One Simple Thing You Can Do to Improve Your Health
For the vast majority of my life I never even considered flossing. I thought flossing was an annoying task for busybodies; something the dental hygienist hectored you about annually.
Flossing was not for me. How did I get this idea? A dentist told me as long as I breathed through my mouth during sleep that my gums would always be inflamed. Due to an unusually compact nasal cavity, changing the way I breathed would be next to impossible. So I decided flossing was futile.
For the next decade and a half my oral health was spotty at best. I visited the dentist, but the experience was so painful and humiliating that I avoided going back for the next seven years. A horrible idea, but ignoring the problem was just easier.
When I finally returned after that long hiatus, things were so bad that the dentist needed to scrape the plaque from beneath my gums. I don’t wish that procedure on my worst enemy. It was so painful and unpleasant that I vowed to mend my habits. I started flossing.
For whatever reason, flossing didn’t take the first time. I moved to a new city and started a new job. Between those life changes and my return to oral neglect, I didn’t see a dentist for another five years. On that return trip I knew what they would say: time to excavate my gums again.
That pain and misery provided a much needed push. Around the same time, I read online about how the Center for Disease Control and Emory University had conducted a study that discovered people with gingivitis and periodontitis have a mortality rate that is 23 percent to 46 percent higher than those who don’t. That information inspired me to start flossing several times a week.
Once I began flossing more regularly, I was able to maintain the bright pink, non-puffy gums that I loved seeing after my dentist office visits. I also had better breath. If you doubt that flossing can make an impact on the freshness of your breath don’t floss for three weeks. Then, floss and smell the floss when you’ve finished. The rotten smell will make you a believer.
Also, when you first start flossing, your gums are going to bleed. It’s going to look like your mouth is one of the hotel hallways from The Shining. But don’t stress, and don’t stop. The bleeding is just your gums flushing out bacteria. Once you’re a regular flosser, the bleeding won’t disappear entirely, but it will drastically diminish.
I liked the changes in my mouth so much that I began flossing every day. However, the true rewards were reaped during my next dental appointment. I breezed in and out, pain-free. I couldn’t remember the last time any oral health professional said, “Keep doing exactly what you are doing.”
Since then I still floss every day. Is it still annoying to do? Yes. Some nights when I’m exhausted or traveling for work I really, really have to push myself to floss. But when I do, I recognize that it’s worth every second of effort. I’ve gotten to the point where my mouth just doesn’t feel clean if I haven’t done it.
Sometimes I beat myself up for not flossing sooner. But the truth is, it’s never too late so start. No matter where you are in your personal oral health journey, you can begin flossing and make a profound positive impact.
I know from personal experience that no one can force you to floss. I sincerely hope that you’ll at least try. I’m confident that if you floss for a month you’ll be hooked.