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Flossing In Public: Is It OK?

Did you know that about two months ago at a minor league baseball game in Lowell, Massachusetts an obscure dental world record was set?

Over 3,000 baseball fans simultaneously flossed.  Together.  In public.  In fact, you can see the happy faces of these world flossing record holders here.

Reading this story reminded me of an incident that happened a few months ago.  I was on a subway train riding home from dental school.  I couldn’t help but notice that the woman across from me was busy flossing her teeth.  Perhaps she had read this article on flossing mistakes and was trying to show the world what a good flosser she was, but I doubt it.

Flossing In PublicAs a budding dental professional and a slight germophobe, I was torn.  On one hand, this woman seemed serious about taking care of her teeth and gums.  On the other hand, she was most likely flicking all kinds of bacteria and perhaps tiny pieces of her lunch on those around her and the inside of the subway car.

Flossing In Public: Is It OK?

I can appreciate both sides of the debate regarding flossing in public.  Here’s a quick summary:

Why Flossing In Public is Not OK

In a recent letter to the American Dental Association, a dentist, Dr. Sigurds O. Krolls, said the following in regards to the world flossing record that was set at that Massachusetts baseball game mentioned above:

I looked in amazement at the photograph of the enthusiastic crowd in the Red Sox’s Single-A affiliate ballpark flossing their teeth. Just imagine all the viruses, bacteria, saliva released in the air! As for the food particles: spit out, removed from the floss with one’s fingers or, at best, swallowed.

And I would not be surprised that in their euphoric state, the flossing was followed by high-fives, handshakes or slaps on the back. No “saniwipes” noticed, but it would have been too late.

Dr. Krolls makes the point that we do have a lot of very small junk stuck in our teeth and it’s best not to remove it when you’re surrounded by other people.

Why Flossing In Public Is OK

There are also people who see no problem with flossing in public.  Some arguments that can be made in the public flossers’ favor are:

  • It’s freedom of expression.
  • A sneeze, like public flossing, also spreads lots of bacteria around.  Should we say that it’s not OK to sneeze in public?
  • Some people may be very careful when flossing in public and don’t let anything leave their mouth.  Should they be penalized for the bad behavior of the food-flinging flossers?

What Are Your Thoughts on Flossing in Public?

Most of the people I’ve talked to think that flossing is something that should be done in the privacy of your own home, or in a public bathroom if it needs to be done in public.

I tend to agree that flossing should be done outside of the public sphere since flossing in public can make those around you uncomfortable or even sick.

What do you think: Is flossing in public OK?

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Go to the bathroom. That’s one public place where it is okay. Besides, flossing should be followed by hand washing.

  2. do i need a crown on #4 tooth had resorption surgery and root canal on it had braces but it is a crooked tooth also had a permanent filling on the backside of it

  3. #4 tooth had resorption surgery , root canal and permanent filling. Do I need a crown the tooth is crooked but I had braces.Cad/cam or regular crown if so. Thank you for your reply. Sharon Wall

  4. You know, it never before occured to me that flossing might be unacceptable in public. I have always flossed immediately after eating whether I’m at home or in public. I use regular string floss at home and those flosser stick things when on the go (I keep a pack of them in my purse and reguarly offer them to my fellow diners, who often accept). I use hand sanitizer after or wash my hands properly if I need to go to the bathroom (no way I would floss in there – think off all the nasty human waste particles that fill the air landing on the floss and going in my mouth!). I also rinse my mouth out with water (spit it out at home and swish quietly and swallow it in restaurants). People do LOTS of things that can pass germs around in public – what makes flossing any worse? I mean, just think of all the people with colds who go out in public, not to mention the food and saliva on the dirty dishes and napkins that your waiter has to clean up after you eat out and the hundreds of sweaty butts that have sat in that chair before yours. Besides, I have never noticed any food go flying when I floss. It stays on the string to be wiped away between every few teeth. I’m just over thirty and have never had a cavity, so I think this flossing immediately thing is working for me and I have no plans to stop even if other people think it is weird.

  5. It’s gross in public and I have news for some of you. It’s gross in a public bathroom as well. If you don’t care about hygiene, don’t tell the world! In fact, just stay away from other people so you don’t make the rest of the world sick and disgusted.

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