Are you ready to toss your floss? First, count the cost

Do you remember where you were when you heard the news? I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook admiring beautiful smiles when Scott Pelley from the CBS Evening News made the shocking announcement.

There is no scientific evidence that flossing is of any benefit.

Photo courtesy depositphotos_copyright:CITAlliance, edits by author

My belief system was shaken. If I can’t trust 9 out of 10 dentists who can I trust? And is the 10th dentist the rogue responsible for this heretical research?

Is getting plaque scraped off my teeth every six months a big fat lie too? What about fluoride? Is this slowly poisoning me while adding no advantage?

I clenched my teeth in despair at the thought that the next major disclosure could rejecting the tooth fairy.

My flossing life flashed before me and I thought of the time, effort, and money I’ve wasted over the years:

  • Adding floss to my shopping list
  • Trying different kinds until I found the perfect blend of function and light minty taste
  • Storing it in the cupboard over the toilet
  • Fishing it out of the toilet
  • Praising its waterproof package
  • Nipping myself with pruning shears while opening the impenetrable package
  • Applying a floss tourniquet
  • Mopping blood from the walls, floor, and ceiling
  • Flossing each tooth like my dental hygienist-who-I-used-to-trust taught me
  • With one hand
  • Cleaning the flecks and splotches from the bathroom mirror
  • Throwing away the used floss
  • Missing the trash can
  • Extracting the floss from the beater brush of my vacuum cleaner
  • But not before burning out the motor
  • Buying a new vacuum cleaner

These memories left me feeling hopeless and bereft.

I thought about my mouth guard and wondered if that is also a hoax. I contemplated scrapping it along with my faith in dentistry.

I saw visions of my grandsons, flossing their precious baby teeth as part of their bedtime ritual. How am I going to deal with their disillusionment at such fragile ages?

I felt down in the mouth when I thought of giving up the guilty pleasure of going to bed without flossing, one of my ‘go to’ activities when I want to live on the wild side.

I imagined families whose livelihoods would be destroyed when people adopt a floss-free lifestyle.

I knew I had to do something to save this industry.

I envisioned a soft, cuddly afghan with a slight peppermint fragrance adorning every sofa in America. I saw braided bracelets, woven potholders, laced up Thanksgiving turkeys, a waxed ribbon completing a lovely package, plumb lines snapped at construction sites, crocheted doilies, fancy trim for a bride’s dress, a tiny leash for a hamster.

I plan to start a marketing campaign to promote my ideas, but right now I’m too busy teaching my grandsons how to play cat’s cradle. Tip: I recommend unwaxed floss for this activity.

What about you? How has this latest research impacted your daily dental hygiene? Do you have other ideas on how to continue to use this obsolete product? I’d give my unflossed eyeteeth to read your suggestions.



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41 thoughts on “Are you ready to toss your floss? First, count the cost

  1. If I can’t feel guilty about not flossing enough, what’s next for me? There’s something fishy in these findings I think. Maybe the study was funded by dentists wanting to do more root canals and fillings….

  2. I was a dental hygienist for years and had to promote flossing like it was the best thing since sliced bread (and I personally HATE flossing) I was so over it all by the time I left that I can’t even be in the bathroom when my husband flosses! Good riddance to it – and I love all your alternative suggestions 🙂

    • I have a lot of dental issues, Christina, and I have been flossing religiously for years. I can’t give it up since I love to eat popcorn and coconut and sesame seeds, but I do think the research is interesting. And for those who felt guilty about not flossing, a free pass!

  3. Oh you make me laugh Molly! My husband and I both have teeth that are difficult to floss so our dentist suggested a water pick ($100). I bought one and we haven’t used it!!! I supposed it wouldn’t hurt to keep flossing if you are used to it but it lets everyone who doesn’t off the hook!!!

    • I’m so glad I made you laugh Sue! That makes my day. I don’t know if they have done a study on water picks…..stay tuned. Did you keep your receipt? Maybe it’s not to late for a return. I’ve even returned a trip so if you need any advice, send me a PM. Hahaha!

  4. This is super disturbing to me. I barely wash my hair. I never brush my hair. I barely make my bed (ditched the top sheet so it is maybe possible.) I was my face when there is food on it. The ONE think I do do is floss my teeth. And I forgave myself all of that other slacking because flossing is the most difficult. Now I guess I need to start doing one of those other things.

  5. Molly, Although flossing is not the most charming of grooming habits, I must admit I will keep mine. Of course, generations survived without using that shiny spool of coated thread, but what the heck. I feel more virtuous when I do. Thanks for the reminder!

  6. I remember always being asked as a kid… Do you floss? Then I didn’t, but I do now. Now I work in the dental field, so many days I floss more than once. So now I ask my patients… Do you floss? When I hear a no, then I tell them, “you really don’t need to floss your teeth, but you should for the ones you want to keep!”

  7. I never used to use floss but after registering at a new dentist about 5 years ago, they introduced me to dental flossing – I’ve never looked back! I can get the brand & style they recommend cheaply at my local supermarket so I add it in with my normal weekly food shop. I love the peppermint taste too. My husband uses mini floss brushes but they bamboozle me!

    • I don’t want to discourage you Linda. I still floss too, but my teeth have had a lot of problems despite my efforts. But that peppermint taste! Is it addictive? And mini floss brushes sound very exotic. I wonder if there’s a youtube on that??

  8. Hi Molly, Best Aunt Ever!!

    You forgot the rush to the Vet when your pet consumes the floss that fell on the floor and merged with the decor – hence invisible to the naked human eye. Animal Floss Operations are rampant in America and expensive. But, I have to say, that I can’t live without my tool of nut remnant destruction. Sesame seeds are particularly insidious. I am forlorn when 2 days after consuming these tiny tidbits of secreted snacks, hidden in my crowns, break loose and end up in an embarrassing smile!!! Please stop the madness!! Please tell me what to do? How do I maintain dental hygiene and save my self esteem and my pets health? XOXO Colleen

    • I wish I had the answer for you dearest Colleen. I cannot tell you I’ve made progress through the years getting the floss in the can. Have you thought of sending a plea to The Dog Whisperer to see if he has successfully trained our four legged friends to walk away from this slimy food encrusted temptation? I have the same issues you do with recycled sesame seeds and I’ve been known to eat coconut for 10 days after the initial consumption. Hang in there and don’t lose hope. I’m told there will come a day when I will be soaking my teeth overnight! XOXOXO

  9. I decided to flat out reject these findings when I heard the news. I’m too invested–plus, just like you, skipping the occasional flossing is my idea of cutting loose! What’s left for kicks?
    So funny, Molly!

    • I’m on the side of keeping my floss too, Lee. I think the feeling of having a sharp, thin thread cut into my gum line may be addictive. Or maybe it is the peppermint that I can’t resist. At any rate, that occasional guilty pleasure of skipping this bedtime ritual is too delicious to ever give it up, Lee. If we didn’t skip flossing we might go to a more hard core activity like going to bed without brushing. Oh my!!

  10. It is so silly to hear how flossing is good, then bad, then good! Errg! I floss because when I did not for one year, (yes I was a BAAADDD girl), I ended up with severe gum disease that cost way more than simply buying floss and actually using it once a day! Lesson learned. Hilarious post!

    • If you followed all the latest health advice I fear you would turn into a pretzel and die of contradictions, Terri. Whether it prevents problems or not, I can’t give up flossing because even when I drink a smoothy I get stuff caught between my teeth. Thanks for the comment.

  11. I agree with Steven Brown. If any of you millions of middle-aged women who eat up anything they hear on the news or read online, and instantly believe it to be true, think that flossing is not good for you, then you are truly not all there.
    Flossing is the only way to clean between your teeth, your toothbrush can reach all surfaces except where floss goes. If you stop flossing I guarantee that you will have cavities in between your teeth in a few years. The paper that the delusional writer of this ridiculous article above is referring to was written by a dentist. In an interview he said that he thinks that toothpicks are better than floss. Well that is great if you already gave a ton of gum recession. But for people with healthy normal teeth, nothing can fit there except floss.
    Don’t believe everything you read. Do 5 minutes of research before you make a change in your life that will lead to increased heart disease, diabetes, premature births, etc, etc.
    Read the surgeon generals report on flossing, not some random goon’s paper that happened to get published.

  12. I’m with you and Marcia, Molly. With every advancing year (and receding gum line) I need my floss to get rid of the of the food that gets lodged in my teeth with increasing frequency. If clearing my crevices of stuck popcorn kernels, corn on the cob and various other foodstuffs isn’t a benefit of flossing, I don’t know what is!

    • Yes, Roxanne. I need an arsenal of products to deal with the food that gets stuck in my teeth and now I have a bridge and even need floss threaders. The other day I ate vanilla pudding and flossed for 10 minutes to clean it all out. I’m thinking of stockpiling floss in case my marketing ideas don’t take off and floss becomes extinct!

  13. I would have celebrated by burning all of my floss, but all the floss I told my hygienist I purchased was, in fact, imaginary. Good riddance evil thread!

  14. Too funny! I’m right there with you on the daily list of things involved around flossing. But I refuse to give it up—I have spent too much time and money on my teeth to abandon flossing. I need to protect m pearly whites!

    • I’m with you Marcia. There are some things I just can’t change no matter what the research shows. I’m especially hard pressed to give up floss after I’ve eaten popcorn or corn on the cob. Thanks for the comment!

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