Tesla on AutopilotSure, Tesla says that its Autopilot features are meant only to be used with “active driver supervision and do not make the car autonomous.” You don’t have to look hard, though, to find Tesla “drivers” taking advantage of the system, letting the car take over while they apply makeup, for instance, or eat breakfast. Motorists have been caught tending to pets, taking a snooze, even making porn.

And to that list, we can now add flossing their teeth.

The 58-year-old motorist, who Ontario Provincial Police did not name, was pulled over on January 8 after officers saw he didn’t have any hands on the steering wheel because he was moving floss between his teeth. He was driving 84 mph, which is about 60 mph over the maximum speed limit in Oakville, where he was pulled over.

He was charged with careless driving.

It’s also pretty careless flossing. Oral hygiene isn’t hard, and it certainly doesn’t take long: 2 minutes brushing each morning and night, and about another minute to floss. But for it to be effective, you need to use the right technique.

Besides, as longtime readers of this blog know, every so often, crazy things can happen even with something as seemingly low key as cleaning your teeth.

One case report tells of a taxi driver who inhaled a floss pick. It lodged in the airway that branches off into the left lung and stayed there for 8 years.

Yes. Eight. Years.

Then one day, he experienced a sneezing episode, and the next thing he knew, he was coughing up a whole lot of blood. The pick had become dislodged and had to be removed by doctors. Fortunately, there were no lingering ill effects or complications.

Dental floss picks, as its name implies, combine the functions of a toothpick and dental floss, and are widely used to maintain good oral hygiene. Nevertheless, unlike toothpicks or dental floss, they have never been presented as a tracheobronchial foreign body or caused gastrointestinal damage probably because the size is much larger than the other devices. This case demonstrates that large objects like a dental floss pick may be the cause of a tracheobronchial foreign body and reminds everybody to use them cautiously.

dental flossIn another case, a length of floss broke during use, and a piece got stuck between teeth near the gumline. The person either didn’t notice or didn’t bother to remove it. Within a few days, a periodontal abscess had formed around it. Once the floss had been removed, the abscess resolved.

Far more common, though, is soft tissue damage, which usually results from flossing too aggressively or otherwise incorrectly. It can irritate the gums or cause ulcerations, as well as lesions that may not be treatable. Bone loss is another possibility.

So yes, when it comes to cleaning your teeth, technique matters, and to have proper technique, you need to pay attention to what you’re doing.

Here’s a quick lesson on the right way to floss:

Tesla image by Ian Maddox, via Wikimedia Commons

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