Why I started flossing more

lion with mouth wide openI’m a colossal disappointment.

At least according to my dental hygienist.

She didn’t say as much — at least at first — but I could tell. Even under the face guard and surgical mask, her narrowed eyes belied her disdain.

I found myself withering under the piercing gaze of her intense disapproval. It was as uncomfortable and searing as the hot lightbulb shining above me.

“Are you flossing?” she asked finally, breaking the sterile silence. She withdrew the hooked scraper from my mouth and held it above my eyes, as if wielding a weapon. The bright light reflected off the cold metal.

I tensed, clenching the chair’s armrests.

“Are you?” she asked again, holding the scraper closer to my eyes.

I nodded, my mouth open. “Uh-huh.”

“Every day?”

“Well.” I shrugged. “Maybe not every day.”

“Because your gums are gushing blood, which indicates you’re not flossing regularly.” The hygienist held up the cloth bib that was fastened around my neck. “See this?”

The cloth was saturated with blood, as if the hygienist had been performing triage. The fingers of her latex gloves were also dripping.

In fact, her entire tray of equipment looked like it belonged to the Joker’s plastic surgeon.

“Oh,” I said.

“Tell the truth, now. You haven’t flossed once since your last visit, have you?”

“I haven’t, no.”

“And I told you then to start flossing, didn’t I?”

Snippets from Marathon Man played in my mind. “I … um. I don’t recall.”

“You’re lying. I have your file right here, and it clearly states that you were instructed to start flossing.” The hygienist leaned closer, so that her face guard was touching my cheek. “What’s the matter with you? Don’t you care about your gum health?”

I swallowed, the taste of blood hot in my throat. Clearly, my gums were still bleeding from where the hygienist had been probing me. I could feel the gritty stickiness on my teeth.

She grabbed me around the collar. “Answer me!”

“I do care, ma’am!” I said, choking. “I do!”

“Yeah?” She released her grip. “We’ll see about that.”

She stood up and crossed the room. I lay trembling, tears pooling in my eyes.

The hygienist returned with string tied around both of her index fingers. She held it above me.

“What’s that?” I croaked, as beads of perspiration trickled down my forehead. She was going to strangle me — I knew it. This was to be my inevitable punishment for neglecting my dental health.

The hygienist frowned. “It’s floss. Haven’t you seen it before?”

“Oh,” I said. “No — I haven’t, actually.”

She took a seat. “I want you to brace yourself. Your gums are tender, so this is going to be painful.”

She jammed the floss between two of my bottom teeth. I screamed, my legs reflexively kicking.

“Hold still!” The hygienist yanked out the floss. A stream of blood and flecks of lettuce stuck to her mask.

“Please,” I said, moaning. “Please stop.”

The hygienist cinched the floss tighter around her finger.

“Tell me,” she said, leaning close. “Is it safe?”

“Stop,” I said, my voice a whisper. “Please.”

“Is it safe?”

I closed my eyes, shuddering. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The hygienist crammed the floss between the next pair of teeth and wrenched it back and forth, sawing down to the gumline. A wad of putrid foulness flicked out.

My cries echoed off the walls, filtering into the hall and tapering to the Reader’s Digest-filled waiting room, whose snug couches and sunny interior belied the chamber of horrors within.

However, I am flossing more now, so there’s that.

11 comments on “Why I started flossing more

  1. Allen, oh how I loved your Olivier like performance here. There is nothing quite like that dramatic moment when patient and surgical tooth fairy take center chair. The lights go up, a hush falls on the crowd (of dental assistants), and that’s when you realize… all the worlds a (dental) stage! But your performance in that chair was some of the best method acting I think I’ve ever seen—metaphorically speaking of course. Mind you, Dustin Hoffman withstanding. And you did it beautifully, right up until the moment when the dentist yelled…CUT! Isn’t it amazing what they can do with fake blood these days? Anyway, loved it, loved it, ENCORE, ENCORE! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not a huge fan of dentists, so I had to read this post with my averted eyes. This turned out not be be very easy, but I got there eventually.

    I can understand something of what you went through. I don’t usually get a lecture and demonstration about flossing, but I do get one about brushing my teeth in the correct way. In fact, I brush my teeth a lot and carefully too, but I still always seem to get the lecture, after which, the hygienist tries to sell me my a “proper” (=expensive) brush.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s curious that to brush your teeth “correctly,” your hygienist recommends a specialized toothbrush that she just happens to have available for purchase. The coincidence is uncanny.

      I know that humankind has concocted all sorts of technological advancements, but when it comes to toothbrushes, it seems like there must be a limit to how cutting-edge they can get. At the end of the day, it’s a handle with bristles. If the scientific community is going to pour time and money into the betterment of the human race, maybe they can turn their attention toward a cure for cancer? At the risk of sounding like a rabid anti-dentite, I think we’ve maxed-out toothbrush technology!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m inclined to agree. I mean, how many different ways can you stick a bunch of bristles on a plastic stick? I’m sure we’ve exhausted all the major possibilities. I guess there may be one or two fringe ideas still be be tested (flaming bristles, coated in deadly poison, etc.).

        Liked by 1 person

      • Humans are nothing if not inventive, but I agree — when it comes to the toothbrush, we’ve pretty much taken the concept as far as it can go. (Though flaming bristles would be a nice twist … unless one has gingivitis. Raging flames might not be the best treatment for receding gums. But then again, I’m not a card-carrying member of the American Dental Association, so my opinion doesn’t carry a lot of weight.)


  3. I’ve endured a few marathon sessions in the chair myself.. This brought it all back in ghastly detail. At least somebody is exposing these monsters, paid handsomely to act out their sick sadistic fantasies, while pretending they’re doing us a favour. The horror.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Their brutal savagery cannot be overstated. They lure you into their seemingly innocent lair (decorated with dusty plastic plants and outdated issues of TIME Magazine) before beckoning you beyond the front desk, to the chair. Horrifying implements await in this horrifying chamber of terror, along with a poster on the ceiling that says “Be sure to brush regularly.”

      And after performing their twisted and profane acts, they have the audacity to ask us to schedule at least two appointments a year.

      Liked by 1 person

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