Double up the dental floss

Double up the dental floss

This week I kicked off my Tuesday with an hour at the dentist. (I know, I know, you’re tired of all the best stories you read starting exactly this way.)

I love my hygienist, and have been with her for a long time. She knows I love her, because I’ve sent a ton of people her way. If my dentist had a referral program, I’d have free toothbrushes and tooth scrapings coming out my ears. (That’s the last time I’ll use the word scrape, I promise.)

When I got there on Tuesday, she asked if I had any issues with my teeth. Just the same old ones, I told her. (Because I know you’re dying of curiosity here, the issues go back to me having braces as a kid. I had them put on when I was in third grade, and taken off when I was in sixth. This was awesome in many ways. But as a third grader, I didn’t do a terrific job of using my floss threaders and scrubbing around my brackets, and you probably can’t tell but my hygienist and I can. That’s probably too much information.)

My hygienist listened and nodded, and then we were ready to get started. She reached for her roll of dental floss and unspooled the single longest piece I’ve ever seen, not counting the time when I found one of the kids delightfully unraveling a new roll on the bathroom floor. I was a little scared, and asked if my teeth were really that bad.

What, this? she said. This is normal. Nobody likes to floss, and that includes me, and I learned a long time ago that a loooooong piece of dental floss makes the job easier. 

Reader, I don’t think “stingy” is a key character trait for me, but I am stingy with my dental floss. I treat it like a game I’m trying to win, a precious commodity I’m hoarding—how little can I get by with today? And guess what: I hate flossing. It’s awkward and a little gross. But I never noticed the obvious: that dreaded task would be easier if I unspooled an extra six inches. It might be a whole lot easier if I used an extra twelve like my hygienist.

Of course I wanted to explain all this to her, but that’s a little hard to do when you’re the one in the chair with the tools in your mouth. (I’m amazed at how much she can understand me when I tell her things in dentist-speak, but my quantity of words is limited!)

And so I’m telling you instead: it’s not hard to unroll some extra floss. It costs almost nothing—I mean, I just bought a hundred-yard roll at the grocery store for a dollar. Why have I not been making this dreaded job easier the whole time?

Readers, I’d love to hear: don’t feel compelled to tell me the intimate details of your oral hygiene routine, but do YOU use a lavish length of dental floss? And here’s what I REALLY want to know: what simple tips and tricks have made the hard things in your life easier, in practice or in attitude? Dental floss is my example today, but I’m sure you have dozens of similar tidbits to share. Tell us about them in comments?

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125 comments

  1. Ally says:

    I am a new regular flosser. What made me make the switch after 36 years is realizing that getting a cavity filled costs about $350-$400. Which is like paying myself a dollar a day to floss. For some reason that did it for me!

  2. Lisa says:

    I keep extra trash bags in the bottom of my trash can. This way you don’t have to go scrambling for a bag, or someone doesn’t replace it quickly and you accidentally throw trash in the can itself! Also, this helps if someone is over and offers to take out the trash. They don’t have to ask where the replacement bags are located.

  3. Anne Marie says:

    Has no one yet mentioned using the “good” floss? This is what turned me into a daily flossed – springing for the floss that feels good and makes it easy (Glide, IMHO). Bonus if it has a mint flavor!

    Also using Amazon’s “subscribe and save” so we never run out.

  4. Diane says:

    Try keeping some floss, a toothbrush and some toothpaste in the shower. Sometimes it’s easier to take care of your teeth while cleaning the rest of yourself at the same time.

  5. Shawn Crane says:

    Hate flossing and stopped doing it about 3 years ago when my dentist told me about GUM brand toothpicks. Delightful little rubber-tipped picks with ridges that catch food. They even come with a slim little case for your purse, pocket, or car console. Every once in a while I’ll use a floss pick if something is really caught but they are rarely needed. My hygienist regularly tells me how well I must be flossing as my teeth and gums are in such good shape.

  6. Karen says:

    Maybe b/c I’m older than I think most of you are (a Grandmother), I have so much to do every night before I go to bed. I’m going to floss. I’m going to use good skincare daily, and I’m going to use the Sonicare toothbrush! But since sleep became harder for me with age, I also have to slow down earlier to settle down to sleep. So instead of waiting until the last minute to get ready for bed when flossing and all the above are just too much, I start it all (I even take a bath at night to begin to relax … ) at least an hour before I want to go to sleep. We’re not talking a spa experience every night; I just begin the routine early. Then I can stretch a little and read all I can before I fall asleep. Contacts, flossing, skincare routine (trust me), bath take a lot of time every single night, but what am I missing out on? Inane tv? I actually have more time to read than ever.

  7. I have a really small mouth, and I just can’t get all my fingers in there with dental floss wrapped around them. So, I pull off a huge length of floss and tie the ends together so I have a big circle. I just go around the circle with only a little part for each space and I don’t have to worry about cramming all of that in my mouth at once. I don’t know if this made sense, but it works for me.

  8. Melissa Fish says:

    I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer, but please reconsider using those individual flosser things. They are EVERYWHERE. Like our generation’s version of cigarette butts, I see them all over the place, and I live in a rural Alaskan town. Please take into consideration that that plastic thing you used once, isn’t going to magically go away when you are done with it–it takes hundreds of years to biodegrade if it EVER does. So if you love beaches, animals, nature, our planet, use a cotton floss. I use Dental Lace, which comes in a beautiful refillable dispenser. ZERO WASTE. Little things will make a difference.

  9. Kristina says:

    When my hygienist was on vacation, the substitute they brought in turned me onto pre-threaded floss picks. They were a total game changer for me. I had always thought somehow that they were cheating and the substitute told me, if they got me to floss more regularly, they were a good thing, not a cop out!

  10. Darcy says:

    My dad taught me this trick: double-tie the ends of about an 8 inch piece of floss together to make a circle. It’s so much easier to hold, doesn’t cut off the circulation in your fingers, and you just work your way around the circle as you floss. I showed my husband and he does it too, now.

    The other trick for me is deciding which foods to make and which to buy. Right now I make my own nut milk but buy the granola. I make my own bread but buy bagels. I’ve given myself permission to make my life easier when I need to.

  11. Ellen says:

    CoCo floss!!! I have a hereditary predilection to gum disease and after getting 6 months to clean up my act. I started trying every type of floss I could. Then I read about Coco floss in Real Simple and tried it. Why is it magic? 1-Its turquoise colored so you can see all the gross stuff that comes out (highly motivating) and 2- its scented (and not just mint or cinnamon but strawberry or coconut. Now flossing my teeth feels more spa like so I take the time to take care of me.

  12. Shar says:

    One life hack I use is for hard to find items. On the item or it’s packaging I write where the item was purchased from. For items hard to find and infrequently used, remembering where I bought it from a year earlier was near impossible. This takes the guess work out of it.

  13. I just don’t floss. I hate it, and it doesn’t improve my dental health, which is excellent: 3 cavities when I was 8 years old (and used to chew sugared gum all the time) and none since!

    I do rinse my mouth with hydrogen peroxide about twice a week; I keep the bottle in the shower to remind me. Earlier this year, I started using a Waterpik at my dentist’s suggestion to *prevent* gum problems as I get older. I now use the Waterpik instead of floss on those relatively rare occasions when I get something stuck between teeth. I was using it for routine cleaning every night for a while, but I’ve slid to about twice a week.

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