Okay, I’ll admit it. I haven’t always been an adamant flosser.
When I was a kid, I had a lot of cavities. You’d think the memory of those painful fillings would keep floss high on the list of dental priorities, but alas, floss fell of the madar (mouth radar) around when braces came into the picture. With braces, it was near impossible to floss my teeth. The delicate threads of dental floss had no chance of withstanding the cold edges of steel brackets and wires.
“Why didn’t you use those special flossers that the orthodontist gave you?”, an inquisitive reader might ask. Well, Inquisitive Reader, let me tell you that those special flossers are not all they’re cracked up to be. Am I really going to thread the flosser under the wire, floss a single tooth, pull up, and unthread the flosser? Come on. There was way too much Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dawson’s Creek on the WB for me to bother with that much effort.
Fast forward 10 years later, and I never became that habitual flosser. I would floss when I felt there was a little something my toothbrush couldn’t get to. Or when I was trying to start a new trend of healthy living, the optimist in me convinced that I could become a happier, more likeable person with bright, healthy salads and waxed dental floss. But it was never a habit, never something I could stick to over the long term. I’d inevitably forget one night, and then the next, and then suddenly, 3 weeks would have passed since my last floss.
Ashamed of my inability to stay on the flossing bandwagon, I started to develop strange counter habits to hide my humiliating secret. I would throw floss into my cart at the store, casually mentioning to my shopping companion that I’ve been out for a week and have been desperately missing my daily floss. At home, I would regularly switch the brands of floss in my bathroom even when they weren’t empty so no one would know that the same box of floss probably could have lasted me the year. And of course, at dinner parties when someone would launch into a tirade condemning non-flossers and their ilk, I would nod vehemently while lifting my glass to my mouth. Not to take a sip, mind you, but to put whatever object I could in front of the source of shame.
Until one day, about a month ago, everything changed. It was a day like any other day. I had just eaten some of my mom’s delicious Indian food for dinner and was about to climb into the shower when I felt a little something stuck between my 3rd and 4th molars*. Perturbed, I peeled my lips and gums back, poking with my tongue as I tried to get a closer look in the mirror. Nothing. I tried to slide my fingernail in between my teeth to get out the object. Still nothing. Dedicated to the cause now, I reached into the cabinet for the dental floss. Groping behind jars, lotions and other bathroom accoutrements, I finally found the box of floss. A little dusty, perhaps, but still distinguished in its subtley cinnamon-scented wax.
I slid the delicate rope between my fingers and gently guided it to the source of the problem. Effortlessly, it removed the particle that had so eluded my tongue and my nail. Pleased, I decided to finish the job. I already had the floss out, didn’t I? A few minutes later, gums a bit sore, I checked my work out in my mirror. The wave of accomplishment that washed over me was so unexpected. I could feel crevices in my teeth that I hadn’t felt in a long time. After I brushed my teeth, I sipped on ice cold water just to extend the tingle rolling in my mouth.
Since then, I’ve become a changed woman. My gums are stronger than ever and stand up to even the toughest floss. I can’t tell you why this flossing experience was different from all my other attempts to start flossing, but truly this time, it’s become a part of my ritual. I find myself looking forward to my morning (or evening, depending on the day) floss. Sometimes I sneak into the office bathroom to floss a little when I know there won’t be people around. I find myself googling the best types of floss and new floss flavors** when I have a few minutes of downtime at work.
For you non-believers out there, I hope you’ll read my story and give flossing one more try. Because let me tell you, it feels amazing.
I’m Neeraja. And I’m a flosser.
*I’m not a dentist and know nothing about teeth, or whether humans even have third and fourth molars. I made this up for the purpose of the story.