1001 Uses For Dental Floss #44- Voices In My Head

No, you’re not – I know it’s not politically correct to use this term – crazy. Not really.

We’ve all heard stories of people claiming to hear the radio signal inside their head because of a new filling in a tooth, sometimes causing them distress. So far, this phenomenon is pretty-much discounted; it’s all in their heads, as they say. Well, now someone has gone out and developed a tooth implant, a small wireless radio receiver, with a linked micro-vibrator, which can be placed inside an opening (an artificially created cavity) in a tooth, something like a filling is. A dentist makes a space in the tooth for it, and covers it with a white dental filling to seal it up.

Two researchers at the MIT Media Lab Europe, Jimmy Loizeau and James Auger, designed this object, and it was exhibited a few years ago in a collaboration between the Science Museum and the Royal College of Art in London.

The device retransmits digital radio signals from a local cell phone (within a short distance.) This electromagnetic signal is translated into low-level sound vibrations by a micro-vibrator, which then travel through the jawbone by bone resonance to the ear, where it is heard. No one outside the mouth hears it, so it can remain secret. Need an alarm clock to wake you up at a time when your bed buddy would rather not be disturbed? Want to hear the latest news or a secret message? Want someone to coach you through an exam?

Want to know what it’s like to feel like you have voices in your head? Now you can. And how to turn it off? There’s an app for that, which can remotely activate it or shut it down.

Now if only your tooth would stop ringing while you’re having that deeply romantic moment. It could get you into trouble.


1001 Uses For Dental Floss #43- Archeology, Dental Evidence, and Child Sacrifice

Today’s post is a mixture of history, archeology, religion, conjecture and controversy. Not much to do with floss, but hang in for the surprises.

First, a little history. Carthage was once a city in what is now Tunisia. You may remember Carthage, a city and an empire which clashed with Rome and lost. Hannibal, famous for crossing the Alps into Italy with his elephants, engaged the Romans in war and won most of the battles, except for the last one, which is of course the most important one. That’s why the languages many of us speak are descended from variants of Latin instead of variants of Aramaic, which is what the Carthaginians spoke.

Aramaic happens to be the language spoken in the eastern Mediterranean lands before the Romans and Greeks came along, and was the language used by Jesus. It was spoken by the Phoenicians, who were the close cousins, if not the same crew, as the Carthaginians. They were also known as the Canaanites, who worshipped the God Baal.

So it happens, if you remember any of the Old Testament part of the Bible from your youth, that these Baalists carried out all sorts of atrocities in their religious rites, including child sacrifice, and this practice, and therefore Phoenician/ Canaanite culture (and thus also Carthaginian culture) were abhorred by the Israelites, and later by the Greeks and Romans.

Human sacrifice was vigorously condemned in the Old Testament by the prophet Elijah, who promoted the destruction of the Baalists by the Israelites for this reason, among others.

So, did these peoples really sacrifice children in their temples? Now here the evidence starts to stir up controversy. This all hangs on evidence related to something called the “neonatal line” in baby teeth. What is termed the “neonatal line” is a noticeable change in layers of enamel evenly laid down before birth, something like the rings in a tree. This mechanism is briefly disrupted during a week or more following birth because birth process is so traumatic to the newborn, and this line can be seen when these teeth are viewed by a number of different analytical methods.

Still with me?

In a children’s cemetery recently examined in the ruins of Carthage, young children’s remains included both ones who died shortly after birth, but also many who were the results of miscarriages, because their teeth bore no signs of the neonatal line and so died before birth. It is known that the survival of newborns past their first year or two was only about 50% at best.

What this implies is that these fetuses were buried with reverence in the cemetery and suggests, from the inscriptions on grave markers there, that the other children died a natural death and were not given by their parents to be sacrificed, but their lives rather were highly valued.

Read this as you will, but this could imply that the whole notion of child sacrifice in Canaanite culture could be wrong and written in the Old Testament to justify the destruction of these people by the abhorrence of God for this practice. The evidence could be flimsy or it could be robust, depending on where your sympathies lie, but experts in the field (historians and archeologists) are strongly divided on whether this is real evidence and if it means anything when compared to the historical record that was written by the Jews, the Greeks, and the Romans, who were of course the enemies of this people. Historical revisionism by the victor, after all, has been around for a long, long time. But at this point, the verdict seems to hinge on evidence from teeth.

To which I say: I don’t know, but remember to floss.

For both takes on this story, see:



1001 Uses For Dental Floss #42- The National Flossing Council

National Flossing Council logoFlossing haikus. Who would believe it?

Yes, there is a National Flossing Council (my main rival for the lucrative flossing-obsessed niche market). It is dedicated, almost to the point of weirdness, (I should talk–I write my blog about just that) to promoting the benefits of flossing.

On their website http://www.flossing.org (not as interesting as mine, of course), you can find a whole page of haikus (those Japanese poems of 17 syllables), all about floss.

For example, how can you not be moved by this:

Assiduous care



Cherry blossom joy



I climbed a mountain,

The meaning of life to find.


Was all he said.


On their website, you’ll find that there’s a National Flossing Day (November 25), The Flossy Awards (for best TV show featuring and promoting flossing) and the Flosscar Awards, for best feature film having a scene that includes floss. They even market floss merchandise like floss T-shirts, tote bags, cups, fridge magnets, and many others.

After your great time with the Flossing Council, visit YouTube and listen to the floss song “Flossophy 10” by Van Oodles at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHgiMeBMMs4. Did someone say “earworm”?

So why am I promoting the competition? Because I believe whatever may encourage you to floss is a good thing. So do that: floss.

1001 Uses For Dental Floss #41- More Fun With Floss- Nail Art

More make-up fun with floss, again.

Okay, so you thought putting a striped design with floss and eyeliner on your eyelids wasn’t enough. You were right. You can also use dental floss to put a striped art design on your fingernails (and toenails too, if you want, I guess). Safer than on the eyes, and you can do this by applying nail polish with a floss pick (watch the video), but if you want to use conventional floss which requires both hands to manipulate it, you’ll need a friend to help you. You could probably do a crisscross design too if you hold the floss right.

These techniques for applying makeup with floss only need a little imagination and originality. Can you stripe your lips this way too? So far no one has tried and made a YouTube video to show how. Be the first, record it and then post it. Become a star.

1001 Uses For Dental Floss #40- Floss In The News

Isn’t it always in the news?

No, I guess not. Today’s Montreal Gazette carried an article about the new Oralgem floss dispenser that is being marketed for public rest rooms, such as in restaurants. I’ve already written that this is commonplace in Brazil (Use #7, way back in the archives). Some of the interesting facts contained in the article have been mentioned in various posts on this blog. Good luck to these young entrepreneurs, Marta Correia and Danny Filippone. May the floss be with you.

Anyway here is the link:


1001 Uses For dental Floss #39- The Tooth Entrepreneur

This story, which I’ve edited a bit, appeared in The Gulf News, but seems to be from The Washington Post. This may be, but it seems that this tale is written by the subject of the story, so who knows about its credibility. I’ll use the man’s words to tell the story, because he tells it so well.

Puneet Nanda (the author of the story), aka Dr Fresh, has the world on a string, he says, or at least on a length (a very long length) of dental floss. His $20-million toothbrush business includes the Firefly, a toothbrush that blinks (kids love it–see photo above to see why), and owns 38 dental patents. He also provides the world with a billion yards of floss a year, enough for each person in the world to floss once a week using Nanda’s floss. Dr Fresh was once an irregular flosser. He owned a company that made toothbrushes but took string in hand only when something stuck in his teeth (like most of you, probably.

Then he got braces to close a gap between his front teeth. His breath became “not really fresh in the morning”. His dentist urged daily flossing. With that, Dr Fresh achieved not just morning freshness but a higher plane of dental awareness: when it comes to one’s teeth, he realised, “there’s always something stuck”. He had an epiphany: “Believe me or not,” he says, “my life changed after flossing.” Flossing was a crucial step towards personal transformation: from bewildered immigrant to oral-hygiene wizard, owner of 38 dental patents and worldwide provider of a billion yards of floss a year.

Dr Fresh’s story is both American and truly global, a tale of obsession, immigration and rebirth set against the oral hygiene industry. He arrived in Southern California in 1998 with big hopes for his small toothbrush company, Dr Fresh Inc. “What I wanted to do,” he says, “was revolutionise the oral hygiene industry in (the US).” Since then, his company has moved from an apartment to a 55,000-square-foot Buena Park warehouse in the Los Angeles area with space for 30 million toothbrushes and a research laboratory. Sales, he says, have gone from almost nothing to $20 million a year and rising. Dr. Fresh Inc. remains a pipsqueak compared to Proctor & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson. Yet the company requires two mottos to contain its owner’s aspirations: “The Brand America Loves” and “Worldwide Toothbrush King”.

He employs a thousand people in India and China making toothbrushes, mouthwash and dental floss. His 64 employees are the new Southern California workforce: Indians, Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos, Mexicans. “He can talk day and night about toothbrushes, and he’ll still be talking,” says his friend, Harshad Mody, an Indian music promoter. Indeed, after arriving in America, the Indian immigrant did almost nothing but tinker with toothbrushes, study their manufacture and analyse US marketing and distribution. He had scant room for a personal life; he took no vacation. His mind percolated with ideas for oral-care products. One of his proudest moments came when he embedded a red light in a toothbrush and set it to blink for a minute. The product – the Firefly – gets kids to brush until the light goes out. It is now Target’s best-selling toothbrush. He followed it with a line of dental travel-packs, mouthwash, even a dog toothpaste to fight canine halitosis. “The chicken and poultry flavour is hot,” he says. He strove to become America’s toothbrush leader. Finally, in his own mind, he became his brand – Dr Fresh, oral hygiene crusader.

Today, employees, buyers, friends, father, brothers all call him Dr Fresh. So does his wife. “I don’t know when I am Puneet Nanda any more. All I do is live, drink, eat, think as Dr. Fresh,” he says. Dr Fresh grew up in New Delhi, where his father ran a small toothbrush company called Denton. In college, he studied medicine and cheekily dated the dean’s daughter, for which his classmates nicknamed him Dr Fresh. In 1989, his father had a heart attack and couldn’t run the company. Dr Fresh stepped in. Indian toothbrushes, with hard bristles and cheap plastic, were as menacing as street thugs. “I thought, ‘I’m going to see if I can improve the quality’,” he says. He renamed the company Dr Fresh and designed a diamond-head toothbrush with glitter in a bright plastic handle. The Dr. Fresh Trendy was American-looking and cheap, exactly what Indians wanted, he says. Toothbrushes flew from his factory, many into Russian hands. Russian free-traders were chartering planes and flying across Asia looking for cheap consumer products to sell back home. Soon three or four Russians a day arrived at his factory, ordering dozens of cases of toothbrushes. He learned Russian and hired a chef to cook Russian food for his visitors.

The money rolled in. In 1993, Dr Fresh left wife and infant son in India to open a Moscow office. “I was young,” he says. “I was fearless.” In Moscow, he couldn’t import toothbrushes fast enough. He awoke one morning to snowballs against his apartment window. Below, 200 customers were lined up. Then one day a short man walked into his office, followed by three goons, he says. The limber little fellow put his foot up against Dr Fresh’s throat and pinned him against a wall. “You’ve grown too big too soon,” Dr Fresh recalls the little man saying, as his three henchmen punched their palms. “Did you know you have to pay your bosses here?” He paid up but in another run-in with the goons, he was shot in the back of the head. He recovered but still has a nasty scar. That ended Dr Fresh’s dream of revolutionizing Russian oral hygiene.

He returned to Delhi. But he found the city’s smog oppressive; besides, Russia had given him grand international plans for his company. Soon he set his sights on the US. His mother was terrified to have him travel again. “We have very close-knit families in India. He was going to be really far away,” his youngest brother, Nikhil, recalls. In April 1998, without telling his mother and again leaving his wife and this time two children in India, Dr Fresh set out for New York.

New York was not Russia. His toothbrushes raised nary a brow and he hated trying to sell brushes in the cold. That Christmas, the snow piled high on the sidewalks and he had a raging fever. Miserable, alone and walking on a bitter Christmas Eve to find an open pharmacy, Dr Fresh slipped and fell in the snow. Back at his apartment, he searched the internet for the US city with the highest temperature at that moment. He bought a ticket for Miami and went to the airport. The flight was cancelled. “I was almost in tears,” he says. “There was a Sikh guy in the airport. I told him, ‘I want to go where there’s sun 24/7.’ He said, ‘Why don’t you go to LA?’ He took the first plane to Los Angeles, sleeping all the way, and woke to the nudging of a stewardess. At a hotel, he slept until late that afternoon.

“The sun was still shining,” he says. “I realised I was feeling much better.” A few days later, he moved to Los Angeles permanently. Within a year, he had moved his wife and family from India. “I found the real America,” says Dr Fresh. In Los Angeles, he scored his first big US deal, selling 180,000 toothbrush six-packs to the 99 Cents Only chain of stores. Emboldened, he cold-called 20 potential buyers each day, persisting even when one prospective client threatened to call the police.

His company grew relentlessly. He drove a nice car. He bought his family a spacious house in Cerritos, an enclave of upscale immigrants. About this time, Dr Fresh discovered the fulfilment of daily flossing. It allowed him to be reborn every day. “I started being more in control of the destiny of my teeth,” he says. “I feel I’ve increased the life of my teeth by at least 10 to 15 years … After I’m done flossing, I also rinse. After rinsing I feel I am the freshest person, really.” He wanted that fresh-flossed feeling for everyone. Today, Dr Fresh is one of the world’s leading floss makers at a billion yards a year.

One fall evening, Dr Fresh pushes a cart down Wal-Mart’s fluorescent aisles, looking for inspiration. He combs through toothbrushes, then stops in stationery. Pen packaging often gives him ideas. He says he eagerly awaits each October: “There’s a lot of innovation in Halloween packaging.” Looking like an art critic in a museum, he halts to admire curvy new bottles of Zest body wash … He says he’s been busy lately. He won a contract to make Wal-Mart’s private label Equate toothbrushes next year – 5 million units annually, he says. He’s opened an office in Bentonville, Arkansas, near Wal-Mart’s headquarters. Sales to the retail giant, he hopes, will top $20 million annually in a couple of years. He has grand hopes for his Firefly line. A new Firefly mouthwash has a cap that blinks. He wants more ideas for products that blink – big, refreshing, anti-bacterial ideas, not necessarily dental. Finding nothing, he leaves Wal-Mart with only a few pens and a box of Crest dental floss he wants to study.

“Oh, look at that,” he says, as he leaves the store. A woman in a wheelchair is selling tiny blinking pendants: a broken heart, an electric guitar, Betty Boop. They flutter in her lap. Just what he is looking for. He buys a bulbous blinking fish that catches his eye. An idea takes shape in his mind. “I’m going to put it in bottles of liquid soap,” he whispers conspiratorially, “so you can push on the top and it’ll light up.”

So, do you think this is a true story? This would make a great novel or a mini-series on cable TV. Sounds like The Most Interesting Man In The World.

Watch out, world.  This man’s going to make everything light up, not just toothbrushes.


1001 Uses For Dental Floss #38- Our Friends The Animals

This story isn’t about floss. Not this time. It’s about the unusual variations of teeth in the animal world

I have to credit pediatric anesthetist Dr. Karen Brown for asking me one day, while we were working together in the O.R., if I knew which mammal had the largest number of sets of teeth. I failed the test because I didn’t know the answer. So Dr. Brown told me.

As most of us know, humans have 2 sets of teeth, but that’s not true for some of our friends, the animals. Not always.

It turns out that elephants grow up to 6 sets of teeth in a lifetime (the record), and that can be a long time, something like 70 years or so. It’s not like our teeth, where the permanent teeth form under the baby teeth and grow into the mouth to replace the baby teeth as they are shed. In elephants, as well as in dugongs, kangaroos (nor strictly mammals, but marsupials) and a certain type of African rodent, all have the teeth slide forward in the jaw, and as the frontmost of 3 molars are shed, new ones grow in behind them, something like a tooth assembly line. This type of dentition is called polyphyodont.

Of course, that’s not so for the elephant’s tusks, which are actually a specialized type of tooth. They’re the ones that the poachers are after, with the result that elephants are rapidly going extinct. Tusks keep on growing longer throughout the elephant’s lifespan. They’re not shed.

Now you know.

1001 Uses For Dental Floss #37- Fun With Floss- Eye Makeup

I have to confess that I know next to nothing about makeup, but this is one of the fun posts, so I’m copying what I’ve seen somewhere else. Please bear with me if I err.

Yes, you can use dental floss to apply makeup to your eyelids. It seems that there are plenty of ways to apply eye shadow–gold thread, stencils (tiny ones, I guess), airbrush guns (ow! keep your precious eyes tightly shut!), besides the usual brush.

The fashion guy, Anthony Vaccarello had a fall show where make-up artist Tom Pecheux wanted, according to the article, to create a look that was rock and roll, glamourous, sophisticated, and disco, all wrapped together into one tight rapidly spinning and shining disco ball. The makeup artist was trying to emulate a look that echoed an ‘80s attitude of black with red ruffles. Having an appointment with his dentist the next day (a female dentist?–he doesn’t say) his mind went flying around in Dental Land, and lo and behold, he thought, Floss! Why not use floss to apply lines of eye liner? Not bourgeois, he thought–more artsy and a bit worn away–like old paint on the walls of a slightly rundown ancient theatre, I suppose.

He had already done this before, for a magazine shoot, so he wasn’t all that original, but artists are always original, even when they’re being derivative with their own material, and he already had the technique down pat, so why not?

He used waxed floss to pick up the black eyeliner and then press it across the eyelid, and then, for dramatic effect, rolled the floss across a tube of red lipstick and and then along the lids. And here you can see the result. Dramatic, artsy, and wild.

Ladies, are you ready to try this? But don’t forget your teeth. Use another piece of floss, though.

1001 Uses For Dental Floss #36- Do-It-Yourself Surgery–Don’t!

First of all, it has to be very clear that certain acts which are carried out by a trained professional should never be done by an amateur, even if these non-specialists are very intelligent, and very dextrous. Clear? Yes? Okay, let’s go on.

There are multiple things done with floss that could be called do-it-yourself projects, and I’ve already mentioned some, but those involving health are not among them. Of course, flossing itself is a DIY act, but including that in the admonition above would be ludicrous, and that’s not what I’m talking about. So, here goes.

I came across an article in the NT News (Northern Territory, Australia) about a man who had his lip sliced open from nose to the base of his teeth by being hit in the face with a guitar (gruesome, true, but things can get pretty rough in the Outback). Arriving at a hospital emergency room in the wee hours of the morning, he was told to come back during daylight, when the staff surgeon would be available (10 hours later, according to the story). So far, sounds like Canada, or at least, Quebec.

But those Australians are a self-sufficient bunch. Having threaded meat in the bush and as a chef in the kitchen of a restaurant, he felt qualified to do the job, and sewed his lip himself, using a sewing needle and floss. Did he think the floss would be closer to sterile than sewing thread? I don’t know if he did, but wouldn’t be. Had he had enough to drink to provide local analgesia?

Not much news in The Northern territory, so this item qualified, but that’s something else. And the results of his DIY efforts? No mention, but he likely at minimum had  some scarring, if not an infection of the upper lip or face, and may even have had a failure to reattach. Definitely not a good idea. In similar circumstances, you should let the plastic surgeon do this, even if you have to wait (yes, even 10 hours!)

I’ve seen several reports of men (it always seems to be men doing this sort of thing) who used floss they tied around their teeth and tightened to produce orthodontic movements to correct crooked teeth. Could happen, I guess, if done exactly right, which in this situation is mostly a matter of luck, not skill. They all claimed success, but that would only be visible success with the front teeth, not the rear teeth. This could have resulted, because of overly heavy pressure of uneven pressure, or in a mouth where the bone around the roots was already compromised, in bone loss, tooth loss, gum infection, damage to the joints of the jaw, broken teeth, decay, and an abundance of other problems which orthodontists are trained to prevent or avoid by studying for a minimum of 12 years of university and professional education.

And then there was the instance of a couple who had a pet chicken (yes!) who was injured and needed surgery, which they performed, using dental floss. I’ll leave that for one of the next posts, so as not to upset the animal lovers in my readership this time around. So, if you have a tender heart when it comes to animals, maybe you could look away next time. That means you, Sharon.

Just keep on flossing.

1001 Uses For Dental Floss #35- A Weird Oral Hygiene Device

The weirdest oral hygiene aid I’ve come across to date is the Blizzident™ system, which uses a customized appliance which fits over the teeth in both arches, top and bottom, and incorporates rubbery bristles (800 of them) set at a 45˚ angle to the teeth. It is claimed to clean the teeth completely in 6 seconds and is activated by normal chewing while wearing it. By stringing floss across a set of indentations along the edge of the appliance, the teeth will automatically be flossed (again, presumably, in 6 seconds). A tongue scraper with bristles is also part of the apparatus, so, if you’re in a hurry with your brushing, and believe in this item’s efficacy, you can have one made for your mouth.

I’ve included an image from the Blizzident website to try to clarify what it’s all about. I won’t say what I think of this, since I haven’t tried it and don’t plan to, but I have a personal preference for simplicity in most things. I like the traditional, conventional approach to oral hygiene.

After paying for initial impression fee of about $75 (conventional impressions) or $200 (optical 3D scan) you can have the lab make one for $300, more or less. It should last about 1 year. Replacement after a year costs between $90 (refurbishment) and $160 (brand new) and the delivery time is about 16 weeks (I guess it takes time to position all those bristles just right).

So if you’re in a rush to brush and have only 6 seconds to spare for your oral hygiene, I hope you can wait 4 months to get this item. Maybe you should hurry up and slow down.