And Now I Floss My Teeth

I wish that I had known how much flossing would improve my experience of going to the dentist.  I wish someone would have told me "You know, Beth, if you'd just floss it would take half as long to get your teeth cleaned, not to mention hurt a whole heck of a lot less."  I would have started decades ago!!

Instead I'd just always been told it "prevented plaque build-up" and "helped maintain healthy gums" and so on.  I knew that flossing was "good for you" and all that, just didn't make any difference to me.  That was all too abstract and long-term.  I didn't see an immediate benefit for the daily effort so it was like a lot of health advice:  I didn't doubt its veracity, but I didn't buy in and commit to it either.

But, I floss my teeth regularly these days.  Not every day, but pretty close.  
Admiring some garden bounty.
During my last dental appointment I was shocked when the hygienist busted out the polish for the finishing touches.  "Wait?  We're done already?  I hardly even noticed."  I have dreaded going to the dentist for as long as I can remember.  This is a refreshing difference to say the least.

Flossing is one of my most successful and long-lasting habit building endeavors in recent years.  I have lots of good intentions about starting new healthy habits and often start off strong...but my sticking power can be lacking or sporadic.  I think I am getting smarter about how I go about it though and, as such, set myself up for greater success.
Kicking back after work with Johnny cuddles and a beer.
For flossing I had to fit it into my existing routine even if that wasn't the ideal, find a way to make it easy enough that it wasn't frustrating or gross, and remind myself to build the habit with a daily visual cue.
  • The Right Timing
    I floss in the morning because I have a fairly consistent morning routine that already involves personal hygiene matters like brushing my hair and teeth.  I don't have a similar bed time routine.  I don't even brush my teeth before bed.  As a result, it was much easier to incorporate this new task into the framework of my pre-existing morning routine.  My dental hygienist says she knows a lot of people who floss while watching TV or even in the car.  Neither of those work for my lifestyle, but it is the same premise.  Designate a convenient time or it probably won't happen.  In an ideal world I think I'd floss (and brush) my teeth before bed, too, but...this isn't an ideal world and the morning is better than not at all.  For me, the morning is the time it fits.
  • The Right Tool
    I have never really understood how to use dental floss.  I still don't.  I've had three professional demonstrations in the last two years and I still can't quite make it happen.  I understand how it goes in theory, but can't master it in practice.  My mouth isn't big enough...or my fingers are too clumsy...or something.   BUT!  I find using a flosser easy-peasy.  I can do that.  I've used the dollar store disposable versions and the long-handled reusable variety.  I prefer the latter, but the former are fine, too, and great for travel.  My dentist and hygienist say that the act of flossing is the important part, more so than the type of floss.  True dental floss might be slightly more effective, but flossers totally work.  With flossers I'll make it happen whereas with dental floss it will take forever, there'll be spit up to my elbows and I'll get frustrated and quit.  
  • The Visual Trigger
    In order to become a consistent flosser I had to give myself a prompt.  I did this by making a mini dry-erase calendar to post on the bathroom mirror.  I make a dot and Matt makes a slash when we floss for the day.  If I start to slack in my flossing habit it becomes visually apparent by the absence of dots on the calendar.  This alone prompts me to start flossing again.  Matt and I can also give each other an encouraging nudge when we notice that the other hasn't been flossing so there is some extra accountability there, too.  Since Matt and I are cat people I included a cute kitty image as a bonus.  This has made at least three people inquire about whether we floss our cats' teeth or not.  No, no...we're not that crazy of cat people...yet.
As long as I can remember I've had "bad teeth" like my dad (who, I might add, has none of his original teeth at this point).  I have early periodontal disease and a mouthful of fillings.  Not only does flossing make my dental appointments less of an ordeal, but I have a feeling of empowerment about it, that bad teeth or no I am doing my part to help keep 'em in my head.  My dental folks are tickled pink with my progress and we can all tell that it is making a difference.
When I finished this puzzle I was able to pick the whole thing and it stayed together in one piece!
To paraphrase George Eliot, it is never too late to start becoming who you want to be--whether it is the little things or the big ones, the philosophical or the practical. 


  1. My family also has a history of periodontal disease and I, too, have a mouth full of fillings hoping to keep them in my head as long as possible. The best tool that I've found for me on recommendation from my hygienist are those little brushes. Those things clear out so much stuff.

    1. The ones that look like little pipe cleaners sorta?

    2. Yes. They look kind of like mini pipe cleaners on one end. I prefer the disposable ones because reusing them just seems icky to me.

  2. I really like this post! My flossing knowledge tracks similar to yours! And just last year, I learned that I was supposed to swipe the floss across the front and back surfaces of the tooth as well. WHO KNEW. I always thought it was just between the teeth and done.
    (Also that is a crazy puzzle if you can lift it like that!)

    1. I feel like I either A) Wasn't Paying Attention or B) Had a lackluster dentist in my first couple decades. I got a lesson in flossing and brushing from my dentist within the past five years and was flabbergasted to learn I was even BRUSHING "wrong" and missing all sorts of stuff, like the inside of my upper teeth. And brushing too hard which was contributing to receding gums. And yes, flossing the fronts and not just in between?!?! Who knew?!

      Life Long Learning!


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