Sink your teeth into debate about flossing

I have steadfastly accepted as fact anything preceded by the words “They say…”

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day; they say you should drink seven glasses of water daily; they say you should wait 30 minutes after eating to go swimming.

Luckily, all of these directives have proven false. But I am most delighted by this latest debunking:

No proof that daily flossing prevents cavities and gum disease

Yes, the United States government just released some new health guidelines leaving out flossing, because there is “no research to back up the claim.”

Damien Walmsley of the British Dental Association concurs, “It’s always important to tell people the basics, but flossing is not part of the basics.” Walmsley is from Great Britain, where apparently many believe that brushing is not part of the basics, either.

Truth is, flossing never has been very popular. When a dental research firm did a little digging (ouch!), they uncovered the most common excuses people have given for failure to floss daily.

Here are a few of my favorites:

I am not coordindated enough.

I can relate to this. When I first started flossing, I made the mistake of doing it while looking in the mirror. I had to stop that, because I was punching myself in the nose three or four times a week.

Here’s another:

I am pregnant.

This is a feeble excuse, especially since 35 percent of the people saying it were men.

And this:

I have perfect teeth. No food ever gets stuck in my teeth. My teeth are amazing.

Well, he’s not my choice for the next president, but I do think this guy has a good set of choppers.

Skeptics of these new studies maintain that flossing is difficult to research because most people don’t floss correctly. One investigator also noted that in dental research, “People tend to take better care of their teeth when they know they are being observed.”

That could get kind of weird. “Mary Ellen, can you come in the bathroom for a minute? I want you to watch me do something.”

Consumers spend two billion dollars a year on dental floss, which is estimated to be about a half-million yards of the stuff, or enough to go around the earth 20 times. This may suggest a very dental-hygienically aware planet, but remember that a lot of that half a million yards was used as emergency shoelaces, fishing line and picture hangers.

There’s actually a blog about 1,001 ways to use dental floss. It includes lots of clever ideas, but strangling someone or using it for a prison break do not speak to my personal needs.

A final note: dental floss was invented by Levi Spear Parmly in the early 1800s. His wife thought his idea needed some tweaking, because 14 yards of thread wrapped around a rock didn’t have much sales success at the local general store.

“Look, Levi, instead of your invention, how about making tiny, pointy wooden sticks that you can pick your teeth with? You could call them Spear Picks. Clever, huh?”

“Better let me do the thinking, dear. And that other idea of yours, making pants out of denim and calling them Levi’s? I don’t think that will fly, either.”

Television personality Dick Wolfsie writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to