High-strung hygienists chew out all who dare to brush off floss fuss


March 02, 1995|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Sun Staff Writer

This may not be a problem for you, but it's a problem for me and millions of other Americans who, I'm sure, join me in saying to our dental hygienists: What is it with you people and flossing?

Do you people ever talk about anything else? If a bunch of dental hygienists are out for a few drinks, does the evening automatically begin with one playfully punching the other on the shoulder and saying: "So . . . you been flossing?"

And as one round of cocktails follows another and the hour grows late, does the conversation remain fixed (though deteriorating) on the same subject?

"Johnson & Johnson, waxed, mint-flavored . . . God, tha's great shtuff."

"Guy today said he never flosses."


"Yep. I tol' him . . ."

"Guy like that, you smack 'im."

"I tol' him: 'Sir, flossing is im. . ."

"Just smack 'im, is all."

I keep waiting for these people to lighten up on the subject, but they never do. This was evident the other day when I went to have my teeth cleaned and receive my regular brow-beating from Olga, my dental hygienist.

As soon as I was in the chair, Olga came goose-stepping into the room.

"Good morning, Olga," I said.

"Worm, have you been flossing?" she asked.

"Well, I . . ."


"Not as much as I should, Your Worship."

This, of course, was not the answer Olga wanted to hear.

When dental hygienists ask if you've been flossing, there's only one answer they want to hear. And that answer is: "Yes, Your Worship, I've been flossing. Your Worship said to floss three times a day and that's what I've been doing. Honest. Cross my heart."

Of course, few people can look their hygienist in the eye and say, honestly, that they've been flossing as much as they should.

To these people, I would offer one bit of advice: You might want to think about lying.

Because the last thing you want to do is admit you haven't been flossing to your hygienist. These people do not take that sort of news well.

In Olga's case, her eyes narrow and her face gets all red and you can almost see tiny puffs of steam coming out her ears.

At moments like this, I become convinced she's going to smack me.

In fact, I figure she's going to do what my mother used to do, which was to yell as she delivered each smack: "DIDN'T . . . I . . . TELL . . . YOU . . . TO . . . FLOSS!"

But Olga hasn't smacked me yet, bless her heart. When I admit I haven't been flossing, all she ever says is: "I see."

Then she picks up her explorer and orders me to open my mouth, at which point I know I'm doomed.

There is nothing more frightening than having someone who's mad at you poking around in your mouth with a sharp instrument.

But that's the thing about going to the dental hygienist: It's the only place where you know you'll get a lecture. Even though you're an adult.

If you bring your car to Jiffy Lube, an angry guy doesn't come walking out of the garage and say: "Didn't I tell you to change your oil every 3,000 miles?! Didn't I?!"

When the lawn-care man visits your home, he doesn't grab you by the scruff of the neck and shout: "Didn't I say to give the grass more water? What is wrong with you?"

But these dental hygienists, they think it's perfectly OK to lecture you like you're a 3-year-old.

I always feel like telling them: "Look, I know I should be flossing more and that it helps prevent gum deterioration, periodontal disease and so on. But I can't stay in front of the bathroom mirror all day running a piece of twine between my teeth because, well . . . I have a life, OK?"

Anyway, getting back to Olga, she was still plenty steamed as she cleaned my teeth. Which meant she was digging that scaler (or whatever they call it) extra viciously between my teeth and gums. By the time it was all over, there was so much blood in my mouth you'd have thought I was chewing glass.

"Don't forget to floss," she said sweetly as I lurched out of the chair.

I wanted to say: "Turn the record over, Olga. It's playing the same old tune."

But of course I was much too scared for that.

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