Sunday, April 26, 2015

Flossing

I don't usually think time is generally accelerating until I get a notification that my dentist appointment is approaching. For many years I was terrified of the dentist because I always felt like dentist offices were kind of judgy. And not the good kind of judgy. The "your mouth is disgusting and you have bad oral hygiene" kind of judgy.

Because I was so terrified of the dentist for so long, I just didn't go. Like, never. I never went to the dentist for the majority of my 20s. This caused me a considerable amount of anxiety as I then felt like I probably had a number of ticking time bombs in my mouth that were not being addressed although they desperately needed to be addressed.

A couple of years ago I finally took the plunge and got a regular dentist and started doing bi-yearly check-ups. But I swear to you they must happen every other week. Because I feel like I return to the dentist WAY more than twice a year. I think someone is playing a joke on me. Or time is going faster these days.


On Friday I showed up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for my 7:00 AM dentist appointment. I sat down in the chair. I engaged in the usual pleasantries with Cheryl, the dental hygienist. We got caught up on each other's lives. (She decided not to go with the curtains and instead get plantation shutters AND I AM SO RELIEVED WITH HER DECISION).

And then it happened. I lied to the dentist office.

I don't know why the question catches me off guard every single time. I know they are going to ask me about it. I know that there will be a conversation about this. Yet, every. single. time. the question catches me off guard, I panic, and I completely lie about it.

Cheryl: And how often are you flossing?

Eli: EVERY DAY NO MATTER WHAT ALWAYS!!!!

Cheryl: Really?

Eli: YES! EVEN IF THERE'S A FIRE AND MY HANDS FELL OFF!

You guys. This is a complete lie. I, Eli Whitterberry McCann, do NOT floss every day. I am lying to the dentist. Which is probably illegal. I don't know for sure because I don't know anything about the law. But it sounds like it's probably illegal.

I don't even floss most days. If I'm being totally honest, in an average week I probably floss one time. If that. Every once in a while I read one of those "3,000 things I wish I knew when I was 30" clickbate articles that says something about how you should always floss and this will usually get me to be really good at flossing for about five days. And then I go back to whatever inconsistent practice preceded the temporary foray into responsible adulthood.

I know. Flossing is important. I know I should do it. I know I should make flossing daily a priority.

There are a lot of things I should do. Like, for example, take the bag of clothes that has been sitting by my back door since January 17th to the local secondhand store for a donation drop-off. Or finishing Crime and Punishment, which I started reading a full decade ago. Or spend some one-on-one time with Tami and tell her how pretty she is.

I know I should do these things. But do I do them? No. I do not.

There are just some things I'm really bad at doing. I know that's a shock to you all because usually people with my hair aren't bad at anything. But I am. Having exceptional hair is actually how I compensate for how big of a failure I am at so many other things. Like flossing.

Cheryl: Interesting. I mean, I'm very happy for you, but your gums sort of look like you might not have flossed every day since we last saw you.

[Bead of sweat slowly starts dripping down Eli's face]

Eli: Well, now that I think about it, maybe I don't always floss every day. I have probably missed once or twice or so.

Cheryl: Mmm-hmm?

Eli: A week. I've missed once or twice a week.

Cheryl: Mmm-hmm?

Eli: I mean that I've missed not flossing once or twice a week.

Cheryl: Mmm-hmm?

Eli: And by "once or twice" I really just mean once. I've missed not flossing about once a week. But I did have this really great stretch in November for about five days--

Cheryl: 3,000 things I wish I knew when I was 30?

Eli: YES! It was a very inspiring article.

[Dentist enters the room]

Dentist: Hi Eli. Have you been flossing?

Eli: Yup! Every day!

Cheryl: [Sigh]

And here's the thing. I don't know why I lie to the dentist? Am I worried they're going to tell my parents? I can't figure out what I think I'm going to gain by being dishonest to the people who are trying to assess my dental needs. It's like going to get an oil change and then telling Jiffy Lube that I don't really need anything because I haven't driven my car once in the last six months anyway.

I walked out of the office with a new resolve to floss every day. Next time, I would be able to tell them the truth, and be proud of it.

The dentist appointment was three days ago. I haven't flossed once since.

~It Just Gets Stranger

54 comments:

  1. Don't feel bad, I never floss. I told my hygienist to make a note in my chart to stop asking me about it because it was never going to happen. They stopped asking and we all moved on with our lives. I suppose I should note that the dentist always compliments me on my great teeth and that o have never even had a cavity. Flossing is overrated.

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    1. This is ridiculous. Trust me, your hygienist hates patients like you. It's not like she doesn't already know you don't floss, but she's obligated by law to give you evidence based oral hygiene instruction at every appointment. This involves assessing current hygiene practice and offering help and advice on how to improve. It's not personal. She likely cares less than you do if you never floss. She's just covering her bases so she doesn't get her butt sued. Take a cue from Stranger and joke about it instead of demonizing your hygienist. She's only doing her job.

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    2. Wow, a little worked up about flossing, eh? I never demonized my hygienist, and her butt was covered by my request for the note in my chart. Im sorry my comment was so offensive to you.

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    3. You are totally right, flossing is overrated. There was an article published in a dental journal in the last 5 years (sorry, can't remember more specifics than that, but if this interests you you'll go look it up!) which showed that if one spent extra time brushing instead of flossing, their teeth would be cleaner and healthier. So tack on an extra 10 - 30 seconds of brushing and skip the dumb flossing. Flossing sucks so bad.

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  2. OHHH MY GOSHHHH I have had the same exact experience for the last 34 years of my life. WITH THE exception of the last two months. My hygienist always makes me feel like the most disgusting human being ever for not flossing .. SOO i made a promise to myself that I would floss every single day until my next cleaning. I want to see if she can actually tell a difference... Ill make sure to give you all an update in about two months!!! btw since I have made my new resolution to floss for her (not for me)... I do it after i brush my teeth and its not so bad.

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  3. I don't floss either. Then the other day I saw something on Facebook that said "Not flossing is the equivalent of wiping your bum cheeks, but skipping the crack."

    I have flossed everyday for two weeks since.

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    1. Wow. This is an extremely vivid, horrifying analogy. I'm going to floss right now. Twice.

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    2. That analogy sounds very effective.

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  4. I liked the irony you used there, talking about how you (a lawyer) didn't know anything about the law.

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    1. It's called sarcasm not irony

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    2. Verbal Irony = Sarcasm

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  5. I'm finally to the point in my life where I floss about 5 times a week, and I actually rather enjoy it. I think I found a whole steak stuck between my back molars last night, so it was like having dinner twice! (Well, it would have been if I'd eaten it after pulling it out. I didn't have any steak sauce in my bathroom, so down the drain it went. Let the sewer crocodiles have at it.)

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  6. Would you like us to remind you to floss each day in addition to reminding you weekly to take the garbage cans to the curb?

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    1. Yeah Eli, you're becoming a little high maintenance.

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    2. Becoming? Pretty sure he was born that way.

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    3. Is this the part of the show where we break into an homage to Lady Gaga? Does Tami like Lady Gaga? Ya know... "don't be a drag.. just be a queen.." Tami is queen isn't she? If not, she should be.

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  7. I never floss. Once I finally felt shamed into it, so I flossed regularly for six months. I was so excited to go back to the dentist and proudly say yes when they asked me the flossing question. But when I got there, my dentist was repaying his dentist schooling with a trip to Afghanistan and the visiting dentist and hygienist never asked me. I was so disappointed that I decided it wasn't worth the effort if I didn't even get to brag about it! On a good note, last time the hygienist told me it wasn't a big deal not to floss since I use a battery powered toothbrush that takes pretty good care of my gums for me :) She probably just wants tips so she made up that lie.

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    1. I think that may be the "new" thought on flossing. My new hygenist also said that if I use an electric toothbrush I could skip the flossing.

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    2. That makes no sense. What does having an electric toothbrush have to do with getting the parts in between your teeth clean?

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    3. It may sound ridiculous and I've never actually been told this by the hygienist or dentist but I swear to God - ever since I started using one they've stopped asking me if I floss - and I get compliments on what good care I'm taking of my teeth - - and I don't think I've flossed more that half a dozen times since I was 12.

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    4. I've been using an electric toothbrush for the last six years (for the full two minute timer that it has on it, too) and my dentist definitely knows that I don't floss...it's evidenced by the fact that every time the hygienist flosses during my cleaning I get swollen gums like crazy. Not to mention, on the occasional time I do floss after brushing, I find a bunch of junk that should probably motivate me to floss more often. So I'm going to vote "no" on the electric toothbrush thing being an exemption pass for flossing. But believe what you want; flossing surely won't hurt you if you just devote 30 seconds of your day to it, but look who's talking and who isn't flossing ;)

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    5. Maybe it's the type of electric toothbrush you're all using? Do you all mind posting what kind you use?

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    6. It's how big your gaps in your teeth are. Us big mouthed types have tons of space between most of our teeth, and so flossing is pointless in the front of my mouth. I can floss with anything much smaller than rope up there. On that note, I haven't had a cavity in years and I NEVER floss. My dad flosses religiously - cavities all the time. It's all about mouth size! (Of course, this is entirely non-scientific, so, ignore me.)

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    7. It's how big your gaps in your teeth are. Us big mouthed types have tons of space between most of our teeth, and so flossing is pointless in the front of my mouth. I can floss with anything much smaller than rope up there. On that note, I haven't had a cavity in years and I NEVER floss. My dad flosses religiously - cavities all the time. It's all about mouth size! (Of course, this is entirely non-scientific, so, ignore me.)

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  9. How many times do I have to tell you. It's Whittlebottom!

    Whitterberry...that's not even ANYTHING!

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    1. Yeaaaaah, you tell 'im Lee!!!!

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  10. Look on the bright side, at least she didn't make you nervous enough that you accidentally took your clothes off. PS - I'm glad I'm not the only one who has a DI pile that can't ever actually make it there...even though I only live 5 blocks from the store.

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  11. I also lie to the dentist, however I make it vague. He asks if I am flossing and I reply with a kind of face scrunch-shoulder shrug thing and say 'sometimes'. 'Sometimes' is just that- sometimes when something is stuck in my teeth and I cant quite pick it out with my nails! I have always been complimented by said dentist on how great my teeth are, and always been (one cavity, besides the possible few I remember when I still had baby teeth) That changed on my last visit....... He has always told me that I need to focus on flossing because that is where the cavities will come as I age, between the teeth. I have successfully completed my first round with a few cavities and have to go back in another week or so for the second round. I have flossed more in the last 2 weeks than I have in the last 5 years. OK--EVER!!

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  12. I'm pretty sure it was unanimously decided on your last post that you have perfect teeth, so really, flossing can't be THAT important. That's what I'm going to keep telling myself, anyway.

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  13. In the past few years I have decided to go with brutal honesty. I tell them right up front before the appointment even starts, "I don't floss. That isn't going to change. So I'm aware that my gums will look like I don't floss, and that is because, I don't floss." I have found that this statement often catches them off guard and then they don't discuss it for the rest of the appointment. I have used this technique with two different dentists. I have visited my new dentist twice and I think they have already made a note in my file not to ask me about flossing, because they didn't even bring it up on the my second visit.

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  14. This makes me think of all my really elderly family members, from my long ago (very long ago) youth. They all had great teeth! No cavities, no missing molars, even and white teeth....they NEVER flossed Eli....so what was their secret? They all left this world with a full set...makes me wonder if it might be all the brushing and flossing that makes teeth so fragile today that we all need twice annual checkups, root canals, caps and bridges just to be able to smile without gaps!

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    1. Dentures...but I think you already know that.

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  15. Prairiecactus, I think you had lucky relatives (and I hope you inherited their teeth!). Because when I visit countries without fluoridated water and talk to people who have not had access to (or been able to afford) dentist visits, flossing, and brushing, I see a lot of missing teeth and other dental issues.

    And Eli, I know exactly what you mean. I always hated admitting that I did not floss regularly. I've had two root canals now, and I am much more diligent about flossing. I floss after I brush, and it is kind of amazing (and gross) how much food and that white stuff that coats your teeth was hiding in between your teeth.

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  16. You know that dentist lie to you too. I have dentists (multiple) tell me for years that my teeth look great and I have a good shade of white. I have always been skeptical of those compliments because my family has awful teeth and I have lots of cavities and extremely sensitive teeth and I have been unhappy with the color of my teeth. Well I recently switched dentists and guess what???? He is actually honest with me and tells me my teeth are in bad shape and they have a yellow undertone to them. So we have taken some steps and now I feel like I will actually still have teeth when I am 60. And now when I go we are both honest with each other. I tell him I don't floss and he tells me all the things that are wrong and that I should floss more. It's working out much better for both of us.

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  17. I'm an avid flosser and my husband is not. At all. I will hand him a piece of floss and he'll throw it away.
    This all changed at our last visit when he had 5 cavities, all between the teeth, and all - according to the hygenist - because he didn't floss.
    She told me that I could rub it in his face.
    I did. It felt good.
    He now *tries* to floss every night, but I usually end up having to hand him a piece for it to happen.

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  18. I can't actually remember the last time I went to the dentist. I'm not even sure I was 30 yet and now I'm almost 40...

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    1. I'm right there with you Karen. I haven't been for a while, but I try to make sure to floss and brush twice a day. Every time I go and they clean my teeth, my teeth are always more sensitive after the cleaning for a few days. That doesn't sit well with me.

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  19. I haven't been to the dentist in a long time. I was completely traumatized the last time. In March, I found what I thought was a crack in my molar. So, I called the dentist, who I had seen since I was a teenager. Because of my hectic school schedule (last semester) and full time job (my boss was a jerk & wouldn't give me the time off,) the earliest that they could fit me in was May. I spoke to them THREE times in between. They called to check & see how it was, and if I could move up (fine, and the times they gave me weren't compatible with my schedule) THREE TIMES (this is important.) So, the day of my appointment comes, and I go in, sit down, and start chatting with the receptionist. She went to get my chart, and I look up to see a sign that says, "We regret to inform you of the sudden passing of Dr. Alan Gibbs on JANUARY 11!" That's right, my dentist was DEAD. So, the woman comes back, and I ask her, "Um, is that THIS Alan Gibbs?" "Yes." "Uh, the Alan Gibbs I have an appointment with in FIVE MINUTES?" "Oh, no one told you?" "DOES IT LOOK LIKE SOMEONE TOLD ME? NO ONE in the THREE phone calls that were made to me ever MENTIONED it. So, WHO do I have an appointment with?" At this point, she got a little nervous and informed me that the guy was covering until they sold the practice, and retiring after! So, I went in and the guy told me that I had two cavities on that tooth and it needed to be filled. I had said something about pulling it since it sounded like it was pretty involved. He acted like I was an idiot. I go to get it filled, and he's drilling, drilling, drilling. He then tells me, "Yeah, I probably should have just pulled the tooth, but I don't take orders from my patients." He finished and told me, "That isn't going to hold forever. One day, you're going to bite into something and it's going to fall out, but I won't be around to give a s***." Those were his EXACT words. I was speechless. I left, and got a bill a few months later for like $20. Here, the practice was sold. I went, paid my bill and vowed never to go back again. Within 6 months, that guy was arrested for tax fraud and the office has been closed ever since. There is only one place I would consider going to now, and they don't take my insurance. Luckily, that tooth is still there...not that the old dentist cares.

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    1. OMG, Chrissy that truly sucks. That was terrible. It seems like there are so many more idiots out there then there use to be. That is a traumatizing thing to have some loser say that to you like that.

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    2. Thanks, Lee. The worst part is that the office is right in my neighborhood. I have to pass it all the time. They finally took the sign out last week, though. Until then, it was all wrapped up in a tarp. It made me shudder every time I drove past. LOL

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  20. After reading your post, I happened across this strip from one of my all-time favorite web comics. You are not alone: http://www.bugmartini.com/comic/flossing-is-a-real-phus/

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  21. You only have to floss the teeth you want to keep. And I think that hygienists ask that question just to see if you lie - they can tell if you floss or not - so I don't lie, and surprisingly, I don't get a lecture either!

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  22. Eli like you I skipped the dentist during most of my 20's. The only excuse I had was that I fear the dentist for no apparent reason. I also rarely flossed, maybe about twice a month. In January I had a molar that broke, so I immediately made a dentist appointment. That tooth couldn't be fixed and had to be removed. It had cavities form on either side of it from between the teeth. If I had flossed daily and went to the dentist regularly it could have been prevented. I now floss everyday and I'm curious what the dentist will say at my next cleaning in June. FLOSS EVERYDAY!

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  23. The one stretch of time that I did decide to floss, the dentist didn't even ask me if I did! It's like they have to ask just to see if we'll lie to them (Because we're going to. We're going to.).

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  24. I have the solution for you! I also hate to floss. My dental hygienist recommended that I try the Dental Pix. They are not the torturous plastic pic, but a white plastic pick with a little green rubber tip. They are heavenly! You might even become addicted to "flossing" your teeth, Eli. I've been using them for about 3 years and my checkups have been easy and shameless. Try them, Eli....you won't be disappointed. By the way, your hair is fabulous!

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  25. Thank you Eli. This post and its comments have served as a PSA for dental care. I'm googling dental floss, dental pix, water picks and electric toothbrushes now. But for tonight, I shall take out the dental floss in the cabinet that has not been moved since 2013 and floss.
    Your hair is absolutely fabulous!

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  26. I'm with you. I skipped the dentist for a reallyreally long time, (my whole 20s too). When I finally did go in, at age 33ish, they were like, "So, when was your last cleaning?" I was like...."Um...the last dentist I saw, my MOM took me." (so, maybe a 17-year hiatus?)

    *disclaimer* I'm 45 now, and I swear I'm much better about it. Kind of. Even, yes, flossing. But not every day. Most days. Some days. Ok, like once a week...

    sigh

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  27. jwinslow said it best: you only have to floss the teeth you want to keep.

    I had an infection in my mouth that showed up VERY CLEARLY in the x-rays. The dentist complimented the rest of my teeth, and encouraged me to floss more (I was/am sporadic at best, having periods of "feast or famine" with my flossing habits), and also recommended a root canal, which my insurance would not have covered (since I used it for the cleaning on the last day of the last month of my employment), to be followed by a crown. What. A. Crock.

    I've since been "feast or famine" with flossing, oil pulling, vinegar rinsing, and anything else that will/could resolve the infection and avoid the RC (which I hear is actually a great way to destroy your mouth in the long run, and leading to an eventual extraction of the affected tooth - no thanks!). But because of this post, I think I'll go do all of the above Right Now (it's like 9 o'clock in the morning here) so I can feel better about myself all day. So, Thanks, Eli and the Strangers! (That would be a great name for a band - if you ever decide to start one, I wanna be your lead female vocalist... or at least a back-up singer... or maybe I can beat a tambourine?)

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  28. I think it was Dane Cook who said that he knows how hard it is to stop smoking, because that's exactly how hard it is to start flossing!

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  29. You know why they ask? Cuz the blood from your gums is flowing all over your teeth as they floss your teeth. They know you aren't flossing. It is a rhetorical trick question. To see if you are a liar! My father in law is a dentist.

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