Yesterday I had my teeth cleaned. The dental hygienist was about forty, with platinum hair and an extremely wide smile and a white, white uniform. She chirped, “How frequently do you floss?”
“About once a week,” I lied.
“Oh, you honestly need to floss more than that,” she said. “Twice a day is best. When you don’t floss — and I can tell, just from a quick look here, at your gum line — then bacteria can build up along the gum line, where your toothbrush can’t reach. You know what bacteria are? They are small organisms that can cause all sorts of diseases, such as tooth decay. In fact, flossing is the number one way to reduce tooth decay, before it even starts. A good tip is to establish a regular routine and time for flossing so you don’t forget. For example, you could start to floss in the morning, with the upper teeth first, and then you proceed to the lower teeth. If you do this as a system, systematically, then you will see an improvement in only weeks to your teeth and gum line.”
I shivered and shifted in the chair, moaning. The plastic squeaked against the back of my neck.
She paused from scraping my teeth and pointed at a chart on the wall. It was a huge blown-up cross-section picture of a single tooth, with every possible sort of malady or mishap that a tooth could endure: it was fractured, decayed, the roots were all discombobulated, and I’m sure it hadn’t been flossed in a long, long time. “Flossing disturbs bacteria and stops it before it can create plaque and cause gum and bone disease. You should floss at least once a day for a healthier set of teeth and gums. Flossing helps to remove plaque from in between your teeth. Brushing only cleans three fourths of your teeth’s surfaces. That means if you brush and don’t floss it is like not cleaning seven of your teeth! And you want to keep all your teeth, for as long as you possibly can.”
I compulsively scratched my arms with my fingernails. Little red welts appeared on my forearms where my nails broke the skin.
She smiled and continued. “The fact is, flossing provides unmistakable benefits that start from day one. After flossing, your teeth and gums feel cleaner because the floss reaches areas your toothbrush can’t. Your breath will be fresher, and the health of your gums will improve. So, if your dental floss is gathering dust on the bathroom shelf, why not pick it up and try again? Even if it feels awkward at first, keep practicing. Pretty soon, you’ll feel the difference and find that it becomes part of your daily routine.”
I made a fist with my left hand and slammed it repeatedly into my nose. Blood gouted and pattered down my face. I felt the bones of my nose give and then crack underneath my hand.
She chirped, “You know, it’s never too late to start a great dental care regimen. Whatever your age, cleaning provides major benefits to your teeth and gums that you’ll notice right away so the sooner you start, the better. Interdental cleaning — such as flossing — makes your teeth and gums feel clean because it reaches areas a toothbrush can’t reach. It also keeps your breath fresh and, more importantly, it can stop gum disease in its tracks.”
I reached into my right eye socket and grabbed my right eyeball. It made a slurpy, ripe-orange sound as I pulled it out of my skull. I tossed my eye at her. It glanced off her shoulder, leaving an angry red comma.
She continued, “Do you know proper flossing technique? Proper flossing technique is very, very important. If you don’t floss correctly, it’s almost as bad as not flossing at all! It’s important to hold the floss tightly against the tooth and rub the tooth by pulling the floss away from the gum. You need to make a C-shape with the floss in order to do this best. If you don’t get the hang of it immediately, that’s okay! With a little effort, anyone can accomplish proper flossing technique.”
I sank my fingers into my eye sockets like a bowling ball and twisted. My skull cracked and the skin tore. With my free hand I reached into my cranial cavity and yanked my brain out of my skull. It came out with a thick syrupy glut of mucus and blood. I hurled my brain at the poster with the rotten tooth. It splatted solidly against the poster and stuck there, in a bright red starburst.
She said, “Oh yes. One more thing… It’s important to use clean sections of floss. When you move tooth to tooth. That’s one critical aspect of proper flossing, and most people miss it. Well. Goodness me, that’s my flossing lecture. I guess I’m done now. I give that to everybody, you know.”
I said nothing.
She said, “So, how about this wonderful weather we’ve been having? Goodness, I’m pleased as punch to see it a sunny morning again.”
I said nothing. There was only the sound of my blood pattering against the plastic office chair.
She said, “Well, you know… You can’t perform proper flossing when rushing through the procedure of removing plaque. You should take at least two to three minutes when flossing. Really, this is a small amount of time when you weigh the benefits of good oral health.”