I’ve always enjoyed brushing my teeth, even as a kid—I mean, I swallowed a lot of that bubblegum toothpaste. A clean mouth is a universal joy. But I never knew how clean a mouth could feel until I started flossing, which is, perhaps to my shame, a more recent development. I’ll admit: there have been stretches of my own personal history when the only time I flossed was when someone did it for me at the dentist’s, or on an as-desperately-needed basis, like getting an air-popped popcorn husk wedged between tooth and gum.
But I’ve been flossing like an early-aughts rapper now that I’ve found these little individually-appropriated flossers. DenTek Comfort Clean Floss Picks are the best—the tape is slim enough not to get stuck between your teeth, and the handle bends but never breaks. The flosser, as a whole, looks like a miniature version of a lost ancient weapon, and it tastes like a baby mint leaf. I’ve gotten a little hooked on that scoured feeling that comes after a good floss, and also on the habit itself. If you ever bite your nails (and are trying to quit), consider switching to flossing. It’s a soothing ritual. Not only is it great to sit in bed at the end of the day with a flosser and an episode of Homeland—and go at, like really blindly digging in your gumline—but they’re also super-portable and discreet, so you can do it anywhere. Well, I should revise that: they’re discreet if you are.
It got to the point where I was taking them everywhere—there was a flosser in every pocket of every garment of mine that had pockets. Because you never know when you’ll get an unpleasant morsel stuck in a molar, right? There were Chaplinesque moments of these little unmentionables falling out of my pockets when I took my hands out. There was a flosser, mauled and trampled, at my usual supermarket parking space—I didn’t pick it to throw it away up because I wasn’t sure if it was mine (not realizing what a diseased notion it is to assume everyone else loses flossers at the same rate as mine). I flossed in restaurants, movie theaters, at bars, and weddings. Eventually its gets so automatic that you whip that little flosser out over the denouement of dinner with casual acquaintances, even as you’re holding forth on some lofty topic. I knew I needed to cut back when flossing was actually interrupting me while I was speaking.
But it was all worth it to hear at my routine dental visit: “I can tell that you’ve been flossing.” Coming from a hygienist, this was the most heart-swellingly wonderful, gratifying thing I’ve ever heard. “Oh,” I coyly gum a reply, her hands and tools still scouring my mouth, “You no-thiced.”
Photographed by Tom Newton.