Flossing excuses: And you think you have heard them all?

March 25, 2005
Author of RDH magazine article asked for some outrageous excuses ... and she got them.

by Sheri B. Doniger, DDS

We always have to grit our teeth and smile, regardless of the seemingly absurdity of the response from our patients. We are asking them to tell us "why" they don't, won't, or aren't able to floss, but the reality of their excuses sometimes boggle the mind.

As promised in a related article in the November 2003 RDH magazine, I compiled a list of excuses readers forwarded to me. Here are several real reasons why our patients do not floss:

Margaret Feeney writes: "I have been practicing dental hygiene for almost 25 years and thought I had heard every excuse in the book until I heard this outrageous excuse on why the patient did not have to floss. This middle-age man told me with a straight face that he did not have to floss because he bit his nails and the clippings would weave in between his teeth and clean them!"

OK ¿

Lisa Floyd explains: "I have been in the dental field for nearly 12 years and have been a hygienist for the last four years. I have heard many excuses as to why people don't floss. (Many of which you listed in your article) Last week, however, I heard the BEST ever!! A 24 year old woman who still lives at home told me that she doesn't floss because her mother locks the bathroom at night. You can imagine the expression I had to try to mask. I calmly asked why her mother locks the bathroom, and she said because it attached to her mother's room and she was afraid someone would break in while she was sleeping. I then asked her what she did if she had to go to the bathroom and she said she goes before she leaves for work and then just has to hold it. I couldn't believe what I was hearing! But still wanting to reform this girl into a daily flosser, I then recommended a very clever solution to her dilemma. I told her to keep some floss in her room!! She just looked at me like I was crazy."

We are such great problem solvers!

This from Linda Galloway: "I have two outrageous (I believe) excuses for not flossing. First, a male patient came in and before I could say anything reported that he "Hadn't been flossing as much as he used to." When I chided him and said, 'Now, Ed, why not?' He said, 'Because I bought a new car.' You can imagine the thoughts going through my mind. Payments too high? No money left for floss? When I posed these questions, he said, 'No, I floss in my car and the new one doesn't have a glove box in the middle of the seats. I've tried putting my floss on the seat and it goes down the crack. I've tried putting it on the dash, but it slides to the other side when I turn a corner.' I laughed and told him that was the best excuse I'd heard. He said, 'Well, I bought one of those things that fit on the hump, so now I'll do better.'"
It's something to notify the car manufacturers of for future reference.
Again, from Linda: "Another patient told me he hadn't been flossing because his wife said she would divorce him if he didn't quit flossing! Then told me the rest of the story. Seems he would get ready for bed, brush his teeth, and then floss on the way to the bedroom. Seems he just dropped the (used) floss on the nightstand, dresser, or wherever! Can't say as I blame the wife for being upset."

For this, I have no comment!

Linda further explained: "I have to tell you one about my most dedicated patients. This was a woman who had three (I suppose you would call them hyperactive) boys. Whew! They were wild. Anyhow, she chased them all day long. She told me that it had been especially hectic one day. She followed her nightly routine of brushing and then sitting on the side of the bed to floss. She woke up the next morning with the floss still between her teeth! She said, 'I guess I just fell asleep right in the middle of the whole thing!' Now that's the other side of the coin."

Yes, talk about being women being overscheduled on everybody else's time.

From Cindy Whitson, who writes: "Okay, we've all heard 'The dog ate my homework,' but I about fell out of my chair laughing when my patient said, 'The cat ate my dental floss.'"
Actually, this is very close to the truth. I had a Siamese cat who got into my floss font. Remember those silver dual floss holders of years gone past? Tsimis thought it was a great toy.

Lori Taylor reminds us of the famous "Flossing makes my gums bleed." But she also enlisted several of her friends to submit their excuses.

Tiffany Decker reports: "Here are some good ones I've heard! 'Because it hurts my fingers,' 'It makes my gums bleed,' 'Because my cat will get a hold of it when I am done and will choke on it,' 'Isn't rinsing the same thing?' 'No time,' 'Can't afford floss,' and finally, 'I like it better when you do it.' Of course they do! We can see in their mouths without spattering up the mirror."

Speaking about mirrors, Andi Nadulek informed me that one of her patients "only flosses three times a week, because those are the days the cleaning lady comes to clean the mirror." Talk about high maintenance!

And finally, last but certainly not least, one of my all time favorites (since we are in the throes of remodeling), Jackie writes about an excuse she has heard many times: "My bathroom is being remodeled." Actually, Jackie, no, I hadn't heard THAT one before, but it is great.

Thank you all for your contributions. I am sure there are plenty more rational reasons out there. Regardless of the apparent gravity our patient's feel they place in their generated excuses, we know that flossing is truly beneficial to them. If they would only spend half the time flossing as coming up with excuses, we may be out of business! Just remember: may the floss be with you and your patients to achieve great dental health. Happy flossing!

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS, has been in the private practice of family and preventive dentistry for more than 20 years. A dental hygiene graduate of Loyola University, prior to receiving her dental degree, her current passion is focusing on women's health and well-being issues. She may be contacted at (847) 677-1101 or [email protected].