Why doesn’t the general public floss?

Think about that question very carefully before you respond. Maybe it’s due to the inherent gross quality of the act itself. Maybe it’s because most people really don’t like their dentist and refuse to floss out of pure spite. Maybe people just can’t bring themselves to add one step to their evening routine.

All of the above serve as reasonable, intelligent answers concerning this global crisis (go Scott!), but they don’t really solve the problem at hand. Flossing will always be gross, society has ingrained in us hatred for dentists, and most will not spend the extra two minutes per day improving their health.

This is the story of an awakening.

When I was 17 years old, I visited my dentist. Because Dr. [REDACTED] was busy with another patient, I was brought to have my teeth cleaned by one of the hygienists. Now, when one has had the combination of a palatal expander, three retainers (which I should really think about wearing one of these days), and years of braces, let’s just say that you really get around—the different hygienists and assistants.

But this woman was brand new. An incredibly friendly, if self-assured, Midwestern woman, I’m sure she thought she’d seen it all. But all of that changed when a certain teenaged stud opened his mouth.

You see, I have nice teeth. Like, REALLY nice teeth. People have literally stopped me on the street, in line at the grocery store I worked in, and at beach parking lots to tell me so.*

So imagine the shock this woman was in for when she saw these beauties.

“Your teeth should be in catalogues!” she cried, her Midwestern accent causing the statement to come across as the single most sincere compliment ever given to me. “How often do you floss your teeth?”

“Um,” I began to stutter, afraid of seeing the inevitable disappointment flash in her eyes, “maybe once every… few days?” I lied. Like most of the world, I rarely flossed. I hated going to the dentist because the flossing would make my teeth bleed.

“Oh, that’s a shame. Flossing can extend your life up to two years.” She smiled, and we made our way to take x-rays of those beautiful teeth.

Even though she had clearly moved on, I couldn’t quite get over that interaction. The disappointment that showed on her face after my admission of guilt haunted me so much for the rest of the day that, when I washed up that night, I decided I needed to make a change.

I’ve never seen that hygienist again. Every six months, upon my return to the dental waiting room, my face brightens looking for the woman who changed my life, but I always leave disappointed. Some people come into our lives for a reason, and Barb (she just kind-of looked like a Barb, if you know what I mean) came to awaken me to the possibilities of dental hygiene.

In related news, I can never bring myself to use mouthwash. Ew.

*I’m exaggerating a bit for the story’s sake. My teeth are nice, but, like, not that nice. Like an approachable kind of nice, you know? But I’m not exaggerating when I say that people are obsessed with them. I really just don’t get it. Sometimes I wonder if I have body dysmorphia for my teeth. Don’t get me wrong—I know I have good teeth. But I’m definitely not seeing what everyone else is seeing. It’s kind of like Breaking Bad. I know that, objectively, it’s really good, but I can never really get into it.

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