in one.
- A condom fits perfectly inside an empty dental floss box for discreet transport.
- Fill one with wooden matches and add a piece of sandpaper as a striking plate for a plastic-free alternative to single-use lighters.
- Make your own traveling sewing kit. Keep the plastic spool assembly so you can wrap thread around the spool and snip it with the metal floss cutter on top. I fit three colors of thread onto one spool, thread the ends through the top together, then pull on just the one I need. I lay needles, safety pins, and thin buttons across the bottom and balance larger buttons on top of the thread spool when I slide it back into place.
What about you? Have you found a plastic-free way to floss your teeth, perhaps one with a lower carbon footprint than mine (all that shipping wood to China and back to the US adds up)? A favorite use for empty plastic dental floss cases? Please do tell.
Full Disclosure: I am not affiliated in any way with Stim-U-Dent. I just like them and pay my own money to use them.