Tuesday, November 23, 2010

On Flossing

Well, I went to the dentist this evening and judging from the amount of time I sat in the chair having plaque jack-hammered off my pearly whites, I'm not doing something right - but what could it be? I'm not a sugar fiend, I use toothpaste and my electric toothbrush twice a day and still, there I was...

After the cleaning, I had to go back into the reception area while I waited to see the dentist for a full examination. "It's like a physical from the doctor, except it's for your teeth," said the hygienist, who was not doubt nursing aching digits after spending close to an hour scraping off my barnacles. She looked up from my file and earnestly told me that it's imperative to floss every night and rinse with warm, salty water too. Ohhh, flossing. That's what I haven't been doing.

I told her that I often go to bed after midnight and that I'm either too tired, delirious, or indifferent about the welfare of my teeth when it's that late. "Why don't you floss earlier in the evening?" she suggested. "You could do it in front of the TV when you're watching your favourite show." Laughter ensued as I imagined my husband and son sitting under an umbrella while itty bits of lamb and mango (or whatever I just ate for dinner) went flying all over the room, no doubt hitting the screen while Mike Roe was working on another dirty job. The hygienist got a little uppity when I pointed out the ramifications of this activity: divorce, parent abandonment, etc. "That might not be so hygienic," she conceded.

After calling me in, the dentist (whom I really respect, by the way), began giving my head a good old pat down. He began massaging my lower jaw, asking if it hurt. Hurt? Keep going! Don't stop!! My sinuses never felt better. I had to grind to the left, grind to the right, make my lower jaw extend beyond my upper jaw, and all kinds of other weird dental rituals, which his assistant studiously made note of.

The doctor mysteriously disappeared and I was escorted into an area that looked like an open closet. I moved into a chamber of dental sorcery and told to balance my chin on this little plinth while leaning forward on the balls of my feet and holding handles that I couldn't actually see. The assistant pressed a button and a camera began spinning around my head. I kept thinking of Eleanore Roosevelt so I wouldn't laugh. I had to stay still, but I kept thinking that any minute, Dr. No was going to walk in front of me shooting a laser gun at my kneecaps.

I went back to the dental chair and watched yet more repeats of the day's headlines on CP24. The good doctor came back and instantly put the ginormously enlarged photographs of my teeth on the TV screen. I recoiled. Change the channel! Change the channel! I'll watch anything: Dr. Oz, Reba, According to Jim... Alas, no luck. He thought I'd be interested in an OMNI MAX history of every filling I've ever had. Oh.

He then began analyzing each and every tooth with that mean little pick and then took another mean little pick and began the long and laboured process of measuring the gaps between my gums and teeth. As he morosely called out numbers, I quickly figured out that the lower the number, the better. It sounded like he was calling out primitive BINGO numbers in Finnish: 3, 4, 4, 3, 3, 2... Yes, I had a few twos. As for my fours, you'd think I was nursing small marsupials in these gummy pockets. "A four is very large, but you had some fives last time," he informed me. I told myself that if my gums were pants, I've gone from maternity pants, to a nice relaxed fit. My dentist expects me to be in skinny gum jeans next time. Sure. That's going to happen. I asked him if anyone has gums that measure as one. "Oh yes," he said as if I asked him if he filed his tax return last year. "It's very rare, but some people do have ones." I asked him what that means. "Their gums are tight. Really tight." My mind naturally shifted to George Hamilton visiting a gum tightener in Miami. This can't be real.

I'm going to go to bed now. It's late and I must floss and gargle with salty brine.


  1. I feel your pain. I've learned the benefits of flossing the hard way myself, but I am now among the converted. I do actually watch TV and floss right before bed (watching Mike Rowe, if I'm lucky, but usually it's Dave or Jay or Jimmy Fallon), but I don't have an audience so that's good. It's worth it, though, because one of my (not particularly dirty) jobs is with an oral surgeon's office, which is where all the bad flossers go. Trust me, you want to avoid it if you can.

  2. it must have been horrible if you were willing to watch Dr. Oz. He gives me the heebie jeebies.

    I try to floss - but it makes my gums hurt the next day. Maybe if I did it every day it wouldn't hurt.

  3. I became a regular flosser by doing in while I shower. My dental hygienist is usually pleased with me so apparently it works, and it's a great excuse to stay in the nice hot shower a little longer!

  4. Well, ladies. I bought dental floss last night at Shopper's Drug Mart. I think it said 190 meters. Now I have no excuses. P and Q of .50 - it sounds like you've made a hobby out of it. Good for you!


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I'm a slightly off-beat Toronto-area teacher who enjoys writing and photography. I come from a family of collectors and now I'm dragging my own family around to yard sales. It's just a bit of fun. Enjoy the scenes.