Art by Jackie Rae Wloski
Warning: this is a rant.
I was at a dental convention today, here in Montreal, where I hang out. The commercial exhibits were busy selling everything dental under the sun, including lasers, digital radiography, fancy equipment, and, of course, the staples: toothbrushes and toothpaste. I walked up to the two booths that sell these last items, well-known brands both starting with the letter C. No floss on display! None.
I had to ask for it and then they suggested I buy some and give samples to my patients, which I do anyway (why I should have to pay these companies so I could do their marketing for them is a different question.) So I said: “Why do I never see your company ads ever (EVER!) mention floss, since you’re supposedly promoting good dental health. I see ads on television and in magazines for your all-in-one toothpastes that do everything: protect against plaque, tartar, bad breath, stain, decay, and anything else you can think of, except bring you on a better vacation or promote world peace, your fancy electronic, ultrasonic, super-vibrating toothbrushes with faster-to-accelerate-than-a-Italian-sports-car motors, but nary a mention of floss, which is probably the most effective means of keeping teeth and gums in good shape for a lifetime, with all the health benefits associated with that.” (See previous posts on this blog.)
I sometimes feel like a lone voice in the wilderness. I don’t have a big advertising budget like C and C. And it’s not like these companies would benefit in any way by people not flossing, since that’s what they sell and make money by. It is dental hygienists and dentists who have to pick up this ball and run with it, pushing this product, and are the ones who stand to lose out by having patients with good oral hygiene not needing their services as a consequence. Does this picture really make any sense?
In the pharmaceutical industry, there are a number of diseases not being addressed by research, because they affect few and the potential for profit is low after all the investment in time, money, and paperwork that’s required to develop a new drug. They’re called “orphan diseases”. Maybe floss is the “orphan drug” of the dental industry, not worth the effort of the manufacturers because their profit margin isn’t big enough, even though dental decay is the most prevalent infection in the world and could do with a little prevention.
The tobacco, fast food, corn syrup and sugar industries all try (or have tried in the past) to deny that their products are detrimental to health because their bottom lines depend on people continuing to buy them. The exact opposite is true for the makers of floss- their products are good for our health. So, whether you’re a capitalist (hooray for profits!) or a socialist (hooray for the people!) promoting floss is good for everyone (except maybe your dentist.)
So, C and C, and you know who you are and so do we, get out there. Make flossing the thing to do. You know how. Make us smile.