“You’re flossing too much,” said no hygienist or dentist ever. We all know we need to floss more. But making it a habit is easier said than done. One Ask the Dentist reader, Peter, came up with a genius way of making himself floss more. “I’ve started eating more oranges,” he wrote me the other day, “because oranges always get stuck in my teeth and I know it’ll make me want to floss.”
Here’s why this is such a great tip:
Flossing is hard because there’s nothing to remind us to do it.
When you don’t floss, plaque and bacteria build up in between your teeth, causing bad breath, cavities, and tooth decay.
We know this, but very often, it’s not enough to make us floss.
You probably feel gross if you skip a brushing session or two — but you could probably go for weeks or even months without flossing without feeling it.
You can thank an ad campaign for this. In the early 1900s, American dental hygiene was so bad that it was considered a national security risk — no one was brushing their teeth.
The toothpaste company Pepsodent ran a campaign that told people, “Just run your tongue across your teeth. You’ll feel a film — that’s what makes your teeth look ‘off color’ and invites decay. Why would you keep a dingy film on your teeth? Our toothpaste removes the film!”
That’s all it took. People now had something that told them when to brush. The film was a cue.
That’s why, nowadays, people usually are good about brushing their teeth.
But it’s less often that people are good flossers. And that’s simply because we’re missing that cue that tells us to floss.
So, if you’ve been told you need to floss more, try this:
Choose a favorite food that you like that gets stuck in your teeth. Great choices include popcorn, oranges, grapefruit, raspberries — really, anything that you know will get stuck and annoy you until it gets flossed out.
Try this out until you start to like the feeling of flossing. Once you get the hang of it, trust me, you won’t be able to go to bed without flossing. It’ll feel as if you were going to bed without brushing — totally gross!
Let me know what your “flossing food” is in the comments below!
Mark Burhenne DDS