From the Chamber of Oral Hygiene Horrors.
It’s pretty hard to pick the WORST oral hygiene tool on the market today because there are some real doozies around, including hard-bristled toothbrushes.
But one of them is so popular and so problematic that it holds a special place in my private Chamber of Oral Hygiene Horrors.
I know that some folks find them convenient and comfortable but I have three main objections from an oral health perspective, and one supplementary objection based on my belief that holistic oral health does not end with the individual.
1. Short floss
Their short length of floss means floss picks inevitably transfer microorganisms from one part of your mouth to all the teeth. If you are vigilant with hygiene, you might just be moving residual carbohydrates and sugars around, which is bad enough. If your mouth hosts an infection, abscess, gingivitis, or active decay then floss picks spread the disease around your mouth.
2. Gumline neglect
The real benefit of effective flossing (with string or tape floss) is to clean along the gumline, when you curve the floss around each tooth. Floss picks aren’t designed to clean along the gumline and they only clean in between teeth.
3. Gum damage
The rigid frame of a floss pick encourages a harmful flossing technique where the floss is slammed between the teeth to hit the gum, which can cause bruising or cutting and increases the risk of bleeding, infection, receding gums, and gum pockets.
4. Plastic rubbish
Last, but not least, I object to MORE single-use plastic in the world.
You risk ingesting microscopic particles that flake off the floss pick as you use it. These may contribute to the microplastics found in human blood.
However, I consider the risk to other beings even more egregious. I regularly see floss picks as litter in public places, including the high tide line at our beach. Ninety percent of sea birds die with plastic in their stomachs. Let’s not contribute to that ongoing cruelty.
Alternatives to dental picks
Arguably all these objections can also be applied to string floss. The first three are resolved by practicing a gentle effective flossing technique (check out my video The Art of Sensual Flossing for the right way to floss). Addressing the last point means avoiding mainstream plastic-coated brands of floss in favour of biodegradable silk or bamboo floss.
Recently plant-based floss picks have started to appear on the market. If you use that kind you’re only putting your own oral health at risk instead of innocent animals. The best alternative is a biodegradable string floss and whatever time it takes to improve your flossing technique.
Has a dentist told you that your cavities or receding gums are your fault because you are drinking too much Coke, you don’t floss enough or you need to stop breastfeeding your baby? And you know that isn’t true!
I’m not going to blame you or shame you.
The underlying causes of your oral health issues are not your fault!
Nature or nurture, ancestry or environment, free will or systemic oppression, unconscious emotions or the degraded food system
These are the factors that make your teeth and gums vulnerable to disease.
Even though your tooth decay and gum disease is not your fault, it is within your power to change.
You can turn your oral health around with natural strategies and healthy habits.