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What plant could I grow in my yard to use as dental floss?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 40
Location: Lexington, KY
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Yesterday I read an article about how Oral B Glide dental floss is coated in PFASs (think Teflon) that makes the dental floss slippery. A recent study (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41370-018-0109-y) in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology found a link between using this floss and the presence of PFASs in the body. It made me so mad because I am very careful about examining the ingredients in all the healthcare products I use, but I had never even considered evaluating the ingredients in dental floss. I was making my own soap and lotion and deodorant, only to find out that I've been flossing my teeth with a carcinogen.

Today I've been thinking about alternatives to store bought dental floss. Obviously I could use a different brand, but then I went down the rabbit hole of wondering why do I need all that plastic packaging? Why am I putting gobs of string in landfills every year? Why am I spending money on SKINNY STRING? I don't know why I've never questioned it before.

So now I am wondering if there is a plant you could grow in your yard that would consistently produce long, thin fibers. I figure a person could coat it in beeswax if needed. Then after you floss, you could simply toss it in your compost pile or even just your yard. Optimally this plant would not require excessive processing to turn into floss, and would produce consistently thin fibers. Does anyone have any ideas?
 
gardener
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I have some lace weight linen thread that might be appropriate.  Raven (one of our moderators) has a lot of posts about growing linen.  You missed the kickstarter for her book that covers every step from growing the flax to weaving the cloth, but I believe it will soon be available through other means.
 
Audrey Lewis
Posts: 40
Location: Lexington, KY
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Ooh, good suggestion. I did not know anything about linen before researching it just now. Very interesting!
 
Audrey Lewis
Posts: 40
Location: Lexington, KY
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There is a store near me in Frankfort, Kentucky, called The Woolery (https://woolery.com). They sell linen fiber (they call it flax). Next time I'm in Frankfort I'll swing by, pick some up, and see if I think it has any potential. If it doesn't work as dental floss, I'd still have fun trying to spin it into yarn. I talked to a worker there on the phone. She said that out of all the fibers they sell, she suspects the flax would work the best as floss. If it actually works I'll probably plant some. Thanks again for the suggestion!
 
master pollinator
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Another you might try is nettle. There's lots on this site about nettle, and from what I understand, the processing shares commonalities across many different types of plant fibre.

You could also think about perennials that grow sweet, fibrous twigs. I know spruce is a favourite in some parts of the world, or it used to be in the days before tooth brushes and floss. Just snap off a twig and chew the broken end.

Honestly, flossing shouldn't really be necessary. I never did, and rarely do now, and all the dentist said when I finally found one I liked was that I had great teeth, negative decay (?), but that my gums need attention. Between paying more attention to my gumline and rinsing with salt and soda in water, I have reversed the damage in under a year. For me, the only time I need it is to resolve physical discomfort caused by, usually, popcorn hulls stuck between teeth or under the gum.

But let us know how things go for you. I'm sure this is right up the alley of a lot of people on this site. Good luck.

-CK
 
master steward
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I kind of freaked out, too, when I realized most floss is coated with teflon. THere are still some coated with wax (though the wax is probably mostly petrolum-based).

The floss I now buy (Dr. Tung's Smart Floss) is made with plant fibers and coated with beeswax. I don't like that it's packaged in plastic, but at least the plastic isn't touching my mouth. I think there's also a silk floss out there, somewhere, but I can't remember what it's called (I just remember it was really expensive).

As for needing or not needing floss, I think it might depend largely on one's diet and the closeness of one's teeth. I have a tiny mouth and my teeth are all crammed together (despite orthodontia AND having two adult teeth pulled), so if I don't floss, my gums suffer and I have stuff stuck between my teeth, which just isn't pleasant.

I think it's far better to grow/make one's own floss...but right now I barely have time to floss, let alone make it. Hopefully in a few years, when my kids are a bit older, I can try doing that!
 
pollinator
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I take dental hygiene very seriously so was frustrated a few years ago when they questioned what I was using for floss at my cleaning appointment.  Turns out there was a general consensus that Glide floss feels nice but is ineffective.  I switched to an unwaxed kind that then stopped being made. Since then I also switched to Dr Tungs and like it. You can get a big box through Amazon.

I also need to floss because of my some unique spaces but going whole food plant based generally made my teeth very clean. Now at my cleanings we spend more time talking after she tells me she doesn't feel like she is doing much. 😊 ( I am going to watch longer between visits now.)

Sorry no suggestions on plants for this.
 
master steward
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My teeth are real close together so I have to have something thin.  I have used thread and it works well.

I heard of a women who used her hair to floss.

 
pollinator
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I bet yucca would work very well. It separates into pretty tuff threads. Easily wild harvested rather than growing it.
 
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Grow your hair long and use it. Double strands work best.
 
Posts: 159
Location: North Coast Dominican Republic
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wayne fajkus wrote:I bet yucca would work very well. It separates into pretty tuff threads. Easily wild harvested rather than growing it.



Easily harvested wild... if you live where it grows. Plenty of it in the Southwest US, and also in the southern part of the US Eastern seaboard and some of the Sandhills region of the Carolinas. Not too sure you'd find much of it in the wetter or colder places.

I don't think I've seen it in the Dominican Republic either, which is odd, because we have cactus deserts not too far from the rainforests. Next time I'm in the deserts, I will look more carefully.
 
Chris Kott
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Or mulberry trees. Some processing required. By silkworms.

Seriously, you could probably use raw silk.

-CK
 
gardener
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I know spruce is a favourite in some parts of the world, or it used to be in the days before tooth brushes and floss.



Definitely the old fashioned way. It's still taught in wilderness survival schools. It works quite well.


Attended a bee class last year related to dental health. It was mind boggling. The before & after pix were incredible. Tried to find the most unbiased reference to present here about bee propolis toothpaste.
 
pollinator
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the silk floss works good but it frays and tears easily on my sorta crowded front teeth. I have been flossing a lot less since switching to using miswak (roots from the peelu tree) all the time. If you take the time to brush really well the fibers feel like they get in between the teeth really well and push out all kinds of stuff. It is also supposed to add things to your saliva that make it better able to predigest food which makes it get stuck less and come out from between teeth easier. You can get them for like 80 cents a piece on amazon and a single root will last for around am month.
 
Posts: 47
Location: Rocky Mountains, USA
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Sounds like a nature walk might be in order.  Wander around and see what naturally grows in your area that could serve the purpose.

Something tough and stringy like a palm frond or even tough grass might be good.

Alternatively we could take walk back through history.
Arak root was popular as a natural toothbrush well as many other datun or "chewing sticks" used the world over.
 
gardener
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A friend of mine said he used strands of his wife's long thick hair.

Wouldn't work for me, with tightly packed teeth with wider gaps near the gums. I sometimes break even commercial floss. Personally I like the Ultra Floss from Oral-B, which is fuzzy and thick, and gets thin when you pull it down between those tight gaps.

I am not happy when I don't have floss available, especially if I've eaten meat, leafy veggies, or the worst is seafood for some reason. I've had weekend trips where I forgot to bring floss, and believe me, some painful little bits can stay in there for days.
 
Audrey Lewis
Posts: 40
Location: Lexington, KY
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Thank you guys for all these suggestions. This is giving me some floss ideas to investigate.
 
pollinator
Posts: 361
Location: San Diego, California
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Maybe New Zealand Flax? (different from the flax that linen is made from)

It is grown as an ornamental in many places around the US, especially in commercial landscaping.
 
pollinator
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I don't know if you can grow but I was biting into some ripe mango pits the other day. The fibers attached to the pit went in between my teeth. They even broke some teeth plaque.

It is annoying though while the fibers stuck in between your teeth, but they go away after a while or with the help of a toothpick.
 
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