80% of us use something snarky to pick our teeth

November 2, 2017

While most Americans are aware that they shouldn’t put “a foot in their mouths,” there’s not much else they wouldn’t try to remove something stuck between their teeth, a survey released on October 18 has found.

A majority (79%) say that they have used something other than string floss, a water flosser, an interdental brush or a toothpick to dislodge an annoying item—including their fingernails (61%) and folded paper or cards (40%).

The poll—conducted by Ipsos on behalf of the American Dental Association and Waterpik— found that roughly one-quarter (27%) of respondents also have used a thread/string or some form of cutlery (21%) in order to remove something.

Not quite as many say that, in their zeal to extricate the morsel, they have tried using a strand of hair (7%), or other item (4%). On the other hand, one in five (21%) say that they have never used any of these items for such reasons, including a greater proportion of  adults over age 55 (29%) and retirees (28%).

Interestingly enough, although we all have picked our teeth at one point or another in public, most respondents to the poll (72%) said it is “gross” to see people reach into their mouths in this way. Those most likely to be grossed out by people cleaning their teeth in public include adults over the age of 55 (78%), the more affluent (75%) and those with a college degree (78% ).

More than two in five (42%) say they have felt pain as a result of removing something stuck in their teeth with an unusual item, with gum pain (35%) much more common than tooth pain (13%). The other half of those surveyed say that they have never felt pain while trying to floss or remove something stuck in their teeth with an unusual item (55%), and 3% don’t know.

The  poll was conducted June 27-28 among on online sample of 1,005 adults over the age of 18 from the continental United States,  Alaska and Hawaii.

Research contact: Julia.Clark@ipsos.com