Strange Floss Substitutes - Fornero Orthodontics

Strange Floss Substitutes


Fingernails. Pieces of paper. Safety pins. Strands of hair. Have you used any odd things (read that as “anything besides floss”) to remove food stuck between your teeth?

When appropriate tools aren’t around, people tend to use some common, but unusual, items to remove that piece of food stuck between their teeth, according to a national survey.

The survey of 1,005 adults, found that most Americans say they have used one of the following items to “floss” between their teeth: fingernails (61 percent), folder paper or cards (40 percent), cutlery (21 percent), safety pins (14 percent) and strands of hair (7 percent).

In addition, the survey, conducted on behalf of Waterpik and in consultation with the ADA, found that 63 percent of the surveyed adults say they know better than to use those items instead of dental picks, interdental brushes, floss and water flossing tools. Also, 42 percent say they’ve hurt themselves as a result of removing something between their teeth when using those unusual items.

Additionally, results from a separate survey echoes the findings from the public survey. ADA member dentists say that patients have told them they’ve used unsanitary and unsafe (and sometimes disgusting) things to clean between their teeth, including: twigs, toenails, matchbooks, loose electrical wires, screwdrivers and pocket knives.

These findings highlight the need for ADA members to talk with their patients about cleaning between their teeth daily with appropriate items to remove food debris that can cause plaque build-up, which can lead to dental decay, gum sensitivity and bad breath. The ADA Council on Scientific Affairs recognition of ADA Seal of Acceptance products means the products passed clinical and/or laboratory tests and met ADA and applicable American National Standards Institute-approved dental standards.

“It’s really easy to use clean and safe items on-the-go and at home — like string floss, dental picks and water flossers,” said Dr. Brittany Seymour, ADA spokesperson and assistant professor at Harvard School of Dental Medicine, in a news release. “The key is finding what works best for you to stick with every day,” she said. “If you’re not sure, start by looking for products with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. That way, you know it’s safe for your teeth and will get the job done, removing germs rather than introducing them.”

Additional survey findings include:

Sixteen percent said they always floss at least once a day.
Twenty percent said they only floss when they need to or when something is stuck in their teeth; and 8 percent said they simply never floss.
The biggest reason reported for not flossing among those who do not floss at daily is because it’s too time consuming (55 percent). Another 16 percent said it was too painful and 9 percent said they find it gross.
Forty-four percent of those surveyed admit they have exaggerated to their dentist about how much they floss when asked.

To learn more about products with the ADA Seal of Acceptance, visit