It's no secret that humans are exposed to toxic chemicals in the environment on the regular, and a new study has identified another potential, and surprising, chemical-exposure culprit. USA TODAY reported that Oral-B Glide Floss has been linked to exposure to toxic PFAS chemicals. According to a press release about the small study, published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, PFAS are identified as water-and grease-proof substances that have reportedly been linked with numerous health problems.
"This is the first study to show that using dental floss containing PFAS is associated with a higher body burden of these toxic chemicals," lead author Katie Boronow, a staff scientist at Silent Spring, which led the study in collaboration with the Public Health Institute in Berkeley, Calif., said in the press release. "The good news is, based on our findings, consumers can choose flosses that don't contain PFAS."
The study measured blood samples from 178 women to identify PFAS levels in their bodies and found that those who reported using Oral-B Glide dental floss had higher levels of a type of PFAS called PFHxS (perfluorohexanesulfonic acid) than those who didn't. Overall, 18 dental flosses were tested and several tested positive for fluorine, a marker of PFAS, the press release reported.
Velvet Gogol Bennett, a spokesperson for Procter & Gamble, tells Bustle that Oral-B Glide is safe. "We have confirmed none of the substances in the report are used in our dental floss. The safety of the people who use our products is our top priority. Our dental floss undergoes thorough safety testing, and we stand behind the safety of all our products."
Not sure what to believe? It's important to know that PFAS chemicals are present in a wide range of products you use every day, including fast-food packaging, non-stick pans, waterproof clothing, and stain-resistant carpet. In addition, the fluorine found in the dental floss is simply an indicator that PFAS may be present and not a confirmation.
The Environmental Protection Agency explained on its website that fluorine is present in both perfluorinated chemicals, which are dangerous, and perfluorocarbon chemicals, which are not. What's more, the factors that could have exposed the women in the study to PFAS were self-reported, which means there is no way to know for sure how the PFAS entered their systems.
If you're at all nervous about these chemicals, opt for non-teflon floss or tape, Dr. Ira Handschuh, a general and cosmetic dentist in private practice at The Dental Design Center in White Plains, N.Y., tells Bustle. "All patients need to be their own best health advocates," Dr. Handschuh says. "If there is some chemical in a product that you know might be potentially harmful, it is best to avoid that products use. However, today with all the testing and protective agencies, we like to think most products are tested and deemed safe prior to hitting the shelves," .
If you opt for a type of dental floss with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which Oral-B said on its website is often favored because it slides easily in between teeth, this floss is made from the same material as non-stick cookware known as Teflon. However, the American Cancer Society noted on its website that there is no definitive answer as to whether or not PTFE is dangerous.
In terms of maintaining your oral health, Dr. Handschuh says not flossing is not an option. "Flossing is critical to prevent bacteria levels from elevating to harmful levels in your mouth," he explains. "A harmful level can lead to periodontal disease, which can lead to infection and tooth loss, as well as the formation of cavities between the teeth."
If putting anything in your body you can't pronounce makes you nervous, and you're having a hard time understanding the aforementioned chemicals and what they do, it's OK. Simply opt for an all-natural dental floss and call it a day. #TheMoreYouKnow.