Unwaxed dental floss or water picks may offer less exposure to PFA’s.
The concept of dental floss was first introduced in 1819 by Levi Spear Parmly, who recommended a waxed silk thread to remove food particles away from the teeth and gums. Dental floss was later patented by Johnson & Johnson in 1898 and it’s been a dental favorite ever since.
I’m a fan as too many people brush their teeth haphazardly and fail to adequately clean in between the teeth.
Now a study from the Silent Spring Institute and Public Health Institute in Berkeley, California, suggest that users may be exposing themselves to elevated levels of toxic chemicals known as perfluorocooctanesulfonic acids (PFA’s).
PFA’s are used in food packaging, commercial household products, industrial products and more. Animal studies have suggested their link to tumors such as testicular cancer, high cholesterol, liver and kidney dysfunction, and issues with one’s reproductive and immune system.
The EPA states the following:
PFAS are found in a wide range of consumer products that people use daily such as cookware, pizza boxes and stain repellants. Most people have been exposed to PFAS. Certain PFAS can accumulate and stay in the human body for long periods of time. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes in humans. The most-studied PFAS chemicals are PFOA and PFOS. 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 animals. The most consistent findings are increased cholesterol levels among exposed populations, with more limited findings related to:
low infant birth weights,
effects on the immune system,
cancer (for PFOA), and
thyroid hormone disruption (for PFOS).
The study was published in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology. Authors tested 18 dental floss brands, including Oral-B Glide, and found higher levels of PFA’s (perfluorohexanesulfonic acid) in the test subjects (178 California-based middle aged women) who used the waxed dental floss.
Study author Katie Boronow, states, “This is the first study to show that using dental floss containing PFAS is associated with a higher body burden of these toxic chemicals….The good news is, based on our findings; consumers can choose flosses that don’t contain PFAS.”
Most dental floss brands, however, do not report on their packaging if they contain PFA’s or not. Unwaxed versions may be PFA free.
However, many other daily habits can expose us to PFA’s such as eating fast food packaged in waxy coated cardboard containers.
So since good dental hygiene is paramount for health, I suggest speaking to your dentist about your flossing habits and consider also using a water pick as it can be very effective at removing food particles and bacteria from one’s teeth and gums.
Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, KDWN, and iHeart Radio.