Though flossing probably isn’t your favorite part of your daily hygiene routine, you likely do it because you think it’s good for you. Flossing is important because it removes bacteria that can build up between the teeth causing gum disease. But new research shows that while flossing is still important, the kind of floss you use also has implications for your health. It’s a surprising study that is particularly focused on Oral B Glide floss, a variety of floss covered in a slippery Teflon substance that’s supposed to make flossing easier.
What Did the Study Find?
The study, which was published in the January 2019 edition of Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, looked at whether the coating found on dental floss got into the bloodstream of those that used it. The coating is Teflon, which according to Dr. Sanda Moldovan, the founder of Beverly Hills Dental Health and Wellness, an award-winning periodontist, nutritionist, and world-renowned oral health and wellness expert, is also used in cooking pans, stain-resistant carpets, housewares, and furniture. A PFA is a form of plastic that may have toxic impacts on your health. (By the way, if you want to avoid PFAS in your pot and pans, you can do that too. This guide to non-toxic cookware will make it much easier.) Researchers followed 180 women and found that those who used the floss had elevated PFAs in their bloodstream compared to those who didn’t use it.
"This is the first study to show that using dental floss containing PFAS is associated with a higher body burden of these toxic chemicals," says lead author Katie Boronow, a staff scientist at Silent Spring. "The good news is, based on our findings, consumers can choose flosses that don't contain PFAS.”
In all, researchers tested 18 dental floss products looking for PFAS or perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, they found that all three Oral B glide products in particular tested positive for the compound.
Why Are PFAS Harmful?
“PFAS are known to burden the kidneys and increase the risk of testicular cancer,” says Dr. Moldovan. “They’ve also been blamed for fertility problems in men and for intestinal and thyroid issues. And once you have elevated levels in your bloodstream, it’s hard to get rid of it.”
Dr. Moldovan says that we all have some PFAS in our system but elevated amounts are problematic. Flossing provides an easy opportunity for PFAS to make their way into the bloodstream because due to inflammation or flossing too aggressively, for many of us, our gums bleed when we floss.
What Are Some Safe Flossing Alternatives?
That doesn’t mean that you should stop flossing. It’s about choosing the safest flossing products. Dr. Moldovan recommends a water jet for flossing. Through the wonders of technology, a water jet uses a sprayer to remove food and debris from between your teeth. It's easy and an ideal choice for those that don't enjoy flossing and as a result end up skipping it. If you’re a traditionalist and you can’t part with your string or you don't want to spend the extra money, choose unwaxed floss that’s not lined. Unwaxed floss is safer and it actually cleans better than those with extra coating. “The more coating the less it cleans,” says Dr. Moldovan. Power Floss - Air Powered Dental Water Jet is a great example. Also try RADIUS - Natural Biodegradable Silk Floss, Soft and Smooth for Total Tooth and Gum Protection.
Why is Flossing Still So Important?
While you shouldn’t use toxic floss, that doesn’t in any way mean that you should stop flossing. In fact, those who floss more often live longer, according to Dr. Moldovan. That’s because flossing reduces inflammation in the body. When you don’t floss, it causes bacteria to get between the teeth which can cause leaky gums and inflammation. This can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. You should floss daily to reduce inflammation which can cause problems all over the body. The bottom line is that clean teeth and gums are about so much more than just fresh breath, it's about creating an environment for optimal health. And you need the best tools to get there.
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