Getting Picky About Flosser Picks: why they’re a huge problem and not much help

My dentist and hygienist tell me at every visit, “Keep up the flossing.” And I do, even though not everyone agrees about the benefits of the practice. Those who favor it think, In addition to the potential for reducing cavities and gum disease, flossing makes their mouths feel fresher, cleaner.

Flossing seems to have become wide-spread in the 80s. Prior to that time, I can’t remember a dentist pushing the practice nonstop. And late in that decade a variation made its mass-market debut—the flosser pick. Pretty clever. It eliminates the onerous chore of pulling out the floss, cutting it, twining it around your fingers. Plus it often comes on colorful and artistically designed holders.

Therein lies the problem. Flosser picks are so cute, so appealing, thousands are using the tools in any location they find themselves. They then abandon the devices, dropping them randomly everywhere. I happen to see the ones outside. They dot sidewalks, parks, beaches, gutters, streets, playgrounds.

I wonder if our collective dental health has improved significantly with the proliferation of flosser picks. Perhaps they’ve simply become substitutes for cigarettes. Many of us seem to be orally fixated. Since we can’t suck our thumbs in public, we substitute food, gum, nail biting. And cigarettes. Now that cigarette smoking is frowned upon socially, have people switched in flosser picks?

I’ve got to believe that flosser picks are just as much litter problems as cigarette butts. They’re not biodegradable, they’re ugly once abandoned, they can stab toes and soles, and animal health would be threatened should any ingest the flosser picks. In the litter competition, flosser picks are challenging the butt’s domination.

Here’s the kicker: you may pat yourself on the back that you’re using flosser picks even if they create a bit of litter. But experts say picks aren’t as effective as the old fashioned string floss. So don’t break your arm congratulating yourself.

floss pick

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