Are There Carcinogens on Your Dental Floss?

When you talk about cutting excess plastic out of your life, your oral hygiene routine might not be the first thing that springs to mind. Sure, you’re cutting the plastic in your kitchen and trying not to buy things that come in disposable plastic packaging, but if you’re trying to cut out the plastic for health reasons, you might want to check your dental floss.

Back in the day, dental floss was made from thread coated in wax. The wax is key here: it helps the floss slide between your teeth more easily. For folks like me that don’t have a lot of space between our teeth, it makes flossing a lot more comfortable. As plastic and plastic coatings like Teflon got more popular, they also got less expensive and chances are the dental floss in your cabinet is not coated with wax but with a perfluorinated polymer – also known as a PFC. It’s the same stuff that keeps your food from sticking to a Teflon pan and you’ll also find a PFC coating on some fast food wrappers.

The Trouble with PFCs

So, what’s the problem with PFCs on your dental floss? The biggest issue is that they don’t stay there. When you floss your teeth PFCs leach off of the dental floss and into your body while you’re getting that unsightly broccoli out from between your teeth.

PFCs are not only carcinogenic, but they can damage your immune system and affect your hormone levels. The amount you absorb from one round of flossing probably isn’t going to hurt you, but because PFCs stick around in your body for a long time they can build up over time. If you’re flossing once or twice a day, you should probably consider a PFC-free dental floss alternative. Check out a few ideas on the next page!

Next>> Finding PFC-Free Dental Floss Alternatives

woman flossing her teeth

Finding PFC-Free Dental Floss Alternatives

If you want to avoid PFCs in your floss, you have a few options. Not all commercial dental floss contains PFCs, but companies don’t have to label it when they do.

1. Contact the company that makes your favorite floss. This could have mixed results. When Molly Rausch asked the folks at Oral B about PFCs in her favorite dental floss, they told her: they use a “Teflon-like compound in some but not all of their flosses ó but a lot of this is considered proprietary.” The old “proprietary” fallback. That’s the same one cosmetics companies use to avoid disclosing potentially toxic ingredients.

2. Switch to a PFC-free dental floss. Lori over at Groovy Green Livin’ has a good list of flosses that don’t contain PFCs, including one from Tom’s of Maine that should be easy to find at most stores.

3. Go floss free. Nope! I don’t mean throwing caution to the wind with your oral hygiene. Instead of reaching for the dental floss, try a water flosser instead. My husband and I recently stared using a Waterpik, and we love it! Instead of using disposable thread coated in wax or plastic, this gadget shoots water between your teeth at a high speed. Your mouth tingles afterward.

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Kate M.
Kate M.1 years ago

Brother is a dentist. Says waterpik is good for cleaning but does not replace flossing. Please don't advise people that waterpik alone is a full alternative to flossing, it isn't. You should still floss or use a interdental brushes even if you have a waterpik. Studies back this up.

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