October 7th, 2010

Am I Really Flossing with Teflon?

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Photo used under Creative Commons from Nancy JonesFrancis

Most of us think of dental floss as one of those relatively insignificant bathroom products.  A forgotten toothbrush on a trip is always replaced; forgotten floss can wait until we get home.  But the bottom line is that flossing can extend your life and improve your gum health-yes it can! Brushing your teeth without flossing is like cleaning 70% of your body.  Everyone should be flossing-if you have teeth you should floss.

The amount of dental floss sold in the US each year could span the distance from the earth to the moon and back four times!  As a result, the production and disposal of dental floss have a tremendous impact on the environment.

The dangers in dental floss?

  • Petroleum-Most dental floss is made from nylon, which is a petroleum based product.  Nylon, like most petroleum products, has a very slow decay rate and will sit in landfills for a long time before decomposing. It shouldn’t be flushed down your toilet-it could cause a blockage in the sewer pipes.
  • Teflon-Most floss is coated with a type of Teflon-yes, think non-stick cookware-called PTFE.   The EPA has found these coatings to be highly toxic-causing all sorts of health issues including various forms of cancer.
  • More petroleum-Waxed floss is generally coated with petroleum based synthetic wax.
  • The containers that house the floss are also petroleum based-plastic.

Safer solutions-natural dental floss

  • Lessen your impact by choosing floss that is not coated with petroleum derived products
  • Use less floss
  • Reuse your floss-not so sure about this one.
  • Find brands without PTFE-Teflon
  • Choose floss coated with a natural wax or no wax
  • Look for minimal or recyclable packaging


Here are some natural brands to check out:

Remember you don’t have to floss all your teeth-just the ones you want to keep!

Have you tried any of the natural brands?

Disclosure: If you order floss through the Amazon links I will receive a few pennies.  Thank you!

30 Responses to “Am I Really Flossing with Teflon?”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sandra Lee, Groovy Green Livin. Groovy Green Livin said: Am I really flossing with Teflon? http://bit.ly/c2IfXy […]

  2. I tried the desert essence one, and it was like trying to floss with rope. Sigh…

  3. OK-good to know Telula. There are so many brands out there. Hopefully you will find one that works for you. Keep me posted.

  4. I use Tom’s. Still has plastic but at least no Teflon!

  5. The Tom’s was super thick and unpleasant for me to use. My teeth have good contact, and flossing with this was like repeatedly jamming apple skin between my teeth. It sometimes caused my gums to bleed because I had to use so much force just to get it between my teeth!

    I went back to using Glide. I don’t think it presents a significant health risk or substantially increases my impact. I’m open to trying something else, but it has to work!

  6. Jennifer- I use the organic silk floss by Radius, it does not jam but glides well, it works great,biodegrades, and the ingredients are not harmful. I would rather support this company then one making floss from petro, teflon, etc. as we know how great that is for our health and the health of the environment. I would also avoid buying Tom’s of Maine as it is owned by Colgate, not a corporation I personally want to support, and the ingredients in their products are not as safe, I think they tend to generally greenwash consumers.

  7. Interesting Jennifer-I’ve never heard that complaint about Tom’s floss before. That sounds awful. I was a Glide user for many years-I actually love the stuff. I don’t use it much anymore, but I’m still searching for the perfect, safe floss.

  8. Thanks for the suggestion Ines. I’ll have to give Radius a try.

  9. I have a few containers of Tom’s floss floating around too Lisa.

  10. My mom reused her dental floss. I turned my nose up at that idea, but maybe we could modfy it to make it more acceptable, i.e. pour antiseptic mouthwash or boiling water (might it melt??)over it.

    Anyway, thanks for addressing this.Care 2 website had mentioned a while back that there were carcinogens in some flosses, but not which ones. That site today referred to you.

  11. Hi Laurel, Reusing floss is pretty green! I haven’t tried that myself, but I know others that do. Glad I could help!

  12. There is an alternative that I love!
    Thieves floss(made by Young Living) not only works beautifully, but it helps to maintain a healthy mouth with essential oils of lemon, cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, and Rosemary.

  13. […] decision. Nevertheless the counter argument could be the floss diameter increases with the wax coating about it. How could you tell in the event that you grind your teeth when you are sleeping? There […]

  14. […] Dr. Alper: It’s ideal to floss before bed, but the real key is to floss once a day. Your basic goal is to disturb the bacterial colonies so flossing any time during the day is beneficial. Flossing is one of the most important pieces of effective home dental care. You want to steer clear of a Teflon coating on floss, which many conventional brands continue to use. For Teflon-free floss options look here. […]

  15. […] your teeth without flossing is like cleaning 70% of your body.  Everyone should be flossing-if you have teeth you should floss. Make sure you’re using floss without petroleum and Teflon. HERE are a few safe […]

  16. […] thread. Normal materials would catch and tear on your teeth. That’s why floss is coated with a kind of Teflon, which contains chemicals that are known to cause multiple forms of cancer. In addition, most floss […]

  17. […] thread. Normal materials would catch and tear on your teeth. That’s why floss is coated with a kind of Teflon, which contains chemicals that are known to cause multiple forms of cancer. In addition, most floss […]

  18. Hi,
    Any of the “Natural dental floss” you proposed are environment friendly. When it’s made of nylon I hardly call that a “natural” alternative, especially if it gets absorbed by birds or end up in the sea and get absorbed by sea turtles…

  19. Good question Ingrid. I’ll have to take a look to see what most of these are made from. Thanks for pointing that out.

  20. Good promotion of flossing and environmental safety. The only thing is the claim of the EPA saying Teflon is cancer causing is not entirely accurate.
    Teflon itself poses no harm or risks. However PFOA is another compound used in processing of Teflon that does have some risk of carcinogenicity. The EPA has not released an OFFICIAL statement on this but only has stated that the evidence may indicate carcinogenicity. Just making sure the information being shared is accurate, unfortunately now a days the media and internet jumps to conclusions very fast without actually investigating. I also saw no reputable citation regarding the EPAs statement. Here is a link to American Cancer Society that clarifies, for anyone interested in reading into this….http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/teflon-and-perfluorooctanoic-acid–pfoa

  21. […] teeth are very sensitive to temperature like hot and cold, you might need to try a new brush your teeth toothpaste. Make an appointment with your dentist to get his input before you make the change. Your […]

  22. […] I do not use regular floss like Oral B or Glide anymore. Read this article to find out why: http://groovygreenlivin.com/am-i-really-flossing-with-teflon/ […]

  23. […] teeth without flossing, but that’s like cleaning 70% of your body.  It’s quite simple: if you have teeth you should floss.  Flossing your teeth every day is a simple way to extend your life and improve your gum health. […]

  24. According to Harvard University Chan School of Public Health any amount of PFC’s above 1 ppt is dangerous. It bioaccumulates and PFOS stays in your body for 17 years. In addition we are exposed to multiple sources

  25. Try reading “Poisoning the Well” in The Intercept.

  26. […] teeth without flossing is like cleaning 70% of your body. Many conventional dental floss brands can contain a Teflon coating, which can be toxic. Desert Essence Dental Floss is a naturally waxed floss that contains no […]

  27. Its hard if not impossible to find a favor free decent floss. Im using Radius but it tends to shred with tight contacts. Had to see Dentist today to have it removed as it got stuck hard inbetween teeth. Good product, horrible experience.

  28. Radius makes flavor free but its kind of rough.

  29. That’s not good, Pam!I’ve been using Desert Essence but it is flavored.Let me know if you find a better alternative.

  30. Glide by Oral-B contains PTFE according to Wikipedia. It’s an environmental contaminant linked to cancers, hormone disruption, brain and liver problems, and low birth weights.

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About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

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