How to Tell Someone They Have Food In Their Teeth

Telling someone they have broccoli in their teeth might be uncomfortable, but it’s the polite thing to do. Get tips on the mannerly way to do so.

Trent Armstrong,
June 20, 2010

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It happens to all of us. You can just be minding your own business when a sneaky drop of mustard leaps onto your tie or your blouse. But the embarrassment doesn't stop there. Can you remember the last time you noticed someone with a big old piece of spinach in their teeth, but you didn’t tell them?? Did you feel bad about it the rest of the day? Well, I say, "No more!" We shouldn't have to live as victims of our own sloppiness when we have an entire human race around us that can do something about it!

Your charge is as follows: When you notice that someone has something unintentional happening with their appearance, you must do something about it

Should You Tell Someone They Have Food in Their Teeth?

I feel like I need to take a moment here to qualify your part in this. This is not a license to tell your friends (or anyone else for that matter) that you simply disapprove of their outfit, hairstyle, etc. These instructions are for when you notice food, sauce, or dirt on someone, or a clothing malfunction you are sure would embarrass that person if they knew about it.

Once you notice a person’s tag is hanging out, or they have something hanging out of their nose, say something. Don't think about it. Don't show someone else. Go to your friend and tell them! Sometimes you have to put your own embarrassment aside. Don't worry what he or she will think about you. Instead, consider how that person will feel when they arrive home after a long day at work only to find a long ink streak across their face. That kind of revelation might be followed by a sick day taken for emotional recovery. Of course, I'm being lightly facetious about the sick day, but that thought is sure to at least cross your friend's mind.

How to Tell Someone They Have Food in Their Teeth

Be careful when pointing out sensitive things but don't be afraid to do so because of your own embarrassment.

Now, you don't need to bring this up in a public way. It's best to whisper a little "Come with me for a second" and then lead them away from any possible onlookers. Then quietly say something like, "I wanted to tell you this as soon as I noticed: You have a bit of ink on your chin. I can cover for you while you go take care of it." Always keep this kind of interaction light and use a sort of I've-got-your-back tone in your voice. Then, once they overcome the issue, just act like nothing was ever the matter. Keeping your level of anxiety to a minimum will help your friend manage his or her anxiety in like fashion.

If you're at a crowded table and not able to move away without causing a Spanish Inquisition, try to catch your friend's eye and do a little pantomime to indicate what the issue is. And keep in mind that when you are working to be secretive about this kind of thing, you are entering into a sort of spontaneous us-against-the-world contract. You become teammates with the common goal of solving the problem secretly. Be super encouraging when your new teammate accomplishes the goal, but, again, move on like nothing ever happened. Your friend will remember the event but, more than likely, will remember it with a sense of gratitude instead of anxiety.


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