While I completely understand our developing knowledge about biofilm management, interproximal cleaning, and the enhancement of using water flossers, interdental brushes, and such, perhaps banning floss for particular populations is a bit premature. When prohibiting floss, be prepared because lawsuits may follow, specifically in correctional facilities. Some folks feel it’s their civil right to be able to use the string.
In 2012, eleven inmates at the Westchester County jail in New York filed a lawsuit claiming they were losing their teeth and suffering pain because they weren’t provided dental floss.1 This 500-million-dollar lawsuit is also causing mental anguish for those plaintiffs. Do you suppose they have a sibling that’s a dental hygienist? The question is, do jail inmates have a constitutional right to be provided dental floss?
Another inmate in Palm Beach County, Florida, filed a lawsuit for the denial of dental floss.2 At the ripe old age of 22, the inmate said that the anti-floss policy was preventing him from complying with the oral hygiene recommendations of the American Dental Association. Where were all these folks years ago when I was peddling the benefits of dental floss?
The problem lies in the creativity of use for said string. Floss can be made into a rope to escape, and that very thing happened in Wisconsin.3 In West Virginia, a prison inmate used his floss rope to escape and wasn’t apprehended for weeks; 41 days to be exact.4
Floss can be used to pass and retrieve items from one jail or prison cell to another, or objects can be lowered from one tier of the prison to another. Dental floss can also go through the prison plumbing and retrieve anything from drugs to alcohol through the toilet. Who knew? We must not forget that dental floss can be used to choke and strangle people. Even the plastic case around the floss is used for making things like handcuff keys and handles for various types of stabbing weapons.
I understand the conundrum. It was noted that the Westchester County jail made a compromise and made Floss Loops available for sale at the jail commissary.1 The jail needed to provide floss that breaks easily. I have a list, New York; I have a list.
Unique Uses for Dental Floss Around the House
Beyond the uses for dental floss in the correctional system, there are some handy uses around the house beyond cleaning interproximally.
My husband’s nickname is MacGyver, and for those who don’t know who that is, there was a TV series of the same name from 1985-1992 starring Richard Dean Anderson. He was the most resourceful and handsome man who could solve a problem with literally anything lying around. Here are some imaginative uses of the beloved string that would make MacGyver proud.
Goodbye Erkle. TV reference number two from the sitcom Family Matters. If you wear glasses or sunglasses, you can lose the screw that attaches the arm of the glasses to the front of the frame. In a pinch, thread the floss through the screw hole and tie a knot to secure it. Trim the excess, and voila, no tape needed.
Home Economics 101. Remember those old-school photo albums? Pulling the photo up off the sticky paper is tough, so use your floss to run behind the photo, preventing any damage.
Christmas Ornament Hooks
Need new hooks for your Christmas ornaments? Although floss isn’t green, at least pre-use, you can string an ornament in a pinch.
Sew a Button
Use your floss to sew a button but have your loupes handy to thread the needle.
Dripping Faucet and Leaky Pipe
This scenario wouldn’t happen in our house since I live with MacGyver, but to stop the dripping noise on a faucet, tie the floss around the faucet head, making the end of the string go straight down the drain. The drops of water will slide down the floss and stop the noise.
If you have a leaky pipe and no Teflon tape, wrap the floss around the threads until the plumber arrives.
Hiding Items in a Vent
Secrets, valuables, or keys can be kept hidden using floss in your return vent. Tie that special something to the inside of the vent and around the item, drop it in, and the floss is almost invisible.
Need a straight line or a clean cut for layer cakes, cheesecake, or soft cheeses like goat cheese? Pull out the dental floss. Back in the day, when we bought the cookie logs, an easy way to cut the dough was using floss or, for the health-conscious, cutting bananas.
Another kitchen hack for the floss is when you can’t find cooking twine. Wrap the meat with a piece of unwaxed, unflavored floss.
Garden Plant Support
If climbing plants need support in your garden, tie the plant with floss to a wooden dowel or trellis.
Need a minute to keep kids busy on a rainy day? Bead necklaces using dental floss.
Removing Skin Tags, Perhaps?
This idea freaks me out, but you can remove skin tags with dental floss. Tie the floss around the base of the skin tightly, and within a few days, it should fall off. There is no way I personally would recommend this. Ouch.
Campers unite! If you don’t bring floss on your outdoor adventures, you really should. Waxed floss can be used as kindling. If a rope is fraying, you can fuse the ends with dental floss, aka “whipping a rope.” If the need arises to secure something up in a tree or make a trip wire, you are at the ready if you have floss on hand.
How about making a spear with your pocket knife by tying the knife onto a stick? Did you forget your carabiner? Use floss to make a lanyard to tie something to your belt or backpack. If there is any need to dry swimsuits or towels, you can make a clothesline by tying a piece of floss around two secure objects. I’m from Oklahoma, and with a ton of lakes around, there’s a lot of fishing going on there. The handy, dandy floss could be used as a fishing line.
Dental floss may be getting a bad rap these days because of its biofilm removal efficacy, or lack thereof due to improper flossing technique, but do the string a solid and make it feel useful in other ways. Just make sure it’s legal.
Before you leave, check out the Today’s RDH self-study CE courses. All courses are peer-reviewed and non-sponsored to focus solely on pure education. Click here now.
Listen to the Today’s RDH Dental Hygiene Podcast Below:
- Fitz-Gibbon, J. (2018, January 16). Westchester’s Most Litigious Inmate Files New Federal Lawsuit Over ‘Rotted, Stale’ Jailhouse Food. Lohud. https://www.lohud.com/story/news/local/2018/01/16/westchester-jails-most-litigious-inmate-who-once-sued-over-dental-floss-now-suing-over-jailhouse-foo/922982001/
- Cerabino, F. (2012, October 8). Cerabino: Jail Inmate Goes Beyond Oral Arguments in Fight for Right to Floss. The Palm Beach Post. https://www.palmbeachpost.com/story/news/crime/2012/10/08/cerabino-jail-inmate-goes-beyond/7602160007/
- Lofland, L. (2012, November 2). Dental Floss: Murder Weapon and Tool for Prison Escape. The Graveyard Shift. https://leelofland.com/dental-floss-murder-weapon-and-tool-for-prison-escape/
- Friedman, E. (2010, August 2). Inmates Will Do Whatever It Takes to Get Out of the Big House. ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/US/prison-inmates-creative-escape-cells/story?id=11308368