Earth Matters by Jacqueline Milner – It Adds Up! – Cornwall Ontario – June 22, 2010

North Americans use over three million miles of it annually…what is it??

Cornwall ON – Dental floss! According to information read in an online Plastics and Resins report, North Americans use over 3 million miles of dental floss annually.  Dental floss is made principally from nylon; a synthetic product that is derived from petroleum products. Petroleum is a non-sustainable resource, the production of which can and has had detrimental effects on natural resources and eco-systems world wide; proof positive is the current Gulf of Mexico oil saga which is still looking for a resolution.  There are alternative products available made of silk however animal activists are not fond of this choice because the silkworm’s spun cocoon is what is collected to make silk. Farmers kill the cocooned moth before it emerges to preserve the cocoon to be sold to the manufacturers.

Then there is the coating of the floss to consider.  Waxed or unwaxed?  Plant-based coating or beeswax?  Waxed floss is generally manufactured using a petroleum based synthetic wax.  According to the one thing we should avoid is Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE); better known as Teflon.

After the flossing comes the brushing.  Most dentists recommend changing tooth brushes every 3 months so it shouldn’t be a surprise to know that 50 million pounds of toothbrushes are tossed each and every year.  Wow!!  And where do these end up?  Your local land fills for the most part.  Yes there are repurposing opportunities available for the toothbrush.  They can be used for art projects, cleaning utensils for jewelry, tile and any other hard to reach area on an item with several small nooks and crannies.  All this being said, we would not need another toothbrush in 3 months time to use for these alternative purposes.

What is a person to do? How can we look after our dental needs without purchasing an item whose ultimate resting place will be in our land fills and which could still be in tact during our great-great-grandchildren’s life time?  EnterPreserve, an American Company who has come up with a tooth brush that they recycle.  In fact each tooth brush that they sell comes with a self-addressed stamped envelope for you to return your worn out tooth brush for recycling.  The tooth brushes can be purchased on line or through Mother Earth Natural Health, 747 D Richmond Road, Ottawa, ON.  Perhaps a local retailer would be interested in handling this product?  There could be great fund raising opportunities with this product…don’t you think?

So what threes things can we do immediately to make our daily dental routine a little greener?  Use floss that is uncoated or manufactured with natural waxed coatings. Sadly recycling is not an option for dental floss at this time.  Consider using a toothbrush that can be recycled.  Look for the product that has the least amount of packaging and for packaging that is recyclable.  Lastly if any of the packaging or product that you purchase is recyclable…recycle it!

There are definitely many things to consider when making every day decisions about one’s daily routine and health choices while keeping in mind the health of the planet. Remember the health of our planet depends on us and our health depends on the health of the planet.

Your commentary about this article is encouraged and appreciated.


  1. The alternative is to not floss nor brush your teeth! Now thats GREEN!

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