ZocdocAnswersIs swallowing dental floss safe?

Question

Is swallowing dental floss safe?

Is it safe to swallow your dental floss? This is just a habit I got into when I was a teenager (I liked the mint flavor) and it just recently occurred to me that it could be the floss that causes the digestive troubles I sometimes have. But doesn't stomach acid dissolve everything very quickly?

Answer

Swallowing non-food objects, most commonly hair, is a fairly common habit but can have serious consequences, especially if done regularly. While your stomach does an excellent job digesting food, it cannot digest the inert plastic and nylon that dental floss is composed of. Usually your body will just pass these materials undigested and they won't cause any problems, however it is possible for dental floss to collect in your stomach or intestine and cause a blockage. Symptoms of a blocked GI tract include abdominal swelling, discomfort, inability to pass gas or stool and nausea. It is a serious medical condition which requires immediate medical attention, and if unable to resolve with conservative therapy may require surgery. The other serious consequence that may occur with swallowing dental floss is that two loops of bowel may become tethered together if the floss gets caught, and if the bowel cannot free itself it can become fused to other pieces of bowel. This is also quite serious and can also require surgery to correct. You should stop swallowing dental floss right away and see a doctor if you find yourself having difficulty with this habit. You should also call your doctor or go right to the emergency room if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, or any other concerning symptoms.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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