Does your favorite dental floss or tooth floss contain indicators of PFAS “forever chemicals?” Mamavation tested 39 different tooth floss products at an EPA-certified lab to find out. Some results from these oral-care products were eye-opening and you’ll want to read our recommendations right away. You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you topics like best air purifiers, best organic mattresses, and best green beauty makeup sans PFAS “forever chemicals“, now join us for our latest PFAS consumer study on tooth flosses sold to Americans. Want those results now? Scroll down to the bottom to see the raw data from our laboratory about the best dental string floss for oral health.
Disclosure: This consumer study is released in partnership with Environmental Health News. Scientific reviews were performed by (1) Terrence Collins, Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry & Director of Institute for Green Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, (2) Linda Birnbaum, Scientist Emeritus and Former Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program, & (3) Pete Myers, Chief Scientist at Environmental Health Sciences, Adjunct Professor of Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, and Co-Author of Our Stolen Future. This post was medically reviewed by Sondra Strand, RN, BSN, PHN. Donations were provided by Environmental Health News and Mamavation community members. This post contains affiliate links.
Mamavation Finds Indications of Concerning Levels of PFAS “Forever Chemicals” Inside Popular Tooth Flosses
Which brands of tooth floss are the safest for families to use on a routine basis for oral care? We tested the most popular dental floss products, found some concerning levels in some products, and will make recommendations for your dental care routine.
Mamavation tested 39 dental floss products at an EPA-certified laboratory looking for indications of PFAS “forever chemicals” and got a concerning glimpse of how many very popular products could be contaminating consumers in a way they had not realized. We picked up different types of dental floss like unwaxed floss, wax coating floss, nylon floss, flossers, spongy floss, & dental floss threaders.
It’s important to note that our lab is not looking for PFAS compounds directly, because it’s simply impossible to look for all of them. There are over 12,000 PFAS compounds and assays for less than 100 compounds exist in a really good commercial lab. This is why Mamavation commissions marker testing to look for a chemical called organic fluorine, which all PFAS “forever chemicals” have in common. Other possibilities of contaminants found inside organic fluorine are things like fluorinated pesticide residue or fluorinated pharmaceutical residue. None of these contaminants are something our readers want in their products, so we will continue this type of testing. Here are our main findings from the results on dental floss testing:
- 33% of dental floss products sent to our EPA-certified laboratory had indications of PFAS “forever chemicals,” while 77% of products did not. In other words, 13 out of 39 products had indications of PFAS.
- According to our lab, levels of organic fluorine, a marker for PFAS, were found between 11 parts per million (ppm) to 248,900 parts per million (ppm).
- Tooth floss products have the highest levels of organic fluorine we have ever seen in any consumer study — Oral-B Glide had the highest amount at 248,900 parts per million (ppm).
- 4 tooth floss products had over 70,000 ppm organic fluorine: Oral B Glide Pro-Health Deep Clean Floss; Up & Up (Target Brand) Smooth Slide Floss Mint; Colgate Total Mint Waxed Dental Floss; & Solimo (Amazon Brand) Extra Comfort Mint Dental Floss.
- No tooth floss marketed to children that we tested had any indications of PFAS “forever chemicals.” However, none of those products made it into the “best” category because they are all made of single-use plastics, which is not an environmentally acceptable solution.
Consumers Were Warned About Dangers of PFAS in Tooth Floss, So Mamavation Decided to Revisit Oral-B Glide
In a study published in 2019 in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, researchers found that women who flossed with tooth floss product Oral-B Glide dental floss had higher levels of PFAS in their blood than those women who didn’t. After marker testing was run on Oral-B Glide, it was confirmed that this product had indications of PFAS “forever chemicals” intentionally added to the product.
According to researchers, “Flossing with Oral-B Glide, having stain-resistant carpet or furniture, and living in a city served by a PFAS-contaminated water supply were also associated with higher levels of some PFASs.”
The American Dental Association came out swinging saying they found data “insufficient to support the conclusions presented.” They complained about the marker testing used not providing enough scientific evidence to prove that PTFE was found in the tooth floss. The women who reported using Glide were found to have elevated levels of PFHxS, which is another type of PFAS. And yes, Oral-B Glide does have the ADA seal of acceptance on its product.
Our advisor Terrence Collins, Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry & Director of Institute for Green Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, had some things to say.
I think the ADA is confused about what matters with the finding of organic fluorine in dental flosses. For example, they should not be arguing about which PFAS compound might be in Glide Oral-B floss, but rather stop approving of any dental product that contains any forever PFAS compound. They should start educating their members about the insidious nature of low dose adverse effects from endocrine disrupting chemicals where PFAS examples are often associated with the manufacture of Teflon (PTFE) polymer. And they should brush up on the fact that polymers have largely escaped effective regulatory scrutiny so that we really don’t know what the low dose toxicity implications are of coating our teeth with the forever polymer, Teflon. Like all branches of science and medicine, the ADA needs to understand that the seductions of chemicals with high technical and cost performances, like most PFAS compounds, have to be resisted until the health, environmental and fairness performances have been quantified and assessed and integrated into the value proposition. From where I am looking, all PFAS compounds will fail competent scrutiny in this area.
Health.com reached out to Oral-B Glide and got a denial from the company about this study saying the following: “We have confirmed none of the substances in the report are used in our dental floss. 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.”
Mamavation sent out Oral-B Glide as one of our first samples to check to see if they had made any changes. However, when we got the results from those samples back, we are not convinced that they have made any changes to protect consumers.
Other Industries Using PFAS “Forever Chemicals”
PFAS chemicals have been used for decades to create stain resistance, water resistance, and grease-proof qualities to products to which they are added. If you’ve heard of coatings such as “Teflon” on cookware, fabrics made from “Gore Tex” or treatments on carpets like STAINMASTER®, you’ve already heard about PFAS chemicals. Here’s more of what you may not have been aware of:
- Textiles & Fabrics: PFAS chemicals are very commonly found in industries such as textiles & fabrics to create stain-resistance, water-resistance, or “sweat-wicking.” To help you here, Mamavation has tested athletic wear, sports bras, and period underwear. We’ve also conducted other consumer studies on bedding, children’s clothing, infant car seats, jackets, & raincoats.
- Food Packaging: In food packaging, they are used in popcorn bags, pizza boxes, fast food wrappers & canisters, and the flat dish on the bottom of cakes at the grocery store. Mamavation has also tested different parchment paper brands for indications of PFAS.
- Personal Care Products: The beauty industry has been notoriously guilty of using PFAS to create a waterproof or long-lasting effect in makeup products. So Mamavation tested the most popular green beauty makeup brands, and we are working on some other categories like feminine care products & bandages.
- Toilet Paper: Mamavation found indications of PFAS in 24% of the toilet paper we sent to the lab. However, we also found plenty of ‘best” and “better” brands. Go take a look!
- Cookware: Most “non-stick” cookware is coated with PFAS chemicals, including some stainless steel cookware, and small kitchen appliances like air fryers. Check out Mamavation’s investigation on cookware.
- Carpeting & Flooring: PFAS has also been used in carpeting & flooring. Do you remember StainMaster™ carpet? That was PFAS. However, not all carpet has indications of PFAS. We recently tested one brand you can safely purchase. Mamavation also tested several bamboo flooring brands and found one brand that was free from PFAS.
- Furniture: Watch out for “stain-resistant” treatments on furniture. We have not done any testing in this category yet.
- Fire Fighting Foam: PFAS was used in firefighting foams and they have unfortunately been used extensively around military bases and airports. If you live close to a military base or airport, check with your local water district to see if they have tested the water for PFAS.
- Metal Plating, Semiconductors, Lubrications, & Coating Additives: Lots of industrial applications of PFAS are used to keep equipment from rusting, getting overheated, or provide water-resistant, or grease-resistant qualities.
- Drinking Water: Sadly, there are lots of places around the United States and all over the world that have drinking water contaminated with PFAS. Most of these areas are by military bases, airports, and other industrial parks that used PFAS for firefighting or other such uses. Luckily, Mamavation has done an investigation of the best water filters to remove PFAS.
- Car Wax, Ski Wax, & Surfboard Wax: Yes, you guessed it. PFAS is used here for its grease & water-resistant qualities.
- Some Processed Food: Mamavation has found indications of PFAS inside pasta & tomato sauces, nut butters, cooking oils, and ketchup. We are presently working on other food categories right now.
Why PFAS Was Found in Such High Amounts in Dental Floss
PFAS is either added intentionally for its ability to create slickness as a “waterproof laminate” in the dental floss product OR it’s not intentionally added and is a contaminant coming from processing or from the supply chain in general. When Mamavation found indications of PFAS in the tooth floss we tested, some brands had very high levels while others had levels that would be considered not “intentionally added.”
High-Level PFAS Examples
According to our laboratory, Oral-B Glide had 248,900 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine, which is the highest level Mamavation has ever found in any product we’ve tested. This amount of organic fluorine indicates the likelihood that PFAS was intentionally added to this product for its slick waterproof laminate ability to glide between your teeth easily. Mamavation did not get a chance to interview this brand for this investigation, nor were we able to identify which PFAS compounds we found, however, these amounts of organic fluorine suggest it was intentionally added.
These are all the dental flosses pulled from the group that had dramatically high indications of PFAS “forever chemicals” over 70,000 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine:
- Oral-B Glide Pro-Health Deep Clean Floss — 248,900 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- Solimo (Amazon) Extra Comfort Mint Dental Floss — 94,200 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- Colgate Total Mint Waxed Dental Floss — 91,400 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- Up & Up (Target) Smooth Slide Floss Mint — 74,400 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
Should You Stop Flossing?
Should you stop flossing? The answer to that question is absolutely not. We all want teeth free from food debris, bad bacteria, tooth decay, dental plaque, gingivitis, periodontal disease, gum disease, and bad breath, but to reach that goal regular flossing needs to happen every day. In order to avoid improper use of dental floss and get food particles out of your teeth and gum line, dentists and dental hygienists recommend good dental health by flossing on a daily basis.
At Mamavation we understand our discoveries can be scary and some people may tend to avoid tooth floss altogether because of their fear of exposure to PFAS. This is why we decided to step in and test this category of consumer products in order to help you protect your family.
We recommend purchasing dental floss from our “best” or “better” list below or using a water flosser instead. But do not stop flossing, please.
Some Water Flossers to Try
Water flossers, also known as oral irrigators, are an alternative to tooth floss. Some people swear by these devices while others find them harder to use. But they are an option for people who would like to stop using dental floss.
Here are some products that have come highly recommended and available on Amazon for you to try:
- Waterpik Ion Professional Wireless Water Flosser
- Waterpik Aquarius Water Flosser
- Waterpik Cordless Water Flosser
Brands Marketing Dental Floss to Children Full of Single-Use Plastics
As we were doing this consumer study on dental floss, we noticed some very important details regarding dental floss marketed to children and we’ll break it up into good and bad news for you.
- Good News: Children’s dental floss products we tested had no indications of PFAS “forever chemicals.“
- Bad News: Every children’s dental floss product we tested was made from single-use plastics. Every children’s product we could find on Amazon was a plastic dental flosser.
We encourage children to floss daily but don’t like the idea that daily flossing contributes to landfills and takes thousands of years to break down. Therefore, the best option for flossing for young kids is to teach them to use regular dental floss.
“It’s too bad that all the easily available handles for flossing are plastic. They are much easier to learn to use than flossing with just floss. Too bad manufacturers don’t offer flossing handles that aren’t plastic. That would get kids to floss more often and avoid more single-use plastic,” says our advisor Pete Myers, Chief Scientist at Environmental Health Sciences, Adjunct Professor of Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, and Co-Author of Our Stolen Future.
Mamavation’s Investigation of Dental Floss and Indications of PFAS “Forever Chemicals”
Mamavation sent 39 different dental floss products off to an EPA-certified laboratory to look for indications of PFAS “forever chemicals.” Samples had many flavors, including cinnamon, peppermint, mint, and strawberry. We did not test any toothbrushes, interdental cleaner, interdental brushes, dental picks, or dental tape. Mamavation’s lab used marker testing to identify the potential presence of PFAS “forever chemicals” in dental floss products. Organic fluorine is a marker for PFAS because all PFAS chemicals are carbon-based compounds that contain fluorine. The specific lab method used by Mamavation tested for total fluorine was the Determination of Total Fluorine by Oxygen Flask Combustion and Ion-Selective Electrode. If total fluorine was observed at a detection level of 10 ppm, the lab did the Determination of free Fluoride Ion in the dental floss by Ion-Selective Electrode and then subtracted that from the Total Fluorine to determine the amount of organic fluorine. This marker testing is likely to show the presence of PFAS.
13 brands out of the 39 products we tested came back with detectable levels of organic fluorine, which means PFAS was likely present. Testing for PFAS directly is impossible to do because there are over 12,000 different compounds. This marker testing is also used by the food packaging industry to determine whether products are “compostable” or not.
Here are the categories you’ll see below to divide the dental floss products tested by our EPA-certified lab:
- Not Our Favorite Tooth Floss Products: According to our EPA-certified laboratory, these products contain detections of organic fluorine, which is a chemical marker for PFAS “forever chemicals.” This section represents some products that have levels that are clearly intentionally added, while other brands have levels that are more “unintentionally added” from contamination somewhere. Brands with jaw-dropping amounts of organic fluorine we marked with **.
- Better Tooth Floss Products: These brands did not have any detections of organic fluorine. However, they are made with less sustainable materials like single-use plastic, which are problematic because they take hundreds of years to decompose in a landfill. The amount of plastic used by most “flossers” is problematic for our environment.
- Best Tooth Floss Products: Our lab did not identify organic fluorine in any of these brands. We also admire these brands for their use of more sustainable materials and high-quality ingredients. There were a few “flossers” that made it into this category for their lack of single-use petroleum-based plastics.
“Not Our Favorite” Tooth Floss Brands
According to our EPA-certified laboratory, these products contain detections of organic fluorine, which is a chemical marker for PFAS “forever chemicals.” This section represents some products that have levels that are clearly intentionally added, while other brands have levels that are more “unintentionally added” from contamination somewhere. Brands with jaw-dropping amounts of organic fluorine we marked with **.
- Burst Refillable Dental Floss Juniper & Berry — 208 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- **Colgate Total Mint Waxed Dental Floss — 91,400 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- drTungs Smart Floss — 48 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- EcoRoots Bamboo Floss — 23 & 14 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine (2 samples)
- Listerine Reach Ultraclean Floss — 16 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- **Oral B Glide Pro-Health Deep Clean Floss — 248,900 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine (This product is quite possibly 24% PFAS!!!!!!)
- **Solimo (Amazon) Extra Comfort Mint Dental Floss — 94,200 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- RiseWell Scrubby Floss — 11 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- Rite Aid Premium Waxed Dental Floss — 17 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- **Up & Up (Target) Smooth Slide Floss Mint — 74,400 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- Wellnesse 100% Biodegradable Silk Peppermint Floss — 14 & 22 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine (2 samples) (This brand is in the process of reformulating. They have identified the problem, but have not implemented changes yet. We will update the investigation when they have reformulated.)
Better Tooth Floss Brands
These brands did not have any detections of organic fluorine. However, they are made with less sustainable materials like single-use plastic, which are problematic because they take hundreds of years to decompose in a landfill. The amount of plastic used by most “flossers” should not be allowed, but sadly, it is.
- CVSHealth EaseBetween Original Dental Floss — non-detect organic fluorine
- Dentek Kids Fun Monster Flossers — non-detect organic fluorine
- Dr. Rams Fun Flexi Flossers Fun Fruity Flavor — non-detect organic fluorine
- Equate (Walmart) Mint Waxed Dental Floss — non-detect organic fluorine
- Gum Crayola Kids Flossers Grape Flavor Fluoride Coated — non-detect organic fluorine
- Holy Rose Kids Dental Floss Dispenser — non-detect organic fluorine
- Oral B Superfloss Mint Dental Floss for Braces — non-detect organic fluorine
- Piico Dental Floss Picks for Kids — non-detect organic fluorine
- Plackers Twin-Line — non-detect organic fluorine
- Platypus Orthodontic Flosser — non-detect organic fluorine
- Quip Floss Pick Refill — non-detect organic fluorine
- Smartly (Target Brand) Waxed Mint Dental Floss — non-detect organic fluorine
- REACH Mint Waxed Floss — non-detect organic fluorine
- T Smile R 3rd Generation Floss — non-detect organic fluorine
- Trueocity Kids Flossers Bubblegum Flavor — non-detect organic fluorine
Best Tooth Floss Brands
Our lab did not identify organic fluorine in any of these brands. We also admire these brands for their use of more sustainable materials and high-quality ingredients. There were a few “flossers” that made it into this category for their lack of single-use petroleum-based plastics.
- Bambo Earth Pure Silk Eco Floss Mint Flavored — non-detect organic fluorine
- Boka Ela Mint Floss — non-detect organic fluorine
- Cocofloss Delicious Mint — non-detect organic fluorine
- Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil Dental Floss — non-detect organic fluorine
- Etee Plastic Free Biodegradable Silk Waxed Floss Mint Flavor — non-detect organic fluorine
- Public Goods Tooth Floss — non-detect organic fluorine
- Smart Life Company Straw Wheat Floss Picks — non-detect organic fluorine
- The Humble Co. Plant-Based Materials Floss Picks — non-detect organic fluorine
- Thrive Market Gentle Tape Floss Tea Tree Mint — non-detect organic fluorine
- Tom’s of Maine Naturally Waxed Antiplaque flat floss — non-detect organic fluorine
- Wowe Silk Floss Natural Mint — non-detect organic fluorine
PFAS Consumer Studies Mamavation Has Released & More!
Mamavation has been commissioning studies looking for PFAS “forever chemicals” inside everyday products you use. These chemicals also show up in plastics because some plastics are fluorinated.
We are continuing to test and run studies and if you would like to make a tax-deductible donation, simply go to Environmental Health News and donate on behalf of Mamavation. Environmental Health News & Institute for Green Science at Carnegie Mellon University has partnered with us on most of our PFAS studies and provides support & more scientific scrutiny.
Here are the PFAS consumer investigations we have finished:
- Nut Butters
- Pasta & Tomato Sauce
- Cooking Oils
- Sports Bras
- Green Beauty Makeup
- Period Underwear
- Parchment Paper
- Bamboo Flooring
- Baby Strollers
- Children’s Probiotics
We also have other investigations you may like.
- Best Mouthwash
- Best Toothpaste
- Best Yoga mats
- Best Organic Mattresses
- Best Air purifiers
- Best Cookware
- Best Plant-Based Milks
- Best Water Filters for PFAS Filtration
- Best Collagen
- Best Electrolyte Replacement Drinks, Sports Drinks, & Coconut Water
- Best Infrared Saunas
For a complete list of Mamavation investigations go here.