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Which Dental Flosses Contain Potentially Dangerous PFAS, and Which Do Not?

Question:
Does Oral-B Glide or other dental floss contain toxic chemicals called PFAS? Are there PFAS-free alternatives?
Reviewed and edited by Tod Cooperman, M.D. Tod Cooperman, M.D.
Initial Posting: 7/5/2020    Last Update: 7/11/2020
Toxic PFAS Chemicals in Dental Floss -- Woman Looking at Dental Floss
Answer:
Some brands of dental floss include PFAS (polyfluoroalkyl substances), such as Teflon, to reduce friction. A study in 2019 suggested that PFAS appear to be ingested from floss and make their way into the blood. This is concerning because PFAS have been shown to cause tumors in animals; and in people, higher exposure to certain PFAS is associated with increased cholesterol, effects on the immune system, changes in liver enzymes, increased risk of kidney or liver cancer, thyroid hormone disruption, and low infant birth weights (EPA 2018; CDC 2020). Unfortunately, labels on dental floss are not always clear as to whether or not they contain PFAS.

Sign in as a ConsumerLab member to find out which of 18 popular dental flosses may contain PFAS and which do not, as well as the names of 6 additional dental flosses that claim to be PFAS-free. Also see how companies responded when we asked them if their dental flosses contain PFAS.

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COMMENTS

Alex20422   July 20, 2020
How effective is brushing teeth with toothpaste right after flossing in reducing PFAS in the mouth?

ConsumerLab.com   July 20, 2020
Unfortunately, we don't know, but it's fair to assume that at least some of the women in whom PFAS were found had been brushing and/or rinsing after flossing.

Sandra20417   July 19, 2020
Can PFAS be washed off of dental floss? I have a large supply of the Crest/Oral B type, I have tight teeth and need this slippery type. You may think I'm weird, but I already kind of do this; I rinse off and re-use a strand 4 or 5 times before discarding, mainly because I don't like the added flavoring and this gets rid of it. ;-)

ConsumerLab.com   July 20, 2020
It would seem unlikely that washing the floss will remove the PFAS as they are an integral component of the fiber of which the floss is composed.

esther20402   July 15, 2020
Plackers says,

No PFAS/PFOS was detected in third party testing performed on the Plackers PTFE floss fiber


Maybe someone should clue them in...

Alex20397   July 15, 2020
Is Crest Glide floss manufactured exactly the same, from a PFAS standpoint, as Oral-B Glide floss, and with the same health impacts?

ConsumerLab.com   July 15, 2020
We don't have information about the manufacturing process for Crest and Oral-B floss, but the study states "Crest Glide was subsequently rebranded as Oral B Glide by its parent company Procter & Gamble." We've added a note about this in the answer above.

Jeffrey20384   July 13, 2020
My teeth are very closely spaced, and I find that Glide is the only floss to not get stuck. My solution is to floss only part way down and not reach the gum. Then I use the GUM brushes to do the area close to the gum. I'd welcome any professional's comments on the efficacy of this approach. Thank you.

Sarah20380   July 13, 2020
POH dental floss is excellent, pure nylon, and free of fluorine and PFAs. I've used POH for the last 20 years, but have not financial interest in Personal Oral Hygiene.

ConsumerLab.com   July 13, 2020
POH does not make a claim on their website that their flosses are PFAS-free. However, ConsumerLab was told by a company representative that POH flosses are made from nylon. They also stated: "In the production/manufacture of nylon, there is no reason to suspect that any polyfluoroalkyl substances are present....To the best of our almost sixty years knowledge, there are no poly-fluorinated substances in POH dental floss."

William20369   July 12, 2020
I use dental tape (Walgreen's). Did you by chance evaluate this product?

ConsumerLab.com   July 13, 2020
Walgreen's Dental tape was not tested in the study, and, unfortunately, the product website does not list the product's ingredients.

Glenn20368   July 12, 2020
I am curious about Gum brand products, both their floss and Proxabrush products, which apparently were not included in the study. For the Proxabush, I use the handle with replaceable "Go-Betweens" refills, but I think even they are made from some plastic material.

ConsumerLab.com   July 14, 2020
According to GUM's website, its Eez-Thru flosses are made from PTFE (which is a PFAS) while its Expanding floss is made from nylon (https://www.gumbrand.com/between-teeth-cleaning/string-floss.html). GUM Proxabrush Go-Between Cleaners are described as having "nylon bristles coated with an antibacterial agent," (https://www.gumbrand.com/new-proxabrush/gum-proxabrush-go-between-cleaners-wide-10-ct.html).

Thomas20367   July 12, 2020
What about woven floss? For example, Listerine Gentle Gum Care Mint floss. I find woven floss much easier to handle, both in my hands and in my teeth.

James20363   July 12, 2020
After the Oral-B Glide study came out, I tried a few natural options that, frankly, were awful to use. But "Hello" brand activated charcoal floss has been a great alternative for the tight spaces between my teeth and specifically claims "PFAS-free" on the product page. The activated charcoal part is probably a gimmick but that's fine with me.

Bari20361   July 12, 2020
Please look at Kroger Waxed Dental Floss also.

Janiene20359   July 11, 2020
Walgreens is one of the largest pharmacy but I did not see anything on their Hi-Tech Dental Floss. I also can not find anything online about it. Is there any information on this product?

ConsumerLab.com   July 14, 2020
The website for this product state "Floss material is made of strong microfilaments that fan out to create a broader cleaning surface," and "Slips easily between tight teeth... Will not break, shred or entangle during use," but does not provide further information about the materials used in this floss.

Michael20351   July 9, 2020
This is a bogus study performed by researchers who do not understand the "real" world, where the vast majority of patients have much improved dental health due to Glide. I have practiced dentistry for 45 years and I am a Clinical Associate Professor at the UTHealth School of Dentistry. I have researched this issue extensively and found it to be below the level of having practical relevance.

Howard20365   July 12, 2020
I respect your experience and your researching of this issue. There are many other sources of PFAS and related molecules in the environment, and I am willing to believe that dental flosses may represent only a small amount of a person's PFAS intake. Nevertheless, the EPA website says:
There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes in humans. If humans, or animals, ingest PFAS (by eating or drinking food or water than contain PFAS), the PFAS are absorbed, and can accumulate in the body. PFAS stay in the human body for long periods of time. As a result, as people get exposed to PFAS from different sources over time, the level of PFAS in their bodies may increase to the point where they suffer from adverse health effects.

Studies indicate that PFOA and PFOS can cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects in laboratory animals. Both chemicals have caused tumors in animal studies. The most consistent findings from human epidemiology studies are increased cholesterol levels among exposed populations, with more limited findings related to:

infant birth weights,
effects on the immune system,
cancer (for PFOA), and
thyroid hormone disruption (for PFOS).

Dean20370   July 12, 2020
Why "bogus", which implies ulterior intent? Disagreeing with the findings does not make a study bogus. The authors are careful to state their limitations.

David20376   July 12, 2020
I don't think PFAS residues in the body are trivial. If using Oral-B Glide floss was associated with a 24.9% higher level of a particular PFAS, as the article states, I would not want to use this floss at all. The article indicates there are many good alternatives. Thanks to ConsumerLab for this useful information.

Andreas20378   July 13, 2020
Please provide references to the extensive research mentioned in your post.

Thank you.

Diana20383   July 13, 2020
Many persons prefer not to use anything made with PFAs, for environmental reasons. (For instance, we avoid 'stain-resistant' cotton clothing for this reason: the fiber is treated with Teflon). Further, while floss may have negligible PFAs, there is a concern with the cumulative 'body burden' of environmental toxins over a lifetime.

Robert20347   July 8, 2020
I try to use floss three days per week, but use a ShowerBreeze dental water jet irrigator seven days per week--all done while showering. Both these practices can keep the area under my bridge clean. I don't think a rubber tip or toothpick would work for that.

Lisa20337   July 7, 2020
Curious about Listerine floss that is used with the floss stick.

Sharon20318   July 6, 2020
Do you have any information about POH floss? I have used this exclusively for many years.

ConsumerLab.com   July 6, 2020
The website for this product does not make any claim that it is PFAS-free. We have reached out to the company and will update this comment if we receive a response.

Glenn20312   July 6, 2020
Would it be safer to just use unwaxed floss, or is that not enough?

ConsumerLab.com   July 6, 2020
It's not clear from the available research if unwaxed floss is less likely to contain PFAS. However, keep in mind that unwaxed floss can also be made from materials such as Teflon.

Bernie20305   July 5, 2020
Dr. Mercola's dental floss also has essential oils in it. It also comes in 100 instead of 55 yard lengths

ConsumerLab.com   July 6, 2020
The website for this product notes that the floss is made of nylon, and is vegan-waxed, although it does not state that it is PFAS-free.

Lloyd20299   July 5, 2020
I practiced Periodontics for more than 25 years. I never recommended or required a patient to use dental floss, Instead I taught the use of a Butler Interdental Stimulator (Rubber Tip) and plastic triangular cross-section tooth picks.Neither of these goes below the gum. This idea used to drive some dental hygienists practically crazy, a dental "sacrilege". I considered flossing to be difficult, and crude, but apparently it may also be toxic, DENTAL FLOSS?, you can get along without it, and very well, perhaps better.

Michael20364   July 12, 2020
Flossing is definitely not a very pleasant task, but rubber tips and/or any type of toothpick cannot replace it since these items cannot reach all areas of the mouth. Glide floss at least makes flossing tolerable for most patients. As I noted in another comment, I've been practicing dentistry for 40+ years along with teaching dental students and conducting research in a university setting. The old adage of only flossing the teeth you want to keep is still valid.

Diana20297   July 5, 2020
POH is excellent floss and comes in extra-fine so you don't need Teflon to get it between your teeth.

Cari20483   July 29, 2020
Where do you buy POH floss? Seems like I haven't seen this product on the shelves for a good 40 yrs.


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This CL Answer initially posted on 7/5/2020. Last updated 7/11/2020.
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