Liz Farrell

Maybe we don’t need to floss every day now ... but no one likes a never-flosser

Dr. Wayne Aldredge, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, holds a piece of dental floss at his office in Holmdel, N.J. Aldredge acknowledges the weak scientific evidence and the brief duration of many studies on flossing, but says that the impact of floss might be clearer if researchers focused on patients at the highest risk of gum disease, such as diabetics and smokers.
Dr. Wayne Aldredge, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, holds a piece of dental floss at his office in Holmdel, N.J. Aldredge acknowledges the weak scientific evidence and the brief duration of many studies on flossing, but says that the impact of floss might be clearer if researchers focused on patients at the highest risk of gum disease, such as diabetics and smokers. Associated Press

Perfect people floss their teeth every single day.

That’s what I’ve always assumed, anyway, whenever I have encountered a perfect person.

I bet she flosses her teeth daily.

I bet she does knee-bends before bed.

I bet she irons her pajamas and her sheets and wakes up without an alarm.

My entire existence has been spent in pursuit of being a perfect person, one who does everything as recommended by American Associations of Whatever and financial experts and Oprah and Cosmo and society and self-help books and all the articles that say “10 ways” and “7 things.”

But it’s never happened. Not once have I ever had a Perfect Human Being Day. I’ve written thousands of Perfect Human Being To-Do lists and have had thousands of Perfect Human Being hopes and dreams. But I always forget something.

Oh good, another birthday card I didn’t send that I’ll just “save till next year.”

Welp, I’ve done 1,200 calories for the day so that’s on target … I just wish it weren’t all before lunch.

I have always wanted to be the kind of person who can say to the dental hygienist, “Heck yeah, I floss my teeth every day!” instead of the kind of person who flosses consistently for the two days prior to every six-month visit and sweat-grins like “What? Flossing? Oh, sure (cough).”

Before I get any further here, I need to say this: I do floss my teeth. Like three times a week on average. That is more than most Americans … some of whom, I think, have teeth.

That I floss at all, though, is because of the important film “Peggy Sue Got Married,” in which Peggy Sue Bodell goes to her 25th high school reunion, strokes out and wakes up in 1960, the year she was 18 years old and got pregnant by and married to a very nasally but still cute Nicolas Cage.

When she confesses to her grandfather that she’s from the future and has a chance to recast her life (which is why she’s trying to “invent” pantyhose before the guy who actually did it), she asks him what regrets he has about his life.

And it was essentially the “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine” secret-decoder ring answer from “A Christmas Story.”

“I wish I’d taken better care of my teeth,” he says.

Come on, Peggy Sue’s grandpa.

That’s so boring and basic. So unimaginative. And, hey, I’m not accusing anyone here, but it totally reeks of Big Floss propaganda.

How much did they pay you, old man?

But the scene has stuck with me.

And when those little flossers were invented, the ones that look like they’d be 1,000 percent improved by some olives and a cold martini, it did make my flossing life easier.

Even without the cocktail, I actually enjoy flossing with them.

When I remember to do it, of course.

Which brings me back to the original problem here.

One time, and I’m only sort of embarrassed to admit this, I kind of snapped at a hygienist.

When she asked me the flossing question, I said, “You know I don’t, right? Like you can see that, no? So I’m not even going to pretend right now.”

I was sick of stressing over it.

And now I don’t have to anymore, I guess.

Earlier this week, the Associated Press published a story by a reporter who asked the federal government a single question about their nearly 40-year-old recommendation that we floss every day: May I please see the research upon which you based this very definitive and now ubiquitous directive?

Oopsy. There was none.

Flossing aside, this should teach us all a lesson on asking more questions in life. Or at least two questions, anyway: How do you know that? And, then, how did they know that?

Forty years of assumption. Goodness gracious.

Do you know how many people have died thinking they were flossing failures?

How many people left this earth guilt-stricken over the lies they told their dentists?

I’m tempted to hold a seance to cheer up some lost souls.

To tell them they were perfect.

That flossing every day didn’t really help anyway.

To tell them that, if it’s available to them in the afterlife, they should probably still floss sometimes.

Because even though I’m no fake federal research document, I do feel confident in saying this: No one likes a never-flosser.

  Comments