Here’s a scoop, straight from the mouth of my dental hygienist. Folks, you don’t have to use dental floss!
Leslie (I only know her first name) has been scraping tartar off my back molars since 1989. She’s very gentle and saccharine in all the most positive ways.
My last appointment with her was December 23. As she lowered my chair back flat she said she was glad I was going to be her last client of 2011. Apparently, the dude in who ended 2010 acted like “a jerk in the chair” and “You’re not a jerk, Stuart.” It’s funny how confident someone can be about who you really are when they only see you for 90 minutes every nine months and your mouth is agape and stuffed with buzzing metal instruments. Still, I found it hard to believe that anyone would be a jerk to Leslie, or how acting like that would be smart considering how much power she has in her hands. Leslie is a kindred spirit in a smock.
Anyway, after the usual scrape and swish, she told me I was in good shape. There was very little build-up, and the crack in my mandibular bicuspid hadn’t widened. Maybe this is TMI, but I chew nuts on the left side to avoid pain.
As she was packing up, Leslie also volunteered that she thought red wine was probably my biggest current oral foe (something I’m painfully aware of lately). Then she ripped off her mask and declared that my gums were “the healthiest they’ve been in 15 years!”
“Stuart, there was that blip in 2008 when you came in all puffy and inflamed after that bad flu, but right now you have awesome gums!”
I felt a surge of pre-Christmas pride. And then I blurted out: “Yeah, and I don’t even floss!”
She rolled her eyes. This confession was no news to Leslie. She had stopped hounding me about using the tape back when Paul Martin was PM.
Apparently, I’ve inadvertently discovered a better way, based on a hunch that Leslie confirmed. Sort of. The new thinking is that if you use a motorized toothbrush properly, you don’t have to floss. This is not the official line of the dental industry. When I asked if she agreed that people could toss the floss, Leslie did that demure little avoided-gaze-but-nod thing. Maybe the Dental Association lords it over the hygienists to keep quiet. I’m sure there are a lot of deeply vested interests among floss manufacturers. Who knows what kind of torture techniques they would use on anyone who threatened their bottom line. They are dentists, after all.
But you heard it here first. If you’re among the 15% of people who actually floss, I’ve just handed you back a few days of your life, plus an end to the off-putting job of picking gunky strings off the nightstand. And for the rest of us who never touch the goddamned stuff, this news means there’s one less thing to feel guilty about.
And that makes me smile.