Is your Dental Floss Safe? Potential toxins found in Floss.
In keeping with our theme from last week's article, let's look now at something more specific, Dental Floss.
Flossing is an activity in which people have a wide variety of habits. Some of us do it religiously after every meal and snack, and yet some do it twice a year, when the Hygienist does it during your annual checkup! (Of course, you always tell the truth to the dentist when he asks if you floss everyday, right?) But most people fall in the middle, flossing about once or twice a day at the same time they brush their teeth. No matter where on the spectrum you fall, one thing is indisputable, that flossing between the teeth is important to your oral and overall health.
Understanding that it is important is one important thing. The other is understanding WHAT you are flossing WITH. Dental floss comes in a wide variety of types and materials. But, realistically, how often do we think about our floss and it's impact on us and the Planet? For the most part, since we don't ingest it or rub it into our bodies, we may not even give our floss a passing thought.
This article hopes to open some eyes on the world of Dental Floss and it's effect on our and the planet's health. It's materials and additives and how they can influence our bodies are amongst the few things that will be discussed. As well as the packaging and how it all stacks up and contributes to our global waste problems. We hope you get some thought provoking information in these paragraphs.
Before We Begin, A Disclaimer.
First, at no point during this article are we trying to suggest that NOT flossing is a better alternative. If you abstain from flossing, you leave food and particles between your teeth which become havens for bacteria growth that leads to decay, cavities and a world of dental problems. Not to mention the internal health consequences of ingesting all that bacteria. Even if you are using a petroleum product coated nylon string, using that is better than sacrificing your oral and overall health.
Then, there is a shockingly small amount of research on this subject. In particular, the effects of exposure to smaller concentrations of many of the substances listed herein has not been specifically studied. Many of the potential complications cited are based upon linked and known effects of those substances when used in other types of products. This is why we say that flossing with bad floss is likely as bad, or worse for you than simply not flossing.
Having made those two points, we are of the mind that taking EVERY opportunity to minimize your exposure to anything known to be, or suspected of being, toxic is a good thing, especially when there are better options available in the marketplace.
With that in mind, lets look at some potentially toxic ingredients used in Dental Floss:
You've heard of Teflon before, right? It is the same modern day wonder that coats the non-stick pans in your kitchen. It is used as a coating on many flosses to make it easier to work in and out between the teeth.
Although you are not very likely to swallow any amount of floss, there is still no guarantee that you will not be exposed to Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) or PFOA (related). This can come from parts of the coating separating from the floss, or the actual fibers fraying. This is part of the reason it is a BAD idea to re-use floss.
Exposure to these have been linked to such conditions as Thyroid Disease, Hormonal Imbalances, Cancers, Autoimmune Disease, and Neurological Problems/Alzheimer's.
You will find this in two ways. First, the synthetic Nylon fibers most Dental Floss is made of is derived from petroleum. Second, in many Waxed types of floss, the wax itself is petroleum derived.
Just like with Teflon coatings above, it is not impossible to rule out exposure from wax separating from the floss, or frayed threads of the floss.
The effects of petroleum specifically are understudied and a mystery. However, it is estimated that 22% of Personal Care products containing petroleum based substances are contaminated by 1,4-dioxane (and upwards of 2 dozen other contaminants).
Use of these products with infants result in an increased chance for Candidiasis (Oral Thrush) which is a common childhood problem. These products may also act as endocrine Disruptors (mimic Hormones in the body).
Nylon & Polyester
Just like a great deal of modern clothing is made from synthetic fibers, so too is Dental Floss. Nylon and Polyester threads are synthetic, petroleum based materials that are formed into threads and woven together to form the string of floss.
Small pieces of the material can break off, or separate from the main string and end up being swallowed. There are also the possibility of the fraying of a piece and some of the filaments becoming separated that way.
At their basic level, Nylon and Polyester (as well as other petroleum based synthetics) are plastics. Plastics pose several threats, not only to our health, but to the environment as well.
First, in our bodies, these particles are not digested and accumulate where they possibly give off toxic substances as they degrade.