Stim-U-Dent Plaque Removers look like something an American Girl doll might use for oral hygiene: 25 small wooden sticks packed into a little green-and-white paper matchbook. You put the pointed end in your mouth (this, too, feels vaguely pioneerish), moisten it thoroughly with your saliva, then wedge tip of the stick between your teeth, with the flat side against your gums. To remove plaque and stimulate your gums, just lever the stick up and down a bit. The effect is like a tiny massage.
While I doubt it’s actually possible to “hold tension” in your gums, Stim-U-Dents do work to boost blood flow to the gums (which may decrease your risk of developing gingivitis and other gum diseases). Originally manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, the sticks are now produced under the Natural Dentist brand; the quality has, as far as I’m concerned, remained delightfully high. ADA-recognized as gingivitis preventers, the little toothpick-like devices are also especially handy if you have any spaces between your teeth that are too big for floss to navigate effectively. I actually use Stim-U-Dents in addition to flossing, which I consider a spa treatment for my mouth and also one of my most beloved pastimes.
But you can hate flossing and still enjoy (or at least tolerate) Stim-U-Dents: floss-phobic reviewers report using them as a “gateway drug,” a first step toward a life of improved oral hygiene. The wood is soft, and somehow feels gentler than nylon string, and the whole process is more straightforward. There’s no wrapping anything around your fingers or sliding back and forth necessary — just a little back-and-forth motion and you’re done. Like the humble matchstick, the Stim-U-Dent’s looks deceive: A little piece of wood can do very big things. It is a masterpiece of simplicity and efficiency, and in fact has been recognized as such by the Smithsonian; a packet of Stim-U-Dent Plaque Removers is held in the museum’s permanent collection.
Other Strategist-approved oral-care accessories
Writer Chris Black loves these minty toothpicks: “As an adult, the only thing that has helped curb my nail biting is Tea Tree Therapy Mint Toothpicks. They come in packages of approximately 100 and are made of birchwood. The tea-tree-oil-and-mint combination provides an intense flavor, and the harder you bite down, the more pronounced it becomes.”
Writer Or Gotham is a fan of this tongue scraper: “A couple of swift passes across your stuck-out tongue will yield sensations of both awe and distress. Gone is the cloudy layer of flotsam! Gone is bad breath! You’ll realize, as I did, that the amount of gunk not removed by simple brushing is … alarming. (Imagine squeegeeing your windshield for the first time after owning your car for several decades.)”
Writer Jen Doll loves her Opalescence toothpaste: “Unlike traditional whitening toothpastes that use peroxide, Opalescence removes surface stains (up to two shades in a month) by scrubbing them away with silica. But — and this is key — it’s not so abrasive that you can’t use it every day.”
Writer Stephen Haskell calls his Sonicare the Tesla of toothbrushes: “The brushing itself feels like a mouth massage, gentle while still providing adequate pressure. When I’m done, my mouth feels like I’ve just come back from a cleaning, probably because the toothbrush vibrates at 31,000 brush strokes a minute. After the first time I used it, I ran my tongue across my teeth and felt each curve and ridge in an entirely new way, as if I’d just had my braces removed.”
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