Yes, traditional dental floss is bad for the environment because it is made from non-recyclable and non-biodegradable materials that contribute to harmful plastic waste in landfills and the ocean. As well as widespread environmental degradation, this causes serious health problems or death for marine life. This is also the case for the plastic containers that traditional dental floss comes in.
Dental floss doesn’t tend to be vegan either. Unless specified otherwise, it wouldn’t be unusual for a mass market dental floss to contain animal-derived ingredients, like glycerine. Even silk floss, which is better for the environment than traditional dental floss, is derived from silkworm insects and is therefore not vegan.
The answer isn’t to stop flossing though. According to the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy, “using a toothbrushcleans only three of the five surfaces of our teeth, so cleaning between our teeth is a critical part of good oral hygiene as it helps to prevent gum disease by removing plaque from any areas missed by brushing alone.” Instead, you should switch to a vegan dental floss alternative.
Sustainable Alternatives to Dental Floss
Floss, picks and water flossers help to clean those hard-to-reach areas in and around our teeth, preventing plaque build-up and promoting healthy gums. However, as we've covered, not all of these tools are good for the environment. The good news is that there are some great, sustainable alternatives to dental floss, that help you to maintain the health of your teeth and the planet.
1. Corn Floss
Made from corn starch bioplastic, candelilla wax and natural mint flavour, corn starch refillable dental floss is a great, plastic-free alternative to traditional floss. Corn dental floss is used the same way that you use traditional floss and is as effective for your teeth and gums — break off around 30-45cm of floss, and slide the floss between the teeth in a zigzag motion (or "rocking" motion).
2. Bamboo Floss
Bamboo is a natural and renewable material — which comes from the fastest growing plant in the world — that has no negative impact on the environment. This makes it another great sustainable alternative to remove food, particles, and plaque from between your teeth. Bamboo also has natural antimicrobial properties that make it safer than traditional floss, which sometimes contains harmful microplastics and other toxic chemicals.
3. Plastic-Free Picks
Prefer a dental pick? Forget non-recyclable plastic picks, and opt for a biodegradable one instead. Although these tend to still be single-use, the materials will biodegrade faster, and therefore not contribute to plastic pollution.
The one downside of a dental pick is that you're using the same, small piece of floss, to clean between all of your teeth. This might decrease how effective your floss is, as it becomes more covered with bacteria and debris.
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