I work in an office environment where I don't have access to toothpicks or floss. I do sometimes remember to bring some to work, and when I have them they're the obvious solution, but often I've run out and forgotten to replace them, or left them in the pocket of a jacket I didn't bring to work that day, or whatever. Or maybe I'm at a client site and can't just leave my toothpicks lying around. The point is, I don't have any.

So the situation is that I eat lunch at work and get some food stuck in my teeth. Now I've got a meeting coming up in 30 minutes and I'd really like to get the food unstuck, but don't have the usual tools to do the job. If it's right in front, sometimes I can get it out with my fingernail, but more often that just seems to make my gums bleed without actually getting the food out, which is even worse.

What can I use to get the food out of my teeth before my important meeting?

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    That's one reason they usually include a reuseable plastic toothpick in pocketknives. – J. Musser Mar 13 '15 at 20:04
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    Sorry, how can you not have the ability to carry a tiny container of floss? And go to the restroom for 2 minutes? – JTP - Apologise to Monica Mar 13 '15 at 20:55
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    What do we have in our pockets would explain how, at an airport between flights, I offered a man, who had split his pants, a sewing kit. He emerged from restroom, gave me back the rest, and said the kit itself wasn't so remarkable, the fact that I offered it to him, sitting across from me, was what baffled him. He had the look of discomfort that was obvious to me, either torn pants seem or broken zipper, for which I had a safety pin. Yes, floss is there. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Mar 13 '15 at 23:36
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    I initially read that as "airport between fights", which made your story way more awesome. – Sterno Mar 14 '15 at 1:43
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    Haha, I seldom read the comments in the order in which they were posted. On my first reading of @jdlugosz's comment, I thought they were claiming to floss their teeth with a stapler. I found this frightening. – Dawood says reinstate Monica Mar 15 '15 at 12:10

14 Answers 14


If I've had a take-out lunch, upon finishing lunch I'll often have an empty soft drink cup and a straw. I've found that the tip of the straw can often work a bit like floss.

enter image description here

The open part of the straw often fits down over my tooth, so I can kind of get it around all sides of the tooth at once.

It's no substitute for floss, but it can work in a pinch.

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    This is also wonderful if you enjoy making your gums bleed everywhere for 20 minutes. This is a literally hack: hacks open your gumline. – corsiKa Mar 13 '15 at 21:05
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    Instead of fitting the whole straw over your tooth, use a pair of scissors to cut the end off at an angle. You can then use the point just like a regular toothpick. (If somebody wants to post that as an answer, go ahead. I can't because the question's protected and the only rep I have on this SE is from the association bonus, which doesn't count towards the rep needed to answer protected questions.) – David Richerby Mar 14 '15 at 15:08
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    @DavidRicherby or you could just hack away at your teeth with the scissors ... – John Castleman Mar 14 '15 at 22:42
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    Don't fit it whole over your tooth! Just squish it to make it flat, and the edge should be sharp and strong enough to make for a decent toothpick. – Ludwik Mar 15 '15 at 11:46

You just need to fold the paper as shown in the figure in such a way that the tip should be pointed and strong. And it is easy to find a piece of paper. Most of all you don't need to make a perfect cone. I hope it helps, without hurting your gums.

enter image description here

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    Wouldn't the end get mushed up when the paper gets saliva on it? – J. Musser Mar 13 '15 at 20:29
  • You can again use the same paper and repeat the same process if that happens or try to take few moments in between, take your saliva in. This can give you more time. – Vibhu Mar 13 '15 at 20:34
  • This solution is most usable in most work environments because paper is almost universally available. Folding the paper to reinforce it and get rid of sharp edges that may cut gums is a good idea. – tohster Mar 13 '15 at 23:23
  • Flossing the teeth with edge of a thin paper also works. Get it stretched using your both hands. – Ejaz Apr 29 '15 at 20:08

I use these which I carry in my wallet. They're available on Amazon.

Fresh & Go Wallet Floss

These are a single use length of floss glued in a sort of paper wrapper. You tear the paper in half providing a length of floss with a convenient handle at each end. Since they're sealed you can carry them in your wallet or purse until you need them and they stay sanitary. They're also pretty compact.


Keep a toothbrush in your desk. Even if you run out of toothpaste it should do the job. Some models even have a pick on them.

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    Clearly the most sensible answer I've read. You deserve way more upvotes! – pyb Mar 14 '15 at 19:53
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    Not everything has to be a clever hack, and it's sure better than sticking a pushpin in your mouth. – Schwern Mar 15 '15 at 2:26
  • You can get 'travel' toothbrushes where the head fits inside the handle, along with a tiny tube of toothpaste - great for keeping in a desk drawer. For example: ranir.com/media/47523/… – EleventhDoctor Mar 16 '15 at 8:10

Use a bit of thread off some clothing, or maybe a strip of Scotch tape folded in half (adhesive on the inside) and use that to get between your teeth.

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    Use a bit of thread off some clothing. Super, now my teeth are clean! Next question: I've now got a loose piece of thread coming off my pants, and I don't have a needle to tie it off with... – Michael Mar 14 '15 at 1:51
  • @Michael: LOL, so true. – user541686 Mar 14 '15 at 7:36
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    @Michael That's OK. When you get home, you can use those toothpicks you forgot to bring into work as needles! – David Richerby Mar 14 '15 at 13:55

Chewing gum. That's it. Just chew a stick of gum for a couple of minutes and it will dislodge the food bits by itself, no extra effort required. Just don't make too much noise while doing it.

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    And don't forgot to spit out the gum before you meet the client. Nothing says "competent executive" like chewing gum. – RoboKaren Mar 15 '15 at 18:17
  • I press the gum against the teeth so that it gets in the space between them: this way you remove more food. – algiogia Mar 16 '15 at 8:58

Not as good of a solution as a bent paperclip, but if you have a ballpoint pen with a cap, sometimes the cap has a thin-ish tab sticking off it that's smaller than your fingernails. You can also use a tine from a plastic fork or the corner of a business card to get the same effect.

enter image description here

  • Get a plastic fork, break off all but one of the tines, and use the remaining tine as a toothpick. Note that the outside tines are sometimes more blunt than the inside tine(s), so you should keep an inside tine as your tooth-picking tine. – BrettFromLA Mar 13 '15 at 19:15
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    The corner of a rigid business card works well too. – BrettFromLA Mar 13 '15 at 19:27

Take a sip of water and swish it around in your mouth in the same way you would a fluoride rinse. This will push out most particles.

I've used -- although it may not be the best idea -- a bent paperclip. It works essentially the same as a toothpick, but is metal, so it can hurt your gums if you're not careful. Use the bathroom mirror if possible.

  • Water removes all but the most stubborn particles. I use this technique all the time when I can't get to a toothbrush. – phyrfox Mar 14 '15 at 5:28

Many Swiss Army Knives include a toothpick. It's something to look for in any multi-tool, even if not primarily a knife.


A single long strand of hair === AWESOME DENTAL FLOSS!!!

enter image description here


Before the toothbrush became popular, people used a tooth cloth or tooth rag. So you could use a (wet?) paper towel and get some of the food off your teeth.

  • Paper towel will just disintegrate in your mouth. We can assume that the piece of food is stubborn enough that picking at it with a fingernail isn't working: a wet paper towel will be hopeless in that situation. – David Richerby Mar 14 '15 at 13:59
  • @DavidRicherby not if you use one of those for drying hands. They are quite sturdy. So much that you are not allowed to flush them. – algiogia Mar 16 '15 at 9:01

I get a plastic bottle or cup and cut a toothpick-shaped piece using my desk scissors. Either one works as well as any commercial toothpick. What I then do is cut another couple and slip them into my wallet for next time.


I use flossing sticks at work, but whenever I run out of those, then I use a pushpin:

enter image description here

This is something that can be found in any office environment. The fact that the end is sharp means it's good for squeezing in between your teeth and digging out pieces of food. I have a small mirror at my desk and it helps to make sure that I don't prick my gums. Also, when using the pushpin, try to keep your head tilted downward - that way if you were to drop the pushpin, it won't fall into your mouth. It would cause serious problems if you accidentally swallowed it.

Like David Richerby said, a pushpin could scratch off the enamel from teeth, so only use it if you have nothing better at your disposal. If you have to use a pushpin, then use it with care and only use it to dig out food that's stuck between your teeth. Don't start flossing all of your teeth with it.

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    No, no, no. Just leave the Even if we ignore the risk of swallowing it (especially if you're trying to pick your back teeth) and the risk of stabbing yourself, this will damage to your teeth by scratching the enamel off them. Do NOT do this. – David Richerby Mar 14 '15 at 13:58
  • A single staple from the stapler on your desk works a little better than this. – axsvl77 Jul 20 '16 at 4:25

Following are some ideas that I have seen people do when they don't have dental floss or toothpick:

  • 1) Use visiting card (Material - Non Tearable PET) which have 260 gsm thickness. (Thin enough to get between two teeth.) This is effective as it is thin enough to get between two tooth, and disturb the particle state (Suggest you to clean a visiting card before use)
  • 2) Use of waterpiks
  • 3) Gargling water only in area of the subject tooth
  • 4) Use of tongue to remove (very difficult to remove)

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