[Strung Out Over Flossing]

April 1, 2006
“O, how this spring of love resembleth the uncertain glory of an April day!"

“O, how this spring of love resembleth
The uncertain glory of an April day!
- William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616),
The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act 1 Scene 3

I was almost at a loss for words when this e-mail came from a good friend. This is excerpted from www.phillyburbs.com on Feb. 11.

Strung out over the new “bite-me” disease

It causes severe gum bleeding, destroys bathrooms, and has wrecked thousands of marriages, according to a Greater Philadelphia support group combating America’s newest hidden disease, Hyper Flossing Syndrome.

“At first, it was just a problem with me messing up the bathroom mirror,” said Zelda Thigmorn of Mawhacaucus, N.J. “Then I was flossing not just after every meal, but after every time I thought about food. Even after I would see a sandwich in a magazine. One night I had to give a speech at evening school, and I was spitting blood from my gums. Fortunately, it was a talk about the Leonard-Duran ‘No Mas’ fight and it seemed appropriate.”

How widespread is HFS? The support group claims 55 million people suffer.

“Flossing has caught on with the celebrity crowd and bling now includes silver-plated floss holders,” said Mastrangelo Dent, professor of public hygiene at the Trenton School of Body Maintenance. “In fact, floss companies have been making custom-sized products for people such as David Letterman, Michael Strahan, and Mike Tyson, who have extra spaces. Tyson carries his floss in a large ear-shaped holder that hangs down from his belt loop. The floss is so thick that one night at a club he cut some off and jumped rope with it. Quite fascinating.”

Toothpick sales have been severely damaged by the flossing craze. Not only are individuals buying more floss, but institutions and eating facilities are cutting back on toothpicks.

“There is a diner in Trenton that just installed a floss dispenser and created a small room where the flosser can be isolated and keep dental debris away from others,” Dent said.

Dental debris is no laughing matter, Thigmorn said. During dozens of daily flossing episodes in her bathroom, the mirrors, walls, and even the ceiling became encrusted with debris, creating tension between Thigmorn and her husband. He finally required her to wear a large, plastic dry cleaning bag over her head during flossing.

Dr. Dent said that one floss manufacturer has created a magnetic-type floss that clings to dental debris so it will not fly away. The company has been asking users to return used floss in exchange for new containers.

Unfortunately, that firm was shut down when the World Health Organization discovered that the company had plans to ship the used floss to third-world countries as “Meals on a String.”

Meanwhile, Thigmorn said the first group therapy sessions for sufferers of HFS have helped her addiction. The group was served ribs and corn on the cob and then required to sit without flossing for two hours.

“We’re making headway,” she said. “I no longer carry floss around with me. But don’t tell anybody about the yo-yo in my purse.”

Maybe it is a hoax, but it is April. Happy April, and may the floss be with you.

With warm regards,

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS
Dr. Doniger is the editor of Woman Dentist Journal.