dental flossOnce upon a time, we recommended Glide dental tape. Now? Not so much.

New research has confirmed that this product – along with other mainstream, big brand flosses – may be a source of exposure to PFASs. These synthetic chemicals are both water- and grease-resistant, so they’re used in a wide array of consumer products, including dental floss. They help it glide smoothly and gently between the teeth.

But as Treehugger notes, PFAS

are notorious chemical contaminants. Researchers have linked human exposure…with thyroid disease, hormone instability, immune system damage, ADHD, impaired reproduction, and fetal development problems.

The latest research, published last week in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology, looked into the relationship between six behaviors thought to influence PFAS exposure and blood levels of the chemicals in 178 middle-aged women.

Compared with those who didn’t use Oral-B Glide or similar products, women who routinely flossed with them had higher levels of a PFAS called (brace yourself) perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS for short).

The authors also tested 18 floss brands for the presence of fluorine, a marker for PFASs. Six of these – one-third of the total – tested positive:

  • CVS Health EaseBetween SuperSlip Dental Floss Waxed
  • Oral-B Glide Pro-Health Mint
  • Glide Pro-Health Original
  • Crest Glide Deep Clean Cool Mint Floss
  • Safeway Signature Care Mint Waxed Comfort Floss
  • Colgate Total Dental Floss Mint

While floss is hardly the only potential source of PFAS exposure, it is a concern since trace amounts can readily be absorbed through the soft tissues of your gums. While the amount of direct exposure may be small, it does add up – and it’s exposure that you can easily do something about, namely, opt for another brand of floss.

The first thing to look for is natural waxed floss. Tom’s of Maine is probably the easiest to find, since their products are widely available in big box stores and supermarkets, as well as online.

Vegan floss brands such as Eco-Dent may be another good option, along with silk flosses such as Dental Lace, Radius, and Le Negri.

As for non-floss alternatives such as water flossers/oral irrigators and soft picks or proxy brushes, while they’re great tools to include on a regular basis, they can’t completely take the place of floss. Irrigating with water alone, for instance – or using additives like flower essences, herbs, and homeopathics – is very healthful, but the spray of the water will not remove biofilm (plaque) from the tooth surfaces. It’s like running water over a knife you just used to spread peanut butter or cream cheese. Water alone can’t remove the sticky material.

For that, you really do need floss.

Image by Tiia Monto, via Wikimedia Commons

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