Don't worry: the dentist won't shame you for not flossing
Now, perhaps this makes my dentist sound disingenuous or apathetic. I can assure you she's anything but. I've been seeing her for nearly 20 years, and she's a caring professional, but what came next in our conversation was perhaps the most enlightening.
More often than they're lied to, dentists feel like priests working a confessional. Patients break down and admit their sins, asking forgiveness and promising to floss every night and never even look at a Milk Dud again.
I didn't grovel to my dentist like a child this time, but I do carry some baggage from a brace-faced middle-class adolescence. I still think of a dentist as an enforcer of habits, a test to be passed, a guardian of my fragile chompers. But the next thing my dentist told me changed that.
She said that she's not my Mom.
Of course she thinks I should floss every day, cares about the well-being of all of her patients' oral ecosystems, and is proud that my employer offers a dental plan, but at the end of the day it's not personally consequential to her if I'm flossing. She doesn't lie awake with her presumably plaque-free gum line and perfect-toothed husband passing quiet judgement on my habits while thumbing through the pages of Dentist Monthly.
Apparently we're only lying to ourselves when we lie about flossing, and this whole process would hurt much less if just start flossing every night instead of hiding my string in a hole in the wall like a caveman.
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Dan Gentile is a staff writer at Thrillist. This is not the first time he has promised to floss more in an author bio, and it will not be the last. Follow him to oral accountability at @Dannosphere.