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Dental Stitches: Alternatives to chemically treated sutures

by Carol D'Agostino
February 1996

This is a followup on my search for non-chemicalized, safe dental sutures. It doesn't seem like there is any such a thing. All sutures today seem to be chemically sterilized instead of by heat (autoclaved).

Soooo, my dentist sent me on a search for appropriate sewing thread. Unless I could find organic, unbleached, unmercerized thread on my own, (mercerized means the thread has been dipped in caustic soda to burn off all the fuzz and make it smooth), he would just go to the local Fabric Bonanza with a magnifying glass and try to pick out a suitable thread.

I called several of the more well-known fabric and dry goods mail order places who advertise organic, chemical-free, we cater to the chemically sensitive, and was surprised to find out that they just use ordinary thread.

The Cotton Place, 1-800-451-8866, has what seems to be suitable for my needs. I ordered a cone of organic, unbleached, unmercerized thread and a spool of unbleached, non-organic, mechanically mercerized (smoothed by running the thread through a little hole to cut off rough edges), and I'll see which one my dentist likes.

I think I ought to wash a length of each thread (in what? Wisk, baking soda, borax) in case there are any machine oils or such on it, before I give it to my dentist for autoclaving.

Kelly at The Cotton Place was very helpful. She has a similar problem with sutures! and had to have stainless steel ones for an appentectomy.


I had my second dental surgery yesterday, this time using my "homemade" sutures. They were simply mechanically mercerized unbleached cotton thread that I purchased from The Cotton Place(1/800-451-8866). Cost $2.00 (Kelly, the customer rep, who also has a suture problem, was kind enough to waive the $4.00 shipping fee.)

My dentist autoclaved some thread, doubled it for more strength and used it with no problems.

The Cotton Place also sent me another cotton thread which was organic but unmercerized. "Mercerized" is when the thread is treated chemically (with caustic soda) or merchanically (by running it through a tiny hole) to smooth any fuzzy edges. I would rather have used this organic thread but it was too weak and too fuzzy.

Hope this is helpful to those of you with suture problems.

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