Flossing your teeth is obviously an important part of your oral routine and something your dentist will consistently ensure you’re doing on your own. Why? Because it helps remove food debris stuck between your teeth that can otherwise cause decay, gum disease, or an infection. Even the smallest amount of food that’s not removed can cause your teeth to yellow and begin the decaying process and, before you know it, you’ll have a cavity that needs to be filled!
It’s best to follow your dentist’s instructions and floss once a day, either after brushing your teeth in the morning after breakfast, or in the evening before you go to bed. They’ll offer their suggestions on which floss is the best to use and offer tips on how to ensure you’re getting between every tooth efficiently. But after you’ve flossed your teeth, where do you throw out your floss? Do you throw it in the trash or flush it down the toilet? Does dental floss dissolve?
What Is Dental Floss Made Of?
You may just think of dental floss as just that – floss! Surprisingly, there are a few different kinds of floss to choose from and every patient will prefer something different depending on the type of material works best with their teeth, if they have sensitivity issues, etc. Each dentist will prefer different kinds too, so let’s break down what each kind of floss is made from.
This type of floss is also referred to as “nylon floss” by professionals. Nylon floss is actually processed from ribbon that is then cut into small strips. They’re remelted and blended to form filaments that, when cooled, solidify into the yarn-like texture. You’ll also notice it looks twisted which actually helps keep it together and increases its strength, rather than fraying when coming in contact with your mouth.
Waxed floss is also made from nylon material but is coated in wax to provide easier gliding between the teeth and prevent any fraying. Typically they have a flavour added too, like peppermint or cinnamon. It’s quite thicker than unwaxed, so patients with tighter gaps may have a harder time gliding it between their teeth.
Tip: It’s often much easier to convince kids to floss if it’s a fun flavour! You can even find bubblegum, cherry, orange, and other types of flavours (just like with toothpaste) that they’ll enjoy while improving their oral health.
This type of floss will appear flat and can come in both waxed or unwaxed versions. It’s a bit thicker than other glosses, but it’s great for getting between gaps that aren’t as tight to remove food debris. It’s made from a material called Teflon and allows for an easier glide between the teeth. The material is also stretchier, making it easier to reach between the teeth at the back of the mouth and you don’t need to break off as much as regular dental floss.
Polytetrafluorethylene Floss (PTFE)
PTFE floss is made from the same material as Gore-Tex fabric (breathable, lightweight, and waterproof clothing), meaning it’s easy to move the material between your teeth without worrying about pieces shredding. Though the material has become quite popular, some may not actually recommend it because of its likeliness to affect hormone levels. Some compounds in it are also carcinogenic – known to cause cancer. This is why it’s best to ask your dentist which floss they prefer and why.
Super floss is mainly referred to patients who have braces, implants or dental bridges. It allows flexibility to clean under appliances and around your gums. It’s made from a yarn-like material that has stiffer sections on each end, making it easier to clean around metal brackets or wires, or for patients with large gaps. It doesn’t, however, work as efficiently for those with tight spaces.
Water flossers have become quite popular amongst patients who have a hard time flossing between each tooth properly, especially in hard-to-reach areas. A water flosser is a handheld device that applies a stream of pulsating water between teeth to remove any food that’s stuck. It can be more effective when removing plaque and can even improve gum health. The downside? They’re a bit more expensive than a pack of tooth floss! But they do last a long time.
Each type of floss will have its own pros and cons, so it’s best to discuss the best options for your specific oral health care with your dentist. If they’ve recommended a certain kind that doesn’t work for you, let them know and see what else you can try instead.
You can easily find any of the above-listed floss in any drug store or grocery store that also carries beauty and health care products. Popular top-rated brands include:
- Tom’s of Maine
Does Dental Floss Dissolve In Water?
It’s quite popular for people to just toss their floss in the toilet after they’ve finished flossing, but they may be surprised to know that no, tooth floss does not dissolve in water and may actually be the main reason your pipes are clogging. The materials like nylon and Teflon are not biodegradable and can end up wrapping itself around pipes, hair that’s stuck, and other stuff in the pipes. Once it reaches the sewer systems, it still won’t break down. Instead, it can end up clumping up even further and create a bigger problem than just clogging one of your pipes. Ultimately, it’s best to just toss the floss in the garbage.
However, there are certain flosses that are made to be biodegradable and considered eco-friendly, such as:
- Dental Lace
- Mother Earth Charcoal Dental Floss
- Radius Silk Floss
- The Humble Co. Dental Floss
- Tom’s of Maine
Not all of these will be available in general stores, but you may have luck at a health food store or organic-based store, like Whole Foods or Goodness Me.
How are they different?
Well, many of the pick versions will be made from wood or other biodegradable materials rather than plastic. Some of the actual floss is also made from silk. Silk is a very durable and flexible flossing material and can easily be thrown in the compost afterwards.
Accidentally Swallowed Some Floss?
It happens, especially if it has shredded into tiny pieces or got stuck and you eventually ended up swallowing it unexpectedly.
First of all, if you have floss stuck between your teeth and are having trouble removing it, contact your dentist. Don’t keep trying to remove it with other things as this can damage your teeth and irritate your gums. Brush your teeth, try removing it with a toothpick or a tied piece of floss, and if that doesn’t work, it’s time to visit the dentist to have it removed safely. They’ll likely suggest a new flossing material for you to try instead.
If you’ve ended up accidentally swallowing some tooth floss, don’t panic. If it’s a small piece, it will naturally make its way “out”. If it’s a larger piece, you still shouldn’t worry. Though your stomach cannot actually digest the materials, it will also still find its way out safe and sound.
However, if you swallow tooth floss regularly because you enjoy the fun flavour, you may end up with more serious health problems. Plastic, nylon and Teflon are not digestible materials and they can end up causing intestinal blockages that can, in the end, require surgery. If you know you’ve swallowed too much floss and are experiencing nausea, abdominal swelling, inability to go to the bathroom, etc., you should go to the doctor and be honest about what happened.
Flossing Shouldn’t Be Skipped
If you’ve gone to the dentist recently and they’ve told you that you need to floss more, listen to them! They’re telling you this for a reason. It’s important to floss once a day after you brush your teeth, either in the morning after breakfast, or in the evening before bed. There are a few different kinds of floss to choose from, but you’ll likely find the best material that works for your particular mouth. If you have larger gaps, waxed floss may work best for you. If you have tight spaces, dental tape or an unwaxed floss may be the better option. Depending on the material, unwaxed floss may start to shred and leave you with floss stuck between your teeth, so ask your dentist what they think is best for you.
Flossing is an important part of your oral hygiene and necessary when it comes to proper preventive care. It can drastically save you from tooth decay and gum disease. In order to floss properly, break off about 18 inches of floss and hold it firmly between your index fingers and thumbs, leaving approximately two inches between your fingers. Glide the floss between each tooth with an up and down motion and make a “C” shape once you reach your gums and pull back down. Use a clean section of floss each time you move between your teeth.
If it’s hard for you to maneuver the floss and can’t reach the back of your mouth, water flossing is always an option and is known for improving gum health and removing harmful plaque!