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Last Updated: Friday, 12 May 2006, 08:26 GMT 09:26 UK
Many 'floss' with dangerous items
Teeth and gums need proper care to stay healthy
Over 60% of people are risking their oral health by using whatever is closest to hand to remove food from between their teeth, a survey found.

Among the items that people admitted to using were screwdrivers, scissors, earrings, needles and knives.

The survey also found 23% of people choose to leave food stuck between their teeth - increasing the risk of gum disease and bad breath.

The survey was carried out by the British Dental Health Foundation.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the foundation, said: "Clearly people really need to be educated on the importance of flossing.

It is very important to be gentle
Dr Nigel Carter

"Flossing is a vital part of a good oral health routine, removing food particles from between the teeth and plaque from against gumline. It should be done once-a-day before brushing.

"However it is very important to be gentle, even when using proper dental floss, as jerking or snapping the floss into the gums can damage the gum tissue."

Dr Carter said the best thing to dislodge food from between the teeth was inter-dental wood sticks, which are shaped specifically for this purpose.

He warned against using cocktail sticks, which are not designed to be used in this way.

Dr Carter added: "The idea of someone picking their teeth with a screwdriver may sound amusing for a moment but it is actually a big worry that so many people are happy to use whatever is closest to hand to remove food from between their teeth.

"A screwdriver is hardly the most flexible of items and I don't think people realise the damage this could do to their gums."

Other implements people admitted using to get rid of trapped food included keys, paper clips, matchsticks, earrings, nail files, pencils, cards and forks.

The survey marks the start of National Smile Month.

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