Health - Is Dental Floss Really Toxic? Here's What to Know About That New Study

January 9, 2019

By: Amanda MacMillan

Excerpt: "We think of flossing as a healthy habit—but according to a new study, a certain type of floss contains harmful chemicals that may be leaching into our bodies.

Women who used Oral-B Glide dental floss had higher levels of perfuoroalkyl substances (also known as PFAS) in their blood than those who didn’t, finds the new report from the non-profits Silent Spring Institute and Public Health Institute. Tests also confirmed that the company’s Glide floss—along with several of its competitors—contained fluorine, a marker of PFAS chemicals.

That’s concerning, researchers say, since those same compounds have been linked to serious health problems like cancer, fertility issues, and weight gain. But how worried should we be, exactly, about our nightly dental care routine? Here’s what we know so far. ...

In the new study, researchers took blood samples from 178 middle-aged women—half white, half African American. They also interviewed the women about nine behaviors they thought could be linked to higher PFAS exposure, including regular flossing and fast-food consumption. (They had a hunch that dental floss might be problematic, since some types have been described as Teflon-like.)

They found that women who flossed with Oral-B Glide—which "slides 50% more easily in tight spaces," according to the company's website—tended to have higher levels of a PFAS compound called perfluorohexanesulfonic acid, or PFHxS. Digging deeper, the researchers tested 18 different dental flosses, and found that all three Glide products tested contained fluorine, a marker of PFAS.

Two store-brand floss products with “compare to Oral-B Glide” labeling and another brand that described itself as “Teflon fiber” also tested positive for fluorine.

Unsurprisingly, living in a city with PFAS-contaminated drinking water—and living in a house with stain-resistant carpets or furniture—were also linked to higher PFAS levels in the blood. Among African Americans, frequently eating food prepared in coated cardboard containers (like French fries and take-out) was also linked to higher levels."

About Highly Fluorinated Chemicals (PFASs)Everyday Chemical Exposures