For reasons unknown to me, many people detest the idea of flossing their teeth. I’ve heard this concept acknowledged by people in all states of dental health and now the US Department of Health has dropped its recommendation that people floss, mainly on the basis of a lack of research that proves its efficacy.

This news even prompted a writer for Canada’s respected newspaper, The Globe and Mail,  to write, “Now the secret is out. Flossing is a waste of time.”   The writer cites several other areas of concern in which we have supposedly been led astray by well-meaning, but ill-informed science and medical writers.

Contrary to jumping on this bandwagon, although it took me years of experimentation with different floss types, and though I am slightly resentful at the time flossing takes, it is actually a pleasure to floss.  (I have to use floss designed for tight teeth.)   When I see the guck that is removed from between my teeth, even after brushing vigorously and rinsing with both water and mouthwash, I know that flossing is accomplishing good things.

I have no scientific evidence to back my claim.   I have the sight of sludge, seeds and food particles being washed down the drain after flossing.   I have my fresh-feeling, non-bleeding gums.   I have a head that can think beyond the latest wild rumour.   So I floss, not grudgingly, but willingly and even happily on many occasions.

One of the troubles with scientific studies is that they are open to misinterpretation and spin by non-scientific journalists.   For example, I once read a scientific explanation about how paper towels, and towels in general, did not “absorb” water.   This claim all had to do with the scientific understanding of the word “absorption,” which has to do with cellular transfers of liquid through cell walls.   Towels of all sorts do not “absorb” water, they trap water between their fibres and remove it from the surface intended to be dried.   I can see how the scientific claim might also be spun to vilify the paper towel makers for leading us astray.   But anyone with eyes and an ounce of common sense can see the utility of a towel, whether it removes water by absorption or entrapment is irrelevant.   It does the trick.

When I see post, tooth-brushing guck being removed from between my teeth by floss, I am happy to know that whatever that particular culture of bacteria had in its collective mind to do to my teeth, my gums, my digestive and immune systems, it will have to leave the task to its decendents, if I let them have their way with me.

Still flossing, after all these years!

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