Years ago, in a dentist’s chair on the 69th floor of the Chrysler Building — which has since moved to a lower floor somewhere in the West 30s, thanks to a rent spike — this Strategist writer found herself gripping a plush “comfort” alligator, while her dentist filled a number of cavities. As I stared through orange-tinted protective glasses up at the fake clouds and sky on the ceiling, listening to the drill, I vowed that I would be better at flossing from then on. And I have been, mostly — at least enough to avoid additional cavities. My not-exactly-religious-but-good-enough flossing routine has involved Oral-B Glide, a straightforward floss that’s almost always in stock at CVS. It’s easy and basic, as flossing should be. But Quip thinks they can make it even easier.
Quip is the direct-to-consumer company that introduced the idea of subscription electric-toothbrush heads in 2015. (I tested their toothbrush, along with five others from start-ups, this summer.) Now they’re trying the same thing with floss. They call it “The first floss you’ll want to use.” Packaged in a $20 refillable metal (or plastic, for $10 less) container, Quip’s floss is meant to encourage a daily flossing habit — which, it’s worth noting, some experts say may not even be necessary. They do that by packaging the floss in a carrying case that looks nice enough to leave out on your sink. The thought being, apparently, that a visual reminder can also serve as incentive.
Similar to the brand’s toothbrush and its toothbrush-head refill service, Quip’s floss is sent to you every three months — a $5 tube that you load, like a cartridge, into the metal or plastic container. When Quip offered to send some of their new floss, I accepted. I was a bit skeptical that it could encourage me any more than my trusty Oral-B did from its position in the medicine cabinet, but I’ll do anything if it means never squeezing that stuffed alligator again.
When the Quip floss arrived, the cylindrical rose-gold metal looked like a vaguely millennial object: matte metallic, smooth, a little techy, as if the shell of an iPhone had been melted down and reformed as a dental-floss package. Did something as humble as floss really need to come in this sleek container? I do believe that a more beautiful version of a practical item can make you more likely to use it — a stylish Muji dustpan, for instance, or a fun coatrack — but at first glance the flashy look of Quip’s minimalist packaging wasn’t encouraging me to floss more. What the packaging does have going for it is the cylindrical shape, which is weirdly comforting to hold. Its similarity to a lipstick tube or a lighter made it feel like something you would naturally throw in your bag before leaving the house (which I did, repeatedly). In that regard, Quip is right: It’s hard to floss if you don’t have floss with you.
I don’t mean to speak for everyone, but if I may: Dispensing floss from a traditional container is not difficult. The Quip dispensing mechanism may not be easier, but it is slightly more snappy. First, you press the top of the case, and a C-shaped plastic piece pops up kind of like a Pez dispenser, with the floss suspended between two points. To dispense the floss, you take the string from between the two points, and pull it as if you would with a traditional floss. Once you’ve removed the amount of floss you want, pull the piece into the little slot at the top of the plastic dispenser to cut it.
The American Dental Hygienists’ Association recommends using 18 inches of floss, and the Quip floss reflects this with a mark every 18 inches. It reminded me of how Quip’s toothbrush buzzes every 30 seconds to remind you to brush a different quadrant of your mouth. But while it’s unlikely you’d bring a stopwatch into the bathroom to time your proper brushing, you don’t really needed the added help with floss. Floss you can pretty much eyeball. The markings only seemed helpful in that they would keep you on track for using the correct amount of floss to space out your three-month Quip deliveries.
The floss itself had a nice texture: neither too slippery nor too sticky. It felt like a thin but sturdy piece of string. It’s a waxed floss, which is made of nylon and less likely to break than unwaxed floss, though can be harder to fit into tight spaces. Ribbon floss, or dental tape, like my old Glide, is a broader and flatter, and typically more comfortable to squeeze between teeth. According to Quip, its floss expands once it gets between your teeth. I didn’t notice the expansion when I used it, but afterwards my teeth did feel extremely clean, possibly more so than after using the Glide.
Near the end of my test I brought the Quip floss with me on a weekend trip with friends. I showed it to one of them who prefers those plastic wishbone floss picks to regular floss, and they had a good suggestion: The C-shape area in the Quip container where the floss is suspended could have doubled as a floss pick. While I’ve never used those picks, I think my friend identified the problem with the Quip floss: Nothing, other than sleek packaging, truly differentiates it from more traditional iterations of floss. That comfortable, familiar shape is good. It did, after all, convince me to throw it in my bag, where it was a day later when I found myself, post-everything bagel, with seeds in my teeth. But it could do more: What about a small mirror on one end to check your teeth? A built-in toothbrush head on one side? A spritzer for mouthwash? Maybe an alarm with your dentist’s voice, reminding you to floss? That would be disruption.
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