So, you're interested in plastic-free dental floss? Great! It may not seem like much, but every little bit helps when it comes to reducing waste and living a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle.
And if you're flossing correctly (i.e. at least once a day), all those little bits of thread do add up.
Fortunately, there are already several kinds of biodegradable dental floss available in the US, ranging from more traditional plastic-free dental floss to biodegradable dental floss picks to eco-friendly floss picks.
So however you prefer to clean between your teeth, you should be able to find a plastic-free floss option that suits you.
We've picked out some of the best and most popular dental floss alternatives that will take you that bit closer to a plastic-free oral hygiene routine. Take a look and see what you think!
Smile Avenue Charcoal Floss
Boonboo Dental Floss
Treebird Pure Silk Eco Floss
Odogwu Corn Starch Dental Floss Picks
ME Activated Charcoal Infused Floss
Eco-Dent Gentlefloss Premium Dental Floss
Table of contents
Is dental floss biodegradable?
Materials commonly used in regular dental floss and tape include nylon, polyester, Teflon, or Gore-Tex. So no, your dental floss will not decompose naturally. Well, not unless you switch to an eco-friendly dental floss alternative.
Plus, you also need to think about the packaging. Commercial floss typically comes in a plastic box which may or may not be recyclable, but is probably not reusable. Most brands of eco dental floss provide glass jar dispensers or another sustainable packaging, and many offer the option to purchase refills of just the floss, without the container.
Watch the short clip below to see what this type of floss looks like and how easy it is to refill:
Is dental floss vegan?
Most commercial waxed flosses are coated with beeswax. So although they may be cruelty-free and suitable for vegetarians, they are not vegan. Any floss that contains silk is also not vegan.
To be safe, it's best to choose a product that uses plant-based wax and is clearly marked as vegan. We have listed a couple of great options further down.
Plastic-free dental floss materials
We've established that traditional dental floss contains plastic, so what are the plastic-free floss alternatives? Here are some of the options to consider:
- Bamboo: You might have already switched to a bamboo toothbrush, but now you can also get bamboo dental floss. It usually comes infused with charcoal, making it black. It's not as smooth as some other materials, but many people think the extra roughness helps give a better clean.
- Silk: Commercial floss used to be made of silk before nylon started being used during World War II. It's fairly strong, although not as strong as plastic materials, and completely natural. Although silk dental floss has the benefit of being biodegradable, there are some concerns over the welfare of the insects which produce the silk, and it is certainly not vegan.
- Corn: Corn fibers can be used alone or combined with bamboo to make a vegan dental floss. This is one of the newest materials to be used, so choice is limited.
- Essential oils: As well as traditional mint flavors, natural dental floss can be infused with oils like cardamom and tea tree which are naturally antibacterial and can help neutralize bad breath.
One note of caution: do check carefully to make sure that the product you're buying is truly eco-friendly floss. Some sellers throw natural-sounding words into their product descriptions to attract environmentally-minded buyers, when in fact their products are little better than the standard versions you can buy anywhere.
For example, some products marketed as ‘bamboo charcoal dental floss' are actually a mixture of bamboo and polyester fibres. This makes the floss stronger, but certainly not biodegradable.
Is biodegradable dental floss effective?
Eco floss is a new concept and as such, there is limited scientific research about it. But any kind of scraping motion along the tooth enamel will help to dislodge plaque.
Flossing should be an important part of your oral hygiene routine, but you probably want to know why that is.
Even though there are many toothbrushes on the market that claim to clean the spaces in between your teeth, it is highly unlikely that they actually do the job due to their sheer size and shape.
There are many interdental aids that can be used to clean the spaces between your teeth ranging from dental floss, interdental brushes, oral irrigation devices or the water flosser. There is no one size fits all approach when using these interdental aids as there are differences in the shape of the teeth as well as their alignment within the mouth.
So, make sure you have an assortment of these aids to help you with flossing. As the saying goes, you don’t have to floss all your teeth but just the ones that you want to keep!
Dr Asha Ramesh
The more pertinent question may be whether eco floss is as easy to use. Traditional floss has, of course, been developed over the years to be strong and easy to slide between teeth. The variety of materials, shapes and sizes means there's something to suit pretty much everyone. The selection of eco dental flosses in the US, although it is growing and improving all the time, is still relatively limited.
Generally speaking, bamboo and silk dental floss is not as strong as nylon or other plastic materials, nor is it as smooth (although it can be wax coated). Some people complain that it breaks more easily or shreds and gets stuck between their teeth. This is more likely to be a problem if your teeth are tightly spaced or crooked.
Ultimately, if you're trying to make your dental care plastic-free, you might want to try a couple of these options and see which works best for you. So now let's go through some of the best plastic-free dental floss products in the US.
Bamboo dental floss
This floss from teeth whitening brand Smile Avenue is made from 100% bamboo fiber and coated with natural wax so it doesn't get caught or shred between your teeth.
It's also infused with activated charcoal which enhances cleaning and absorbs more plaque. The bamboo fibers expand between teeth to remove even more plaque.
A subtle fresh mint flavor isn't overpowering while helping to freshen breath.
When you order Smile Avenue charcoal floss, you can use code DENTALY15 to get 15% off your order.
Find out more about the Smile Avenue brand in our Smile Avenue review.
Boonboo bamboo dental floss is our next pick. It's plastic-free and should decompose in around six months.
It is coated in candililla wax, and infused with mint flavor. Each spool is 100-feet long, and will last an average of three months with daily use.
The dispensers are also biodegradable and compostable.
You can also get an activated charcoal dental floss made from bamboo, like the one sold by Mother Earth (ME). It comes in a steel container and you can purchase refills.
Before buying bamboo dental floss, do check carefully to make sure it's 100% plastic-free. Some bamboo floss products also contain polyester on the basis that it makes the floss stronger.
Silk dental floss
One of the best brands of silk dental floss in the US is Treebird. It comes with a glass container and in spools that are 33 yards long. The packaging is made from Kraft paper which is compostable and it's printed with soybean ink.
It is waxed with candelilla and flavored with mint. It's also advertised as being ideal for people with sensitive gums.
Reviewers are generally very happy with this floss, although there are some mentions that it can get caught between teeth a bit.
You can also get an activated charcoal dental floss, like the one sold by Mother Earth (ME). It comes in a steel container and you can purchase refills.
Vegan dental floss
One of the top vegan dental floss brands is Eco-Dent GentleFloss. This floss is mint flavored as well and comes in spools of 100 yards.
It is free from any animal products, coated with vegan wax for a smooth glide, and infused with 11 essential oils.
It comes in compostable paper packaging as well.
Reviewers comment that it is gentle on the gums, and that they enjoy the flavoring from the essential oils.
“Once I found this dental floss some years ago. first at my local Whole Foods, I never cared to try another brand. It does feel gentle indeed and I appreciate that it’s got an eco-conscious brand. I’d be okay without the flavor, which is what I think the original version I used was, but glad the flavoring come from essential oils. I also like that it lasts a long time.”Helaine
Biodegradable floss picks
If you prefer the convenience of floss picks but are dismayed at the amount of plastic waste they produce, there are some eco-friendly floss picks out there too. Well, kind of.
The closest thing to a natural floss pick right now comes from Odogwu. They make corn starch floss picks.
On closer inspection, we find they “are made primarily from corn starch” but also contain a fair amount of PLA. This is a plastic that has been labeled ‘biodegradable' but in fact, only decomposes under very specific conditions – and your garden compost heap isn't one of them.
If your main concern is to eliminate plastic waste then we'd recommend using one of the string flosses mentioned above. But some people have trouble with string floss because of limited dexterity, and in this case, these “eco-friendly” floss picks are at least a step in the right direction until a better product appears on the market.
Other dental floss alternatives
A different option altogether is to invest in a water flosser. These electronic devices shoot out a jet of water to clean between the teeth. They don't produce any waste at all on a daily basis, but then again they do use electricity and you will eventually have to dispose of the device when it stops working.
Another effective way to clean between teeth is with an interdental brush. These tiny brushes come in a range of sizes to fit almost every crevice in your mouth. Although there aren't any completely plastic-free options at present, there are some with bamboo handles and replaceable heads. Read all about these in our interdental brush guide.
If you're trying to go zero waste or at least reduce the amount of disposable plastic you use, the good news is that you can still keep flossing. Whether you opt for silk, bamboo or corn, there are plenty of plastic-free dental floss products you can try as part of a natural tooth care routine.
If you're interested in greening up other parts of your dental care, you can also check out our articles for natural toothpaste, and activated charcoal toothbrushes which are often made of bamboo.
They might not feel quite the same as the traditional materials you're used to, but we hope you can find one that suits you so you can keep your mouth healthy without harming the environment.
ABC Science: Dental Floss 1. Consulted 23rd March 2020.
Medical News Today: What are the health benefits of cardamom? Consulted 23rd March 2020.