“Floss the Teeth You Want to Keep”

I saw that phrase on a sign outside a dentist’s office years ago. I remembered it because it’s true and useful. I confess that for decades I lied to dentists and hygienists. ‘Oh, yes, I floss’ (this morning, so I’d be sort of telling you the truth today).

Then one year they showed me the x-rays from that day and the same view from a year earlier. The bone loss was clearly visible. The bone is what makes your teeth stay in, and I do want to keep my teeth. That day I started flossing and do so to this day. One of the excuses I had was that I didn’t feel like I had time. I timed it once, it took less than a minute. I have time.

Here’s a relevant clip from my book, Frugal Living for the 21st Century, now available in paperback on Amazon.com:

“Lately I’ve noticed dental floss costing more and/or having less floss in the container. Since dental work is many times more expensive than dental floss, I still buy it. Consuming less floss per use is one idea. I thought that would happen with a dental floss holder I bought at www.amazon.com. Search on “Flossaid Dental Floss Holder.” It probably would have, but my teeth are close together and the holder didn’t hold the floss taut enough for it to work. …

I tried some other things. Nylon upholstery thread was strong enough, but too round to slide down between my crowded teeth. Regular strength sewing thread fit between my teeth but broke right away. So did embroidery floss. So, I went back to dental floss. Walmart’s Equate brand costs 87 cents for 55 yards. The name brand costs $2.62 for the same amount. So far, Walmart’s is the least expensive floss I’ve found.

I looked for reusable tools that can do some of the things that floss does. All sources agreed that flossing is by far the best. But what if you can’t floss or want to do more than just floss? The goal is to disturb the colonies of bacteria, to stop plaque from forming.

One tool is the rubber-tipped dental stimulator, the kind that used to be built in to the handles of toothbrushes. This tool is flexible and pointy. You run the point along the intersection of your gums and teeth, disturbing the plaque at the gum line. You can also put the point in between your teeth at the gum line and wiggle it to improve blood flow to the gums.

Another tool is the interdental brush. It looks like a teeny-tiny bottlebrush. They come in different sizes and degrees of softness. They slide in between the teeth at the gum line to brush the insides where a regular toothbrush won’t go.

GUM® makes a semi-disposable form of these called Soft-Picks®. Each one lasts more than one use, but not for long enough to be a permanent tool. I tried one of these. I had thought it might hurt or feel creepy. In fact, it felt good and I could tell it would clean the gum area between the teeth better than floss alone.

Both of these tools can be disinfected just like your toothbrush. You can use mouthwash, hydrogen peroxide, or rubbing alcohol.”

Today, New Year’s Eve, is a good time to renew your vows to floss regularly, if you don’t already.

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