Flossing is an integral part of dental health — not only does it remove food and plaque from between your teeth, but it's also been linked to staving off health conditions in the long run. But your floss itself might be ridden with chemicals — unfortunately, PFAS can be found in dental floss.
Here's what exactly that means, why that could be bad news, and which brands work best if you're trying to make the switch to something PFAS-free.
Why are PFAS bad?
PFAS are known as "forever chemicals" because they never break down in the environment, or in your body. They are found in all aspects of life including fast food wrappers, stain-resistant products, and even in soil.
On top of that, these chemicals are highly dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it's difficult to directly link these substances to health concerns. But they have been associated with low birth weight, immune system issues, increased cholesterol levels, and more. An article in Health states that these substances are also connected to some cancers and fertility issues.
Are there PFAS in dental flos?
From the research we have now, it does look like there are PFAS in certain brands of dental floss. A 2019 study which was published to the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology showed that women who used a particular brand of floss with PFAS had higher levels of the forever chemicals in their blood than those who didn't use it. Oral-B, Colgate, and Solimo were a few brands of dental floss with PFAS.
While this is concerning, this study is the first that linked PFAS exposure with flossing, so more research will need to be done to make a stronger case. But it doesn't look good, considering the negative history these chemicals already have. In Jan. 2022, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Mike Roizen published an article that discouraged the use of floss that has forever chemicals in it.
In the article, the doctors urge you to take care of your teeth using floss. But it points out that you should avoid brands with PFAS.
"It may have PFAs on it, those carcinogenic chemicals that have been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, decreased semen quality and ulcerative colitis in adults and thyroid disease and lowered sex and growth hormones in children," the study reads.
How do I know if my floss has PFAS?
Many brands of dental floss have a waxy coating that may contain PFAS. The 2019 study specifically used the Oral-B Glide floss which has PFAS. But the Health article states that you should avoid any brand that has a "glide ability" or non-stick coating.
If you're on the lookout for floss without forever chemicals, your first instinct may be to check for natural or eco-friendly brands. Those options typically are PFAS-free, but they can feel uncomfortably thick for some. So there may need to be some trial and error before you find the best option.