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I'm in America and every once in a while I come across someone with food stuck in their teeth. Recently it happened with a coworker I feel friendly towards. I first noticed while we were having a 1:1 chat but there was another person in the room. I felt like I should give them a heads up but I also don't want them to feel embarrassed especially because it wasn't just the two of us.

How do you tell someone they have food stuck in their teeth while minimizing any possible embarrassment they might feel?

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The rule I always follow, is that if it can't be fixed in 5 seconds, don't bring it up. If somebody has something stuck in their teeth, or something that can be easily fixed on the spot, let them know so they can fix it.

But if it is something major that would mean the person would have to head home, or take considerable time to fix, to not mention it to the stranger.

If it is the first case, say that they have something stuck in their teeth, saying "Just a heads up you may have a little something in your teeth. I hate it when it happens to me, just wanted to let you know." usually (in my experience) warrants a quick thank you and then you are both on your way.

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Tell them as soon as you can see that they can remove it without anyone else knowing. Or they can decamp to a private place to remove it. You say:

You have something stuck in your teeth.

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How and when to tell somone they have food in their teeth

Pleasantly, and immediately. Look, the guy is going to be embarrassed. It's too late for that to not happen. But best it come from someone friendly or at least kind -- you. So tell him, so he can fix the problem or take whatever action he sees fit, and just don't be nasty about it. "Hey Jim, you got some spinach on your teeth, fyi." That's it.

Don't overdramatize it with a huge, stilted paragraph of empathy. And don't worry about whether or not you think there's an opportunity for him to fix it. Let the guy decide what to do with the info.

  • Yes, it is not really that big of a deal and their embarrassment, if any, should be low. After all it is not something they did consciously so no blame. Let them know. It can be done with a subtle gesture if you want to keep it low key. – rebusB Oct 20 '17 at 21:13

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