Dr Carter, the Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, was said to be “staggered” by responses from the British public after a question in the National Dental Survey asked them what they use to pick their teeth.
Matchsticks came top of the most unusual items, with one in four men claiming they use them to pick their teeth with.
Other extraordinary implements that featured highly included business cards and bank notes while less than six percent admitted to using either a toothpick or dental floss.
Dr Carter said: “Being told that people are four times more likely to use a matchstick than a toothpick is beyond belief. The thought of somebody using a matchstick to pick their teeth with might sound quite funny at first but in reality it is actually very concerning.
“It shows that people are just willing to use whatever instrument is closest to them at the time without any thought and clearly don’t realise how much harm they could do.
Other objects that people confessed to using were pins, needles, cocktail sticks, card and the back of pierced earrings.
Dr Carter added: “A pierced earring is not exactly the most flexible of tools, it’s sharp and could easily damage the surface of the tooth and could do real damage to the gums.
Having taken a closer look at the results it also showed that more men than women use earrings to clean their teeth – could this mean that men are using their partner’s earrings to clean their teeth? This is not a pleasant thought at all.”
The most common answer people gave was the use of their fingernail, tallying one third of the votes. However, Dr Carter says that this is just as hazardous.
“A fingernail might not seem to be a dangerous implement like a matchstick, an earring or a needle, but it can still cause all sorts of problems.
Dirt under the fingernail can spread bacteria and sharp nails can cut into the gum forcing it to bleed.
“The best things to remove food from between the teeth with are the interdental brushes or wood sticks, shaped particularly for this purpose.
Although, it is vital to remember that cocktail sticks are not an adequate replacement as they are much too hard and sharp and should really be avoided.
“The survey has flagged up that only one percent of us floss. This figure needs to rapidly improve, as flossing or using an interdental brush 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.”
The Foundation prides itself on giving out quality oral health information to the public so if you’re worried about the state of your smile and want to know just how to improve it you can contact the National Dental Helpline on 0845 063 1188.
The survey, which was released in line with National Smile Month (May 16 – June 16) and commissioned by its campaign sponsors Oral–B, Listerine and Orbit Complete, surveyed more than 1,000 members of the public.
The annual survey aims to investigate the dental habits and practices of those living in the UK, in order to address the levels of awareness and misconceptions there are about oral health.
Further findings from the study will be released throughout National Smile Month on the Foundation’s website at www.dentalhealth.org.
The Foundation’s three key messages throughout this year’s National Smile Month campaign of ‘Teeth 4 Life’ are to brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes using fluoride toothpaste, cut down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks and visit your dentist regularly as often as they recommend provide a firm base for a lifetime of good oral health.
For further information and regional stats of the survey results please contact the Foundation’s Press Office on 01788 539792 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Members of the public can contact the Dental Helpline for free and impartial expert advice on 0845 063 1188, Monday to Friday, or by emailing email@example.com.
The Foundation’s shop can be accessed at www.dentalhealth.org.uk/shop/browse.php. For educational resources or campaign products contact our sales team on 01788 539 793.
The Foundation’s website can be found at www.dentalhealth.org.
National Smile Month 2010 takes places from May 16 – June 16. More information can be found at www.smilemonth.org.
The British Dental Health Foundation is an independent charity dedicated to improving the public’s oral health practice. It raises awareness of key issues such as mouth cancer through its annual Mouth Cancer Action Month campaign, and in alliance with its global arm, the International Dental Health Foundation, it runs the educational National Smile Month campaign. The Foundation provides free, impartial dental advice to inform and influence the public, the profession and the Government.