Don’t Flush that Floss!

I didn’t know until today that flushing dental floss can gum up the works of a city’s water system: 

It snags on other things in the water waste stream and creates big intractable hairball-like things that damage the pumps at the water processing plants.


Dental Work

Any Internet discussion of frugal dentistry will mention getting your dental care at a dental school. This is great if there’s a dental school in your area. I called a dental school and asked about their program. They offer services for a low price, but not on an emergency basis. You have to be already signed up with them. Dental students do the work, closely supervised by teaching dentists.

Does your dental insurance have a new deductible each calendar year? If all you need is the annual cleaning and exam, you can save yourself a deductible in alternate years. Have an annual cleaning in early January and then again in December of the same calendar year. Then skip the next calendar year and do it again the year after that. Your cleanings will be eleven-plus months apart in the first year and thirteen or fewer months apart in the second year. You’ll pay a deductible in only one of those years.

In 2012, I got a cleaning, x-ray, and exam offer from a local dentist in my email. They gave a stupendous discount. After three years of skipping routine cleanings, I was glad to have a chance to confirm that my flossing and brushing routine is working well. If I had waited half a day I would have seen the same offer through Deals. Then I could have gotten the same deal through and earned eight points per dollar. Next time.

I’ve found out about many resources just by talking about things with people in general. A woman in my Sunday school told me about a local dentist who gives free care once a month, first come first served. They don’t advertise this; it’s all word of mouth.

I don’t remember who told me about the Volusia County Human Services office. They will give a voucher to have a bad tooth extracted without charge. They don’t cover any other dental work. But since an infected tooth can be fatal, it’s nice to know there’s a way to get it extracted. The dentist I asked would have charged over $300 for an extraction, including exam and x-ray.

A place to start to find resources in your area would be to call the county health department. Another good resource for any kind of human services need is 211. You can dial 211 on your phone or go to online. This is a service of the United Way.

Thrifty message boards on the Internet are more and more mentioning getting dental work done in Mexico. It costs a fraction of what it would cost in the U.S.

Drugstores sell temporary repair kits to replace a lost filling on your own. The house brand is less expensive. The instructions say to see a dentist within forty-eight hours after using the kit.

Some dentists will give you a family discount. You usually have to ask, they don’t advertise it. While you’re asking, inquire about discounts for seniors, military, paying cash up front, and anything else you can think of.




Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on in both Kindle and paperback versions.

Grooming – Toothpaste Alternative

My dentist endorses my use of baking soda as toothpaste. I have an open jar of baking soda by the sink and dip my toothbrush into it and brush. I faintly recall having a period of time as a child when I disliked the taste of toothpaste. My dentist then told my mother that baking soda would work just fine. When it clumps up, I use the back of the toothbrush to mash the lumps out. When it won’t un-clump anymore I add water and swish the last of the container down the sink to freshen up the drain.

If baking soda tastes bad to you, you can add an essential oil. Try baking soda, a little water, and a few drops of peppermint, spearmint, or orange essential oil. Mix to a paste consistency. Some recipes add a little coconut oil also. There are many recipes on the Internet. Search on “baking soda toothpaste recipes.”


Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on in both Kindle and paperback versions.


“Floss the Teeth You Want to Keep”

I saw that phrase on a sign outside a dentist’s office years ago. I remembered it because it’s true and useful. I confess that for decades I lied to dentists and hygienists. ‘Oh, yes, I floss’ (this morning, so I’d be sort of telling you the truth today).

Then one year they showed me the x-rays from that day and the same view from a year earlier. The bone loss was clearly visible. The bone is what makes your teeth stay in, and I do want to keep my teeth. That day I started flossing and do so to this day. One of the excuses I had was that I didn’t feel like I had time. I timed it once, it took less than a minute. I have time.

Here’s a relevant clip from my book, Frugal Living for the 21st Century, now available in paperback on

“Lately I’ve noticed dental floss costing more and/or having less floss in the container. Since dental work is many times more expensive than dental floss, I still buy it. Consuming less floss per use is one idea. I thought that would happen with a dental floss holder I bought at Search on “Flossaid Dental Floss Holder.” It probably would have, but my teeth are close together and the holder didn’t hold the floss taut enough for it to work. …

I tried some other things. Nylon upholstery thread was strong enough, but too round to slide down between my crowded teeth. Regular strength sewing thread fit between my teeth but broke right away. So did embroidery floss. So, I went back to dental floss. Walmart’s Equate brand costs 87 cents for 55 yards. The name brand costs $2.62 for the same amount. So far, Walmart’s is the least expensive floss I’ve found.

I looked for reusable tools that can do some of the things that floss does. All sources agreed that flossing is by far the best. But what if you can’t floss or want to do more than just floss? The goal is to disturb the colonies of bacteria, to stop plaque from forming.

One tool is the rubber-tipped dental stimulator, the kind that used to be built in to the handles of toothbrushes. This tool is flexible and pointy. You run the point along the intersection of your gums and teeth, disturbing the plaque at the gum line. You can also put the point in between your teeth at the gum line and wiggle it to improve blood flow to the gums.

Another tool is the interdental brush. It looks like a teeny-tiny bottlebrush. They come in different sizes and degrees of softness. They slide in between the teeth at the gum line to brush the insides where a regular toothbrush won’t go.

GUM® makes a semi-disposable form of these called Soft-Picks®. Each one lasts more than one use, but not for long enough to be a permanent tool. I tried one of these. I had thought it might hurt or feel creepy. In fact, it felt good and I could tell it would clean the gum area between the teeth better than floss alone.

Both of these tools can be disinfected just like your toothbrush. You can use mouthwash, hydrogen peroxide, or rubbing alcohol.”

Today, New Year’s Eve, is a good time to renew your vows to floss regularly, if you don’t already.

Wonderful review

I am so moved by this review. “Tightwad Gazette of the 21st Century” is exactly what I wanted people to think about it:

“Great book!, February 18, 2014

By Lita McRiley “Sorlina”See all my reviews

Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)

This review is from: Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely (Kindle Edition)

This book is jam-packed with tips, ideas, and strategies for saving money. It’s the Tightwad Gazette of the 21st century… internet addresses for DIY help, encouragement for readers, personal anecdotes, this book has it all. To top it off, it’s delivered in a light, easy to read style that isn’t preachy or judgmental. A very helpful, and enjoyable, read!”

The Tightwad Gazette has been the “bible” of thrifty living. My hope was to make it the ‘old testament’ and mine the ‘new testament’, and it seems I have succeeded.