For decades, your nightly routine hasn’t changed. After taking a shower, you floss and brush your teeth. You never, ever go to bed without flossing your pearly whites. The mere thought of trying to go to sleep with sticky, gross food stuck between your teeth makes you queasy.
Ok, no one’s that meticulous with flossing their teeth, but even the occasional flosser needs to hear about their possible exposure to a cocktail of toxic chemicals.
According to Healthline, a recent study revealed the use of Oral-B Glide and comparable competitor flosses is linked to higher concentrations of polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. PFAS is a catchall term for a group of similar man-made chemicals found in numerous consumer items.
These chemicals have been produced since the 1940s. Cookware, paints, fast food wrappers, and electronics are just a few of the products containing them. Both the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, consider PFAS a source of potential toxic exposure for people.
The disturbing study underlining the possible dangers of flossing with Oral-B Glide and other brands is the first of its kind. The chief of environmental medicine at Northwell Health in New York, Dr. Ken Spaeth, informed Healthline, “A study like this highlights some pretty specific, and I would say surprising, sources of chemical exposure.”
The medical professional, who wasn’t affiliated with the research, said, “I think it’s fair to say that most people think of their dental floss as benign and not a source of chemical exposure, so I think on a lot of levels, academically, but also on the level of educating consumers, this is an interesting study.”
During the study, researchers examined multiple suspected lifestyle and behavioral factors that might contribute to PFAS exposure. Participants included 178 middle-aged women. Nearly half of the women were African-American.
Researchers determined whether participants consumed microwave popcorn, utilized non-stick cookware, ate fast food packaged in cardboard containers, or used Oral-B Glide dental floss. Eating microwave popcorn and using non-stick cookware weren’t linked with elevated levels of serum PFAS. However, using floss and consuming fast food were.
In some industries, PFAS are valued for their slippery or non-stick characteristics. You may be familiar with Teflon. It’s a famous brand of material manufacturers make non-stick cookware with. Teflon is derived from polytetrafluoroethylene, PTFE. PTFE is in the family of PFAS chemicals. PTFE is also used to produce the “Glide” variety of dental flosses.
Even though PFAS are in many of the products you might use on a daily basis, they’re associated with a plethora of health problems. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, ATSDR, reports that exposure to certain PFAS might:
- Lessen a woman’s chance of conceiving
- Raise your cholesterol levels
- Affect your immune system
- Affect the growth, behavior, and learning, of babies and older kids
- Interfere with your body’s natural hormones
- Raise your risk of getting cancer
What makes PFAS so frightening is their ability to remain in your body for a long time. Spaeth warned Healthline, “Once they are in the body, they hang around for a few years. That’s one of the concerns. It’s not the kind of thing that if you get it inside of you that it’s gone within a couple of hours. It can hang around for quite some time. Obviously the more you’re exposed, the higher the levels can be.”
In a statement to USA Today, Oral-B denied they found any toxic substances in their floss. The company said, “Our dental floss undergoes thorough safety testing and we stand behind the safety of all our products.”
Fortunately, not all types of floss consist of PFAS. In the study, researchers checked 18 floss products to see if they contained fluorine as an indicator of PFAS. Only six of the flosses consisted of fluorine. So, two-thirds of them were PFAS free.
Ronald P. Uilkie, DDS, a dentist located in New Mexico, explained why “Glide” floss is so popular. He stated, “Historically, the traditional floss has been around a long time. It’s made out of dakron and wax and it’s quite effective. However, compliance among patients for flossing has always been poor and dismal. In an effort to increase compliance, this ‘glide’ floss has been developed because of the very nature of the material: it’s slippery, it’s slick, and it’s able to pass through the teeth more readily, with greater ease.”
The potential health hazards linked to PFAS are alarming. To keep your pearly whites clean, stick to traditional floss. Besides protecting your health, you’ll likely save some money.