Flossing prevents gum disease. Or so we’re told.
Today the UK Daily Mail ran an article with this provocative headline: “Is flossing your teeth a waste of time?: Dentists nag us about it. Scientists insist it prevents heart disease. But now an expert says they’ve all got it wrong…” The article references a new book called Kiss Your Dentist Goodbye by U.S.-based doctor Ellie Phillips that argues flossing to prevent gum disease or tooth decay is a waste of time because few people do it correctly.
In theory flossing prevents gum disease, which is caused by plaque, by preventing plaque buildup around the gum line. OK, sounds logical. But what’s the point of following a practice that’s so hard to do effectively? Design Thinking would seek to identify the problem from various users’ points of view. Dentists want to reduce teeth-related disease. Patients/consumers want to avoid unnecessary disease and the pain of teeth cleaning. Consumers want concrete returns for their purchases and habits. Let’s face it — flossing ain’t fun. Nor is using mouthwash twice a day (which Phillips argues is also of limited efficacy). Maybe it’s time to design an alternative that’s easier AND more effective.
But I’d rather not wait. As someone whose mouth chemistry NOW leads to rapid plaque buildup such that cleanings can be excruciating, every six months I regret all the days I was disinclined to floss. So why don’t I floss?
Who knows? *shrug* Maybe I’ve weighed the daily inconvenience of flossing against one hour of pain every six months (plus the dental hygienist’s silent judgment of me for not flossing). Or maybe I’m unable to think rationally, to embrace the long-term benefit of a tiny daily habit. Or perhaps I’m engaging in “avoidance behavior.” I avoid flossing because it’s a daily reminder of how awful it is to go to the dentist. What a vicious cycle.
Or maybe I’m overthinking this. Well, what’s a blog for? 😉