Are Metal Flossers Harmful?
Among the best dental floss holders out there, some are completely made out of metal. After all, their sustainability may be unmatched in terms of longevity and use.
If you floss your teeth extremely carefully:
Then the chances that a metal flosser will significantly damage your teeth from one or two uses are probably low.
Most dentists will likely tell you that metal objects can nevertheless damage the sensitive parts of your mouth.
Like your gums.
Pretty easily, too.
A metal floss pick can pose several dangers to your teeth over time as well.
To best appreciate how and why that’s the case, we need to understand a few key details about our enamel first.
Is Your Enamel Stronger Than Metal?
Enamel is the outermost, protective, layer of your teeth. 1 It’s the layer that “shines” when you smile.
It’s also the hardest substance in your body. 1-3
That’s because >95% of enamel is made out of a tough mineral that’s called, in short, “hydroxyapatite”. 1-4
In terms of hardness (resistance to scratches):
The surface of healthy enamel is sometimes compared to that of a “mild steel”. 5
In other words, the surface of healthy enamel is harder than iron but softer than carbon steel. 2,6
This is why properly made—and properly used—metal dental cleaning instruments won’t damage your teeth…
So long as your enamel is healthy and unsoftened to begin with. 7-9
The scientific research sums it up this way:
Enamel is about as scratch-resistant as softer types of steel.
But Enamel Is Quite Brittle
Although enamel’s toughness is sometimes compared to that of a “mild steel”…
That comparison comes with…
A big catch.
That’s because enamel is relatively brittle when compared to steel.
Practically and scientifically-speaking then:
It’s actually better to compare enamel to glass.
This is because enamel is about as scratch-resistant as many forms of glass, like window glass, and is roughly as brittle. 10-13
And that brittleness increases as you age.
Metal Floss Picks Can Chip & Crack Your Teeth
Keeping enamel’s relative brittleness in mind:
We can probably agree that many of us accidentally scrape or bump our teeth with our toothbrush or flosser every now and then.
So if a stainless steel flosser crashes against your teeth with enough force, it can chip them.
That much is obvious, of course.
More insidiously though:
When a stainless steel floss holder bumps into your teeth…
It might lead to the formation of tiny micro-fractures in your enamel.
These cracks are so small that you won’t even see them. However, they can add up to a lot of damage over time that may require significant repair work later on.
A Metal Reusable Flosser Can Scratch Your Enamel
Enamel’s brittleness is one thing.
Let’s not forget that your enamel is also softer than numerous types of metals.
This means that flossers that are made out of tougher metals might scratch your teeth upon contact. 14,15
This should come as no surprise.
Nevermind your enamel, even steel can be easily scratched. Maybe your stainless steel water bottle carries evidence of this.
When You Need to Be Most Careful
Here’s something important to keep in mind:
Many people tend to floss soon after eating.
Acids in your foods and beverages, and those made by the bacteria in your mouth, temporarily weaken your enamel after a meal.
This means that a metal flosser…
Even one that’s made out of a metal that’s softer than your enamel…
May damage your teeth during this sensitive time. 7-9,16
In the end:
The overarching issue here is that your enamel cannot regenerate itself once it has been damaged.
When something like a metal reusable floss pick scratches or chips your teeth, you may be in store for some painful consequences down the line. 17
The Element Won’t Be All-Metal
We freely admit the following:
A few, very diligent, users might not suffer any ill-consequences from a metal floss pick.
We’re also well-aware that even the most careful of us may scrape our teeth with a 100% metal flosser by accident.
We all get tired.
We all get distracted.
And we’re all prone to a slip of the hand.
So our position on this issue is: “Why take that chance, no matter how small, when there’s a better way?”
We think that the body and tail of the Element floss holder can be safely made out of metal.
These parts don’t enter your mouth and don’t pose a significant danger as a result.
We believe that the floss attachment head, which does enter your mouth, should be made out of a material that’s softer than steel.
Even if the chances of damage to your enamel are low if you’re extremely careful, metal floss holders can pose other dangers.
During his medical and scientific review of this article, dentist and biomedical/biomaterial engineer Dr. Martin Pendola commented:
“Metal flossers (and metal instruments) are usually avoided to prevent damage in soft tissue (gums, cheeks, lips).”
3 Key Takeaways
- While your enamel is as hard as steel, it’s actually brittle like window glass.
- Metal flossers can chip your teeth and cause tiny, damaging, breaks that you can’t even see.