Until recently, flossing my teeth was definitely NOT Everyday Sustainable. I lucked out with good teeth genes, so had healthy teeth without trying.
On the other hand, I was born with a small jaw so my teeth were crowded. So last year, I got braces, for the second time! (The experience has been chronicled here: whatsinasmile.wordpress.com.)
Which brings me to floss. Out of necessity to dislodge food, and driven by fear of getting cavities from more food hiding out under the wire, I flossed EVERY SINGLE DAY while I had my braces. And guess what? I haven’t stopped. It’s become an Everyday Sustainable habit.
So how did this transition happen? How does something become Everyday Sustainable?
- It’s part of my routine. Before going to bed, I brush my teeth and floss. It’s one activity.
- It’s convenient. There’s floss in the bathroom. Floss in my retainer container travel kit. I don’t even think about it. I’ve even found a super-portable floss that’s flat and fits in my wallet.
- It feels good. It really does. Flossing makes my mouth feel better, and it is absolutely easier to do things that feel good. Another way to look at it is, it feels bad if I don’t do it.
Of all these things, ROUTINE is the key ingredient.
As for the sustainability of the floss itself, my conclusion is that whatever floss option helps me (or you) floss everyday is the one that is sustainable.
That said, I have looked into this, and have found these parameters for evaluation:
- The filament. What’s it made of? What’s on it? How easy is it to use?
- Crest Glide: Made of PTFE, commonly known as Teflon. It’s what makes it so strong, even when thin. I know that it’s not a healthy material–in production, as well as in usage–but I keep coming back to this because the space between my teeth are very tight and this is easiest to use. This is where I weigh the overall pros and cons. Is it better that I floss everyday with a less than ideal product, or risk flossing less with a healthier product?
- Desert Essence Dental Tape: Uses a tea tree oil antiseptic; was a bit thick to use, but acceptable. Not widely distributed so less everyday sustainable.
- Tom’s of Maine Floss: This is easier to find at a local pharmacy, but it’s made of nylon and shreds. Was especially a problem with my braces, where it kept getting caught in my braces.
- Other materials. What about filament + contraption solutions? Or other materials altogether?
- Dental flossers: You know those things that look like toothpick with a little C-shaped plastic and piece of floss in between? Sure, it’s high in convenience, but a big source of wasted material, especially if you dispose of it after a few uses, which is probably a good idea hygiene-wise.
- Replacement-head dental flossers: Like the one from Reach, is maybe one step better than the ones that are completely disposable, but think about all the packaging.
- Floss holder: This seems like the best flosser solution, where you thread a small bit of floss on a plastic holder. So you use less floss than what you need to thread around your fingers, but get the same effect as using a flosser. Here’s one from Flossaid. I don’t know how long these last. And then there’s the question of: Is it easy enough to be everyday sustainable for you?
- Non-filament flosser: The Brytonpick is a flat boomerang-shaped plastic flosser. Can’t get the angles you can with floss, but it’s a great alternative, especially when traveling. Definitely more material than a filament, but it does last longer. They say a month.
- Volume. What’s the # of flosses to material value? I think the individually-packed dental flossers are the worst offenders. Very expensive financially and carbon footprint to manufacture, package, ship and retail one of these for single use.
- Economy size: My preferred solution these days is the 100m Crest Glide. It’s the biggest volume I could find. Ideally they would sell just the replacement filament, without the plastic container.
- Economy size with a floss holder is probably the best solution.
Resource: Focus on Floss, a desciption of all kinds of floss, from a dental hygiene journal