03 June 2016

Interdental brushes and floss may be top of the list when it comes to maintaining a healthy mouth, but a new poll has revealed some of the more absurd things millions of us are using to clean between our teeth, putting our oral health at serious risk.

As part of National Smile Month, the Oral Health Foundation wanted to find out our habits for cleaning in between our teeth and in the process uncovered some of the ludicrous things we are using.

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. Surprisingly, a significant proportion of us even opt to regularly use the back of a pierced earring.

Overall, almost two in three of us use something other than floss and interdental brushes, including a third of us who regularly pick using our fingers.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, was left bemused by the findings and emphasised how this is putting our oral health at real risk.

Dr Carter said: “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.

“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 can 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.”

Inter-dental cleaning is a key part of a good oral health routine, along with brushing twice-a-day with fluoride toothpaste, visiting the dentist regularly and cutting down on the frequency of sugary foods and drinks.

Jessica Hulme of Philips Sonicare, supporters of National Smile Month, said: “Cleaning regularly between our teeth is a vital part of looking after our mouth. This can be done by using something such as the Philips Sonicare AirFloss Pro, which makes it very easy to start cleaning between teeth, or interdental brushes. These help remove plaque and bits of food from between our teeth and under our gumline – areas a toothbrush can’t reach.

“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.”

National Smile Month runs until 16 June. The campaign is UK’s largest and longest running charity campaign initiative aimed at increasing awareness of importance of oral health, and this year celebrates its 40th birthday.

National Smile Month 2016 is being supported by some of the nation’s best-known brands and retailers. Wrigley’s Extra, Oral-B as platinum sponsors of the campaign, with further support from Polo® sugar-free and Philips Sonicare.