Dentally, I mean, not mentally. (Obviously you floss mentally with us, hence your reading of this blog.) But dentally-wise, it's a legitimate question -- I know when something's stuck between my teeth, the urge to get it out can be overwhelming. In such situations I rarely wait until I get to a roll of dental floss; instead I reach for whatever's available: a business card, an edge of folded paper, even the tip of a sharpened pencil has sufficed. And I know I'm not alone: a recent survey by the British Dental Health Foundation found that 60% of people picked their teeth with the nearest available toothpick-like object, "needlessly risking their dental health."
What sorts of objects? Survey respondents provided a laundry list of things most people wouldn't want in their mouths under any other circumstances, like screwdrivers, scissors, earrings, needles and knives. And it's not just the famously dentally-challenged Brits; a quick Googling reveals medical forum threads with titles like "I picked my teeth with a matchstick and a splinter jammed between them and OWWWWW," and even a (possibly fictional) story about picking one's teeth with a utility knife while driving: "I glanced at it. I was holding a utility knife. The blade fully extended. The voice in my head became clearer. It was saying 'Don't do that. Razor blades are sharp. Razor blades are not toothpicks.'" Yikes. Indeed they are not.
The alternative, however -- not picking your teeth and leaving food in there -- is also not great; according to the same finger-waving dentists who sponsored the teeth-picking survey, leaving food stuck in your teeth all day increases the likelihood of gum disease and bad breath. The only solution, it seems, is to carry floss with you.
What's the craziest thing you've flossed with?
Photo note: for all you eagle eyes out there, that's first-lady-of-California Maria Shriver, caught picking her teeth at a red light. The business card she's using belongs to "Angela Marsden, Foundation Director." That's embarrassing for both Angela and Maria -- and one reason why picking your teeth with a business card may be more dangerous than picking them with a screwdriver.