Flossing – the science of it

8 May

Did you know there are different, patented tooth brushing techniques? Really?! Me either! One minute into doing some research on the riveting subject of flossing, however, and I was thrown into the politics of dental cleaning. From the Fones Method to the Bass Method*, there certainly is a science behind how we clean our pearly whites. Whether or not we are aware of it, most of us are taught, either by parents, dentists or schools (most often a mixture of all three) a certain way to properly brush. Whether it’s a circular motion for two minutes, a scrubbing of all three sides or a preference for certain toothbrushes, by adulthood we all seem to have a pattern down pat.

Teeth flossing, on the other hand, is something that a lot of us happily ‘forget’ between dentist visits. I certainly am the laxest of lax when it comes to flossing. While it doesn’t take me more than two minutes a day, I find it (mildly) unpleasant and see it creep up on my new year’s resolution lists each January, only to have to dig out the dusty and forgotten box of floss in September after I’ve ungraciously gotten spinach stuck between my molars at a dinner party.

This poster could stick in your bathroom to keep you inspired. Click for the link.

So, how do I get myself (and you all who choose to come along with me) on the path to happier gums?

Decision scientist Talya Miron-Shatz spoke in this rather interesting article about what motivates us to make health related decisions, saying that we are more likely to act based on what we think we might lose (healthy gums, pain-free eating, having smooch sessions without worrying about bad breath) rather than on what we are theoretically preventing (for flossing, usually prevention of the same list of things as above). In other words, we’ll be more motivated if we focus on what we don’t get rather than what we do. Ain’t that always the way…

Armed with this knowledge, this here is a list I’ve put together of some of the things scientists and dentists have proposed we lose out on if we don’t floss**:

*Good breath – we talk about people’s bad breath often, but rarely stop to appreciate ours or others good, non-offensive breath. Not to worry, though, because if you don’t start flossing, your nondescript good breath will go out the window and welcomed in will be an unpleasant dose of halitosis. Yummy.Time to floss.

*Your teeth – not flossing means not discouraging tooth decay. I don’t know too much about it, but I’d say that having something decay inside you is pretty dire. Especially when it’s inside your mouth. Can you taste it? You know, I’d rather not find out. Time to floss.

*Your prettiness – want to be inspired to floss based on vanity? Read this article. The most compelling quote: “When gum disease begins to eat away at the bone, there are changes in facial appearance. Once a tooth is lost the bone has no reason to be there.” I want my bones to have a reason to be in my face for always. Get me some floss!

*Ease with fertility – studies have indicated that bacteria build up and disease associated with it might affect how quickly women fall pregnant (it doesn’t actually affect whether or not the women are fertile though). So, if you’re trying to have babies and it’s not happening as quickly as you’d like, get into those gums, because it’s time to floss.

*Your not so unpleasant dentist trips – the less you floss, the more your dentist needs to manually scrape the tartar (hardened plaque) from your teeth. I don’t know about you, but I’m fine with a quick polish and wiggle about at the dentist. Once it comes to metal on tooth scraping, though, I’m less of a fan. So before you go to the dentist, make some time to floss.

*Life – not flossing can lead to gum disease which can in turn help with diabetes, heart disease and many other nasties, and eventually kill you dead. Bam. Time to floss.

So flossing…I think I’m convinced. Today I propose the start of a 30 Day Floss Challenge, during which I, and anyone who wants to join in, will commit to flossing everyday and sharing our observations. Yes, it’s a pretty mundane and odd task to get blogging about, but does it not seem pretty important?

Here’s to healthy smiles and fun flossing!

*Can someone get the sons of Fones and Bass together at a party to argue over whose dad invented the better brushing technique? Then film it, put it on youtube and make us all a fortune?

**Just in case you couldn’t tell, I’m not a doctor, scientist or dentist myself, I’m merely a lass who likes to google too much. Please don’t take this advice above anyone elses (except your cat…I’m usually more qualified than most cats), and if you’re really worried about flossing, please ask someone who studied it for more than five minutes.

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