Your dentist tells you to floss daily, right? And if you’re reading this, you probably listen to them. They say to take 12-18 inches of floss to clean between your teeth.

If you do that every day, you’re tossing out 6,570 inches of floss each year. That’s almost 600 feet of dental floss in the trash.

And all that floss is piling up somewhere, right? Or is dental floss biodegradable?

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Nothing biodegrades in landfills.

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Big brand dental floss is made of plastic.

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Plastic does not biodegrade.

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There are biodegradable dental floss options available.

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TL;DR

As a flosser, I know how hard that habit is to develop. When I first started flossing, I would be falling asleep and have the sudden realization that I forgot to floss. So I’d get up, out of bed, and go floss my teeth.

It took a while for the habit to sink in until flossing became automatic and I can’t even deal with my dirty mouth if I forget to floss. In fact, if I don’t floss before bed, I’m probably either very sick or very drunk … just sayin’.

But then I started thinking about all the floss waste I’m leaving behind. And I switched from those slick glide flosses to an all-natural silk floss in a refillable glass case. Now I can feel good about my clean teeth and their environmental impact!

Is dental floss biodegradable - Monkey Flossing
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Nothing biodegrades in landfills.

Regardless of whether dental floss is biodegradable or not, if you’re putting it in your trash bin, and sending it to your local landfill, it ain’t gonna degrade at all.

Landfills are designed to hold waste and separate it from the environment around it. This design prevents the degradation of pretty much anything.

I talk about this more in my Zero Waste Alternatives for Beginners article.

For anything to biodegrade, there must be a few ingredients available: microorganisms, soil, and oxygen.

Most landfills are lined with plastic or cement, holding all the waste away from the soil. Then each layer of trash is often sectioned off and covered with another sheet of plastic. Sometimes the trash is compacted very tightly too.

All these layers and compacting prevent soil, air, and microorganisms from entering the landfill in sufficient amounts to support biodegradation.

My point is that before we can discuss whether any single product is biodegradable, you should think about where you are putting it. In the end, it’s only biodegradable when properly disposed of.

zero waste alternatives - landfill
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Big brand dental floss is made of plastic.

The next factor in answering the question, “Is dental floss biodegradable?” is too look at what your floss is made of.

Most common dental floss brands, like Oral-B, Dentek, and even Up & Up (Target brand) are made from plastic. And plastic does not biodegrade.

The trouble, I find, is that dental floss doesn’t have an “Ingredients,” label to tell you what it’s made of.

This makes it harder to know if your floss is biodegradable or not. But it also prevents you from seeing what kind of chemicals you’re putting in your mouth … right into your highly absorbent gums.

One type of floss, called Polytetrafluorethylene floss (PTFE), has been found to cause elevated levels of PFA S chemicals – which are some kind of fluoride substance.

In high amounts, which can be built up over time, these chemicals can be linked to various human health concerns, such as kidney cancer. However, it should be noted that this is not likely to be a very high risk just from flossing.

PFASs are also listed as an environmental concern, and some countries have begun restricting their use and manufacturing.

Is dental floss biodegradable - Dentist
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