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Modern Dental Man BrushingAs a dentist, I hear way too many excuses about why people don’t floss. Quite frankly, I think it all comes down to personal accountability. The individuals who take responsibility for their health are the ones that find the motivation to make daily flossing a solid part of their lives.

Do They Floss?

I get a lot of parents in here asking about whether their kids have good teeth or not. It’s usually in response to my informing them of how many cavities they have: 8, 10, 12. I always ask them the same thing: does your child floss? And inevitably I am disappointed by the reply that they don’t.

It’s my turn to disappoint when I turn to the parent and say, so how am I supposed to know if they have good teeth or not? These parents want to blame cavities on some genetic problem. But it rarely has anything to do with whether they have “good” or “bad” teeth. It’s always a factor of oral hygiene, flossing in particular.

My Flossing Conversion

I came from a poor family. I had never seen a piece of floss in my life until I went to dental school at age 25. I had 11 cavities, I needed 2 root canals, and 3 crowns. I had grown up brushing twice a day, every day. I had been to the dentist every so often as well.

But I hadn’t flossed. And that’s what was missing. That was 20 years ago and I haven’t had a cavity since. The difference is: I started flossing!

I take my floss backpacking with me. I take my floss with me everywhere I go because I realize the value of it. I wouldn’t miss a day because I know the chain reaction that will start in my mouth. Don’t you remember last week’s blog about bacterial poop?!

So Easy a Caveman Can Do It

Flossing is EASY. Seriously. It takes a little bit of finger dexterity, true, but beyond that, it’s easy and straightforward. If the wraparound floss technique is bothersome to you, there are tons of options for floss handles or disposable single use flossers.

Floss is CHEAP.

And it saves you tons of money and time.

If you had to choose between your toothbrush and floss, I would adamantly tell you to choose the floss. Brushing only gets at the most exposed areas; whereas floss actually helps in the harder to reach places – and that’s where most of the bacteria is anyway.

Please put me out of business

All of this comes from a clinical perspective.  I see patients come in having to pay hundreds of dollars in treatments. Most of which could be avoided entirely with a simply minute a day of flossing, costing only pennies.

I try to impress upon them the importance of flossing. I sometimes tell the young adults, look, you can save your parents so much money. Or I say, you don’t like the shots? When you choose not to floss you choose to get a shot.

I know maybe that’s a little borderline as far as motivating techniques go, but I will try any way I can to get my patients to floss.

And really, what I’m doing is talking myself out of business. That’s how significant a difference it makes. Although, if I was put out of business because all of my clients were flossing regularly, I probably wouldn’t be that sad about it.

So whether you use a Waterpik, AirFloss or good old fashioned string, remember to scrape away the bacteria, air out the space between your teeth, limit the sugar you consume – and then do it all again tomorrow!

~Dr. Wagner

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