Let a faithful flosser string you along for a while

Monday, May 8th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

As plenty of you know, not everyone flosses. But for those of us who do, it can be a ritual requiring a "wardrobe" of flosses that surpasses the shoe closet of a fashion fanatic.

A good flosser does it daily, right before the holy brushing of the teeth. My routine begins as I open the top drawer in my bathroom and silently inspect my neatly arranged selection of flosses. Dropping a Spooky Tooth CD onto the player, I begin Phase One: the "normal" teeth.

For this purpose, Johnson & Johnson hawks more than a dozen varieties of floss. The best-seller, says spokesman John McKeegan, is waxed mint. But my teeth have a preference for the fluoride-treated.

I snuggle the floss down between my molars, tautly slide it into the gap and whisk away a molecule of food with a wet pop.

Phase One goes down without a snag.

Next: Easy-Slide. It has Teflon.

You use it for those teeth that are very close to each other. Use regular floss, and it shreds. This can require tweezers, sometimes pliers, to remove. It's not a pretty picture.

To prevent such catastrophes, my dentist gave me a small free sample of Easy-Slide, whose lifespan I've extended significantly by using tiny, tiny amounts. Hey, that one tight gap is a prima donna; why coddle it further?

But then the words of my dental hygienist, Shawna, echo in the bathroom.

"Only floss the teeth you want to keep," she says, smiling, her image floating in the mirror like Glenda the Good Witch. I ask her to leave, but resolve to be more forgiving of the gap and more generous with the Easy-Slide.

Finally, Phase Three, the Ultra Floss.

A puffy, Incredible-Hulk of a floss, it's prescribed for complicated dental work, such as a bridge.

A bridge means you are perhaps missing a tooth or two.

I have a bridge.

"Spooky Tooth" still blaring in the background, I absent-mindedly slide the Ultra Floss back and forth over the porcelain until I feel certain every micron of tartar has been removed.

Ultra session complete, I examine my teeth, now thoroughly flossed. I contemplate using the mint floss someone once gave me as a gift (he didn't realize I only do "plain"). I mull it on this particular day because the space by my eyetooth doesn't feel "fresh." But by then it is lunchtime, and I must get to work.

My desk used to be located next to a woman who knew there was floss in my drawer. Day in, day out, she would bring in her brisket, her corn on the cob, her popcorn, her poppyseed buns. And when she was done, she'd turn to me, pitifully.

"Why don't you bring in your own floss?" I'd mutter to myself, patiently handing over floss segment after floss segment (Ha. I gave her the minted).

Luckily, my desk has been moved. My new neighbor admits that in a pinch, he uses frayed threads from the inside of his pants pocket.

Could be worse: Before Johnson & Johnson introduced its first floss in 1896 (made of silk, until World War II when they switched to nylon), gum disease was treated with live leeches.

No word on whether they came in a fluoride version.