Flossing is a key part of keeping your teeth and gums healthy. But might it also be adding a little more toxicity to your life?
It’s possible, suggests Dr. Mercola.
In an article earlier this summer, Dr. Mercola brought attention to the fact that some floss is actually made with Teflon (yes, the same stuff used for pots and pans).
“The chemical that gives Teflon the characteristics used to make products nonstick,” he writes, “is polytetrafluoroethylene, a synthetic resin, also known as PTFE.”
The chemical is highly nonreactive and hydrophobic, meaning it is stable under a number of chemical and mechanical circumstances and can’t become wet with water. It has been in widespread use since the 1940s. Floss is made from either nylon threads or from Teflon. The polymer is melted, stretched into a thin strand and processed to improve the tensile strength. PTFE is a monofilament that doesn’t break or shred easily.
Once the base of the floss is produced with Teflon, the strand is coated with waxes and flavors to change the quality of the floss and add flavors. However, while the floss strand is uniquely resilient and durable, using PTFE on a daily basis in your mouth, where chemicals are easily absorbed through the mucosa, is a highly questionable practice.
What’s more, PTFE is made with perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA. According to the EPA, this and related chemicals
are persistent in the environment, bioaccumulative in wildlife and humans, and are toxic to laboratory animals and wildlife, producing reproductive, developmental, and systemic effects in laboratory tests.
PFOA distributes to the blood, liver, and kidneys, and because it’s neither metabolized nor absorbed, it just keeps recirculating throughout the body. It’s also a known endocrine disruptor and is toxic to both the immune system and liver. It’s also been implicated in a number of cancers.
And the stuff, as well as its precursors, are everywhere, including some people’s drinking water. PTFE is used not just in cookware, but also in making stain- and water-resistant fabrics. PFOAs turn up in everything from food packaging and dental floss to denture cleaners, shampoos, and more. As toxicology expert Dr. Ann Arens has noted,
These [precursors] are very resistant to biodegradation and will persist long after they are banned. They are found in the blood of 90 % of Americans and 96 % of the blood samples of children.
Other research has pointed out the seeming immortality of the chemical. An Environmental Research study on PFOA in drinking water study sums up the matter well:
PFOA is extremely resistant to environmental degradation processes and thus persists indefinitely. Unlike most other persistent and bioaccumulative organic pollutants, PFOA is water-soluble, does not bind well to soil or sediments, and bioaccumulates in serum rather than in fat. It has been detected in finished drinking water and drinking water sources impacted by releases from industrial facilities and waste water treatment plants, as well as in waters with no known point sources.
Naturally, the greater the burden of this and related toxins, the greater the risk to your health. It’s to our benefit to minimize exposure as much as we can – even through acts as small as switching up brands of dental floss.
Look for a more natural brand instead – one that’s fluoride-free and vegan (made from no animal products).
Or consider alternatives for cleaning between your teeth. Tools such as oral irrigators – like Waterpik – and interproximal/interdental (proxy) brushes can do wonders.
Image by Stan Zurek