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If the toothbrush is the star quarterback of your bathroom sink, your floss is the underdog who’s often unfairly benched. The American Dental Association suggests flossing once a day (and if you're diligent, it should still only take 2-5 minutes), yet a 2017 study reported that only 16% of Americans floss every day. But why? Flossing helps prevent tooth decay, reduces the chance of gum and heart disease, and helps keep your breath from smelling funky. Despite its benefits, many of us skip flossing altogether, until we make an emergency CVS-run to buy floss right before our dentist appointment. Let’s face it: our mouths deserve better!
In reality, floss is an often underappreciated but mighty hero, from keeping green gunk out of your teeth on a date to keeping your mouth, teeth, and gums healthy. But don’t just take our word for it! We were lucky enough to receive some story submissions from folks who ended up in some sticky situations without floss (and we’re not talkin’ candy apples!). Enjoy the toothy tales below, and if they instinctively have you looking for a mirror to make sure your pearly whites live up to their name, don’t forget to stock up on this secret superhero. You can thank us later!
FLOSS FABLE 1: KALE FAIL
As we all know by now, kale (and many other greens) can stick to your teeth like superglue and result in the embarrassing food-in-your-teeth moment. This is why, when I went on a date with a guy I'd seen a few times (cute, good job, no serial killer vibes), I quickly checked my smile in the dim bathroom light, knowing my house salad may have left some stray greens behind. I thought the coast was clear...or so I thought. Cue the dramatic horror music please!
After the house salad, I continued with the theme and brought my date back to my house, where we settled in for a cozy make-out sesh. We were on the second song from my sexy make-out playlist, when my date stopped and gave me a funny look. “Oh no!”, I thought to myself. “Is it my breath? Was I using too much tongue? Is this sexy make-out playlist too obvious?” It didn’t take me long to figure out the real answer. My date put his fingers in his mouth, and pulled out a small, but very significant, piece of kale. Yup, from the house salad. Yes, from my salad. I shared my leftovers with my date, and the to-go box...was my mouth. Yuck.
FLOSS FABLE 2: A BLOODY LIE
(said in a British accent, of course.)
As I was gearing up for my bi-annual dentist appointment, I did what I believe all people to do: brushed my teeth furiously in the mirror for twice as long as I normally do, loudly gargled mouthwash, and prayed to the dental gods that I didn’t come home with a cavity (a tragedy that my mom would somehow instinctively know about, even though I’m an adult). When I arrived, my dentist went through the usual questions, but the last one made me freeze; when was the last time I flossed? Instead of answering with the truth, which would be I have no idea, I decided to say the opposite of that: I flossed yesterday, of course!
The hygienist looked at me like a 13 year old hiding a bad report card behind her back, but was kind enough not to ask any further questions. Sadly for me, I was about to eat my words (or, most graphically, my own blood.) As the hygienist started flossing, my gums started bleeding mercilessly. Like, we’re talkin’ a CSI-level crime scene in the dental chair. It was my red (really red) herring, an obvious clue that I’m not the dedicated flosser that I made myself out to be. Before I left, the hygienist put an extra box of floss in my to-go bag. “With all the flossing you do, I’m sure you’ll need extra,” she quipped, and gave me a wink. Well played.
FLOSS FABLE 3: A BAD MEAT-ING
I had grilled chicken at work, right before a 1pm meeting. Do you know that uncomfortable feeling when you get a small piece of meat stuck in your teeth? It doesn’t hurt, but it’s like an itch you can’t scratch. I walked into the meeting distracted, trying to get my tongue to complete an impossible mission: getting a piece of food out of my teeth, while still looking like a normal person. I couldn’t use my fingers, and didn’t have any floss.
While I agonized over my poor lunch choices, I noticed a few of my coworkers looking at me strangely. I realized, as I had been zoning out, that my boss had asked me to discuss a project I was working on-- and there I was, staring into space, making a weird face, and totally confusing my boss. Either I need to carry floss, or stick to an all-yogurt lunch diet.
- 'New survey highlights ‘unusual’ flossing habits', October 20, 2017, https://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2017-archive/october/new-survey-highlights-unusual-flossing-habits