Thursday, May 25, 2006

Should I stop flossing my teeth?

With my newfound pastime of bike repair, my fingertips have the perpetual decoration of black grease embedded in the grain of my skin. There used to be enough time between repairs that the dirty skin would wear away and my hands would look clean most of the time. Not so for the past month.

I wear the grease stains as a badge of honour, but I have some concerns. I'm starting to wonder if it's safe to put my hands in my mouth. Supposedly I'm meant to floss every day for oral hygiene purposes, but there must be a trade-off. If anyone is looking for a thesis topic for a PhD, I suggest comparing the effects of bicycle grease ingested orally to flossing on a less than daily basis.

This has come up again because yesterday I broke a spoke on my front wheel. I don't blame the spoke. It has held up for about 17 years and thousands of kilometres. Not bad for a tiny piece of steel taking hundreds of pounds of impact and tension. It means though that I really need to do something about the rest of the spokes on the wheel. Maybe it's time to start spending more money on this mode of transportation.

As a temporary fix, I took the spoke off another wheel from an old half-bicycle that was lying around my building (it didn't belong to me, but I've been given permission to scavenge). It was much too late to go to a bike shop by this point, so I knew I was on my own. I bent the old spoke out of its original home, then did my best to straighten it before sliding it into my wheel. It fit in well and was installed surprisingly easily. I didn't even need to remove my tire.

After a late night of truing the wheel, going for a test ride, and washing my hands, I decided to take my chances and floss my teeth. (I hope my dental hygienist is reading this.) Live with future gum problems or live with future unknowns? I choose the unknown. I floss because I like to live on the edge.

Darren J 5/25/2006 12:14:00 PM


Hey Darren,

If you do bike repairs regularly, you might want to go buy some of that citrus hand-cleaner stuff. Should be avilable at Crappy Tire or any hardware store. Various brands available, usually in an orange container located near the greases and oils.

Those degreasers do an amazing job of very quickly getting your hands almost perfectly clean. Fingernails still take a bit of extra work.

A lazy solution is to get some latex gloves; I think Lawton's sell packs of 100 for $7 or so. I go through a pack a year or so, and they do the trick keeping my hands clean (apart from the talcum power that easily washes off). Alternatively you can get dental floss "holders" that hold the floss for you - again, I think they're available at the drugstore.
I looked for those latex gloves in the drug store section of our local grocery store and couldn't find any. I'll try somewhere else.

I know the hand cleaner you're talking about Vic. I've never tried it. I haven't put a lot of thought into it (just enough to write a blog post about it) but I've wondered what that stuff actually is, like if I'm just trading one harsh chemical for another.
You can get citrus cleaner that is "all natural" of course. Back in Univ. I worked in the paint Dept of Home Depot... and we used that all the time, and trust me, I was often covered in paint. :)
Though I am mechanically impaired that doesn’t save me from some of the grease “honor” marks you mention. In fact, I like the grease look. It makes me feel like I know what I’m doing, but it normally doesn’t trick my daughter: “Dad, shouldn’t the LBS be doing that.” What might she think if I start wearing Latex gloves around her bike?
The orange hand cleaner is good, but I prefer Phil Wood hand cleaner. It even gets the stuff out from under the fingernails, if you scrub them a bit.

Rubber gloves work well. I find latex surgical gloves to be a bit wimpy, but they have the advantage of being tight enough to allow fine motor skills to be used.

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