Growing up, my dentist’s office had a sign on the waiting room wall which read: You Only Need to Floss the Teeth You Want to Keep. I have to admit, as a young person I wasn’t moved to action. Not that I didn’t attempt the task—but having somewhat crowded teeth, flossing was very difficult for me as the floss would inevitably become stuck, then shredded, as I tried to pull it through those tight spaces. So I pretty much gave up.
I was quite pleased, however, when a flattened plastic version of floss was introduced to the market, enabling it to “glide” more smoothly through my tightly spaced teeth. But even still, my compliance to the task of daily flossing was inconsistent—despite the warnings of my dentist and his waiting room sign.
All that changed for me about a decade ago when I learned of a significant study which found that men with gum disease (periodontitis) had a 70% greater risk of developing heart disease, while a chronic case of “mere” gum irritation (gingivitis) caused them a 40% increase. Scientists found that bacteria which bred at the gum line was finding its way into the walls of the heart’s arteries. Furthermore, Harvard Medical School researchers found that the very same plaque which accumulates at the gum line can be absorbed into the blood stream where it can add to the clogging of arteries and veins.
Listen, my friend—if flossing our teeth can save both our teeth and our lives, maybe we should ramp up our dental hygiene practices and stack the health odds in our favor so we can age well, live long, and continue to serve strong.
Now would somebody please pass the floss…