In The Shop: Your Momma Was Right--Don't Put That In Your Mouth!
Jan 04, 2012
I'm as guilty as anybody of using my mouth as a "third hand" to hold small items while making repairs. It's probably a good idea to never put anything in your mouth you don't intend to chew or swallow, but here are some things to avoid as much as possible:
-"coated" nails or screws of any kind. Some nails are pre-lubricated, some finish nails are pre-painted, some deck screws are coated to prevent corrosion. There have been reports of carpenters who frequently used their mouth as a third hand to hold fasteners who developed health problems that were traced to chemicals in the coatings of the fasteners.
-spray nozzles off crop sprayers. Most of us avoid actually putting clogged spray nozzles in our mouths, but all of us have at least once held a clogged nozzle close to our lips and blew, in hopes of clearing the nozzle. And all of us have sputtered and spit after drops of spray blew back into our mouth. The sad thing is, we all KNEW it was going to happen, but we did it anyway.
-electrical "butt connectors." The kind you crimp to splice two wires together. To my knowledge, there's nothing on the connectors that will harm the person who holds them between their lips, but Silver Gomez, an engineer with MSD Ignitions, told me he had run into several situations where electrical problems were traced to corrosion inside SEALED and crimped butt connectors. He eventually figured out the mechanic had a habit of holding the butt connectors between his lips while he prepped the wires, and the mechanic's breath condensed enough moisture inside the connector that, once the connector was crimped and sealed, the trapped moisture eventually corroded the wires enough to cause problems.
-mini-flashlights. Sometimes the only way to illuminate what you're working on is to hold a small flashlight between your teeth. The danger is if you move your head suddenly and strike the flashlight on surrounding metal, drop a wrench, or do something to jar that flashlight, there's a distinct risk the metal case of the flashlight could chip or crack your teeth. Don't laugh---it's happened. Ask your dentist. Some small flashlights come with a rubberized area on their case to reduce that danger. That reduces the danger, but doesn't eliminate it.
Some of these sound pretty stupid, but...I confess I've done all of them at least once. The embarrassing thing is that I've done several of them more than once. I won't say which ones...