What’s the strangest item you’ve flossed with?


The Oral Health Foundation is warning against interdental cleaning with unusual items

Earrings, crisp packets and a pen knife were some of the more unusual items used to maintain our oral health.

That’s according to a poll from the Oral Health Foundation, as part of National Smile Month, which asked what respondents use to clean in between their teeth.

Outside of interdental brushing and flossing, cocktail sticks came top (39%) of the undesirable items, with a large number of us also reaching for business cards (10%) and bank notes (4%) to remove that bit of left over lunch.

‘I am sure we have all experienced it, getting a bit of rogue food stuck between our teeth after eating and then reaching for whatever is on hand to dig it out, but this habit is putting our mouth in serious danger,’ Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, said.

‘Reaching for an earring or business card may be convenient, or even sound amusing, but is actually very concerning.

‘Items such as this can easily damage the tooth and do real harm to the gums, as well as risking infection by being incredibly unhygienic.

‘Cleaning between our teeth every day is very important as, otherwise, we are only cleaning two thirds of the surface of our teeth, bacteria can then build up and this can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and eventually even tooth loss.

‘Our gums can be very sensitive and once damaged take a long time to recover, so please put those bank notes down, you really don’t know where they have been, and make sure you keep some dental floss on hand just in case you need it.’

Interdental cleaning

Two in three of us use something other than floss and interdental brushes to clean between our teeth, the poll found.

Some of the more unusual items listed include:

  • Hat pin
  • Hair
  • Metal afro pick
  • Pen knife
  • Scissors
  • Paper clip
  • Food skewer
  • Sage Leaves
  • Earring
  • Crisp packet.

‘Cleaning regularly between our teeth is a vital part of looking after our mouth,’ Jessica Hulme of Philips Sonicare, supporters of National Smile Month, said.

‘We should be cleaning between our teeth at least once a day.

‘Your dental team can show you proper interdental cleaning techniques if we need more advice.’


  1. 1

    I just want to know how to get the black teeth out and can you please tell me why in the morning does our teeth smells and if we still brush our teeth .
    From zainab

    • 2

      It depends what is causing the black on your teeth. It could be staining or decay – a dentist will be able to tell you when they see you.
      Unfortunately for the majority, even with a Fred Astaire tooth cleaning routine we will continually build up tartar and staining around our teeth. This hard creamy scale comes not from food but from saliva. Tartar, or calculus to give it its proper name, builds up both above and below the gums causing a roughness to the tooth surface. This roughness creates an environment for bacteria to multiply at a prolific rate, which can ultimately lead to bone being eaten away from around the teeth leaving the gums bleeding, swollen and receding with the added bonus of offensive breath and wobbly teeth.

      Not the best look, so to keep tartar and black staining at bay the only way to safely remove it is at the dentists and it’s normally done by a hygienist.

      There are many different causes of bad breath. Underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, sinusitis, tonsil or stomach problems among others may be the cause.
      However, 90 percent of cases of chronic bad breath come from your mouth which can be predictably treated and eradicated long term. As your mouth bacteria break down food particles they release gases called Volatile Sulphur Compounds or VSCs. It’s these VSCs that are the culprit of the eggy smell that is exhaled out and originates from your tongue. A tongue scrapper, available from most chemists, can be used to clean the tongue and diminish the smell. Many of the mouthwashes on the market act like perfumes which just mask the smell. Two mouthwashes that stand out as being really effective at combating bad breath are Ultradex and CB12; these have active ingredients in them that neutralise VSCs.
      If you think that you may have bad breath a trip to the dentist is a good idea. If you have any gum disease, decay, food traps or abscess draining into your mouth then these need to be addressed and your mouth returned to a state of health and freshness. Finally, brushing alone is not enough, the spaces between the teeth have to be kept clean. Use dental woodsticks, tepee brushes, water jets or floss maximise breath freshness.
      hope this helps,
      Lucy Stock – Dentist

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