Is there something you just hate doing? Something that you do because you know you should? You know that responsible adults do this, so you should too. Is it getting your tires rotated? Going in for your annual medical checkup? Taking off your makeup before bed? Exercising? Taking your vitamins every day?
Flossing my teeth is one of those things for me. There was a time when I would floss several times a week and feel pretty virtuous about it. Three times a week! That’s more than most people, right? That means I’m taking good care of my teeth, right? When my hygienist would ask me if I floss regularly, I’d chirp right up, “Yes!” Yes, three times a week. In fact, in the week before my dental appointments I’d floss almost every day, for good measure. (By the way, that doesn’t work. They always know.)
That all changed for me the day I was scared straight. Sarah was my hygienist that day. When I answered her question with, “Yes! I floss regularly!” she said, “Really. How often do you floss?” I was on guard when I told her and she started shaking her head. Shaking her head! Didn’t she know that three times a week is better than most people?
Sarah explained to me that bacteria regenerate in the mouth every 26 hours. I haven’t checked this fact out, but I believe her. She said that it doesn’t matter if you floss in the morning or in the evening, as long as it’s the same time every day, approximately 24 hours apart. “Every day?” I asked, incredulous. “Every 24 hours,” she replied. She said that when I get rid of the bacteria by flossing, they start to regenerate in 26 hours. If you floss again at 24-25 hours, you keep the bacteria from reforming. Once they form, they become plaque (like in my arteries!) and then they get hard and form calculus. That has to be removed in the dental chair. (This is how they always know when you’ve stepped up your flossing the week before your exam. It doesn’t work.) When that plaque builds up, it gives bacteria a place to hide and do their dirty work, like gum disease! Big gulp!
She said that we’re starting with a clean slate that day after my appointment. She said that since I prefer to floss at night, I should floss again that night, then every 24-25 hours after that. Since that time I’ve been religious about flossing nightly. Have there been slip-ups in the past 10 years since that time? Yes. But it’s probably no more than 3 times a year. Three times a year! Me!
So, for 60-90 seconds of work a night, I am rewarded with no gum disease (unlike most of my fellow humans in my same age bracket), no bleeding gums, no heart disease (yes, there’s a link!), fresh breath, and the ability to see my hygienist and my dentist light up when they take a look at these healthy, pink bad boys (my gums).
Do I still hate flossing? You bet. But like taking my daily vitamins, I do it because I know I’ll be happier and healthier if I do.