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Is dental floss toxic?

  • A new study has suggested that Oral-B Guide floss may be exposing people who use it to toxic chemicals.

    By Samantha Swaby


People are often advised to floss their teeth to maintain good oral hygiene, as well as brushing their teeth twice a day. Flossing can prevent gum disease and tooth decay, by removing small pieces of food and plaque that build up between your teeth and gum line. Adopting good oral hygiene practice can help prevent the following problems:

  • Caries, otherwise known as tooth decay. This is a breakdown of teeth due to acids made by bacteria, which become present when pieces of food become trapped between teeth, or when a person has poor oral hygiene practice;
  • Periodontal disease, which is an infection of the structures around the teeth, including the gums, periodontal ligaments and alveolar bone;
  • Dental abscesses, when a collection of pus forms inside the teeth, the gums or the bone that holds the teeth in place, which is caused by a bacterial infection;
  • Tooth loss, which can be caused by all of the above, plus other factors.

The study

A study published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, has found higher levels of perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFAS) in women who flossed with Oral-B Glide compared to those who did not. The researchers reviewed blood samples from 178 middle-aged women who had levels of 11 different PFAS chemicals.

“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 scientist at Silent Spring, said in a statement.

PFAS are man-made chemicals that are used in consumer and industry products, which can lower a women’s chance of pregnancy and can increase cancer risks. Oral B has responded to the study and said it had not found any of the substances in the study in its dental floss. The company have said:

“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…”

Should I still floss?

This is a new study and Oral-B have stated that their dental floss has undergone safe testing. As such, we would recommend that you discuss the benefits of flossing with your dentist, as they will be able to provide advice on this point and show you the technique that is to be used. Flossing is of little benefit to some people, as many dentists and dental associations instead recommend using interdental brushes to clean between teeth. However, for those who are unable to use interdental brushes as they have small gaps between their teeth, flossing remains important. The British Dental Association has made the following comment on this issue:

“Small inter-dental brushes are best for cleaning the area in between the teeth, where there is space to do so. Floss is of little value unless the spaces between your teeth are too tight for the interdental brushes to fit without hurting or causing harm.”


If you have concerns regarding your oral hygiene, I would recommend discussing this with your dentist. Your dentist will be best placed to advise you on the treatment you require or ways of improving your oral hygiene, which remains of the upmost importance in preventing dental complications, which can be painful and costly to rectify.


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