Yes Virginia, There will be a movie about dental floss

Gary Roma of Iron Frog Productions is working on a movie devoted to dental floss.

Floss Film 1

Who would ever imagine an entire movie about dental floss? The answer? Gary Roma of Iron Frog Productions.

Not only has filmmaker Mr. Roma thought of the idea, he's well into making the feature-length film called, "Hanging by a Thread: A Dental Floss Documentary," and he's having a blast filming it. He's learning more about dental floss than he ever thought possible.

His motivation? Like many people, Mr. Roma had a hard time getting himself to floss regularly, as he explains in this interview. But guess what? After learning so many interesing and offbeat facts about floss, he's now a believer who flosses his pearly whites every day.

Q: When and how did the idea to make a documentary about dental floss come to you?

A:
In a meeting with my therapist a number of years ago, I expressed my frustration with feeling stuck in patterns of behavior. I try to change things in my life, but after a few weeks, days, or even hours, I find myself slipping back into my old habits. I then struggle with the cynical thought of why should I ever try to change anything at all since the changes never last?

One example I brought up was that of flossing, thinking that this would help illustrate how I was feeling about other important issues in my life. I explained that I had been trying without success for years to get myself to floss regularly. I posted notes to myself all around my room, on my walls, and on the bathroom mirror. I placed floss containers in places I would notice them — on my phone, on my alarm clock, even in the refrigerator. And I would notice them, for a day or two, but then my consciousness would glaze over and the notes would blend into the background and I would stop flossing yet again. I felt powerless to remember to floss and make this small change in my life.

My therapist suggested that it might be helpful to look at the problem creatively. He asked me to think about what it would be like if I were to make a film about dental floss. So we spent the rest of the session tossing ideas back and forth. It was fun and funny to think about the subject in this way and to break away from the despair I had been feeling about making changes in my life. After this meeting, I went home and started researching the subject on the Internet. I discovered to my surprise that there were quite a few interesting floss stories out there. I knew then that this really would be the subject of my next documentary.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with this film?

A:
I want to demonstrate to viewers that there is more to floss than meets the tooth. By having audiences consider dental floss in a humorous light rather than the common guilt-ridden light, I think there's a better chance that they will be more open to starting to use it. By weaving these fun stories about floss with more educational segments about the vital (literally) importance of flossing, I hope to do an end run around the resistance to flossing. I hope this will then motivate people to be more hopeful about making other changes in their lives as well.



Q: What have you filmed for the documentary so far? I know you caught a monkey on film and interviewed inmates. What's some of your other unusual footage?

A: Here are some examples of creative and unusual uses of floss about which I've interviewed people for my film:


A dentist invented nicotine-laced dental floss to help his patients stop smoking. Here are a couple of quotes from my interview with him: “I’ve been asked if this should be used by people who don’t smoke, and somebody even once inquired would tusing it turn them into ‘chain flossers?’ Well, that’s the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. First of all, someone who doesn’t smoke who uses this will not like the taste. You get a distinct taste that is described as ‘disgusting’ to people who don’t smoke. It has a very minimal amount of nicotine to prevent one from becoming really addicted to it..”

The mayor of Allentown, Penn., discusses his election campaign. His opponent’s mud-slinging included the charge that the mayor wanted to raise the tax on dental floss.

A dentist from the Air Force did a study on patient preference for waxed versus unwaxed dental floss. He concluded that most people prefer waxed floss. The armed forces were all using unwaxed floss at the time. He recommended that waxed floss be used instead. The Pentagon accepted his recommendation and as a result, the military now buys only waxed floss. For this suggestion, he was honored at an awards ceremony and presented with a check for $500.

Nearly 300 teenagers from a camp in Wisconsin set a world record appeared in the the Guinness Book of World Records. The category? “Most people flossing simultaneously.” And they did it on one long strand of dental floss!

A prison official banned the use of dental floss at his institution after he found it was being used to cut through steel bars. (Toothpaste was used as an abrasive.) “I couldn’t believe it until I did it myself,” he said.

Periodontists wrote an article for a professional journal called, “The Odor Emitted from Dental Floss Used on Flossed Teeth and Non-Flossed Teeth for a One Week Time Period.” For this experiment, they recruited judges to measure and score the odor emitted from the floss.

Carson Cooman, a composer of contemporary classical music, wrote a piece for piano and flute called, "Dental Floss Tarantella.”

A periodontist claims that flossing can truly be a matter of life or death. He coined the term, “Floss or die.” His research shows the connection between heart disease and gum disease.

The author of "Wash your Hair with Whipped Cream" writes about extraordinary uses of ordinary household items. He demonstrates that dental floss makes a good cheesecake cutter.

A dentist has a unique gallery in her office entitled, “Flossing Around the World.” It consists of over 100 photos of her patients flossing in front of famous monuments all over the world.

Two inmates escaped from prison by using a rope made of dental floss. (They wanted to make a clean break.) In the movie I will be including interviews with the district attorney, the defense attorneys, the prison guard who tackled them, the prison warden, the judge, and the inmates (who were immediately recaptured). Watch a clip of the movie here.

A man proposed to his girlfriend by giving her a container of dental floss. He had replaced the floss with a proposal note, which she unraveled. She broke it off — the note, that is, not the engagement. They got married.

A scientist wrote an article called, “Female-Coerced Monogamy in Burying Beetles.” He used dental floss to tie up female beetles in an experiment so they couldn’t attack their mates.

The Crypt of Civilization in Atlanta is a time capsule created in the 1930s to “condense knowledge accumulated during the previous 6,000 years and seal it until May 28, 8113.” A partial list of contents includes a badminton set, a plastic beetle, a Donald Duck toy, a quart of beer, and, of course, a package of dental floss.

An Arkansas man was arrested and charged with breaking and entering when he was caught stealing quarters from the change machine at a carwash. The defendant had glued a strand of dental floss to a dollar bill and repeatedly put the bill into and then pulled it out of the change machine to steal the quarters. At the trial, his attorney argued that he could not be convicted of breaking and entering because no part of his body physically penetrated the machine. The defendant was found guilty and sentenced to four years in prison and fined $3,500.

I've interviewed the mayor of the town of Flossmoor, Illinois, as well as a collector of antique dental floss tins.

I've talked to a quick-thinking nurse who used dental floss to save her boyfriend from bleeding to death after a shark attack in the Bahamas. A shark shredded the man’s arm while he was spear fishing. The nurse used dental floss to tie off an artery in his arm.

A biologist wrote an article for a wildlife journal entitled, “An Alternative Means of De-scenting Skunks.” Instead of cutting off the scent glands when doing experiments on live skunks, he temporarily ties off the scent glands with dental floss.

I interviewed a spokesman for a company that manufactures "Plaque Attacker Dental Floss” — for dogs. He passionately explains the benefits of his product compared to the competition, and I got a response from the competition.

Frank Zappa’s dentist talks about Frank’s flossing behavior. (Frank Zappa wrote a song called “Montana,” in which he sings about moving to a farm in Montana to raise a crop of floss and become a dental floss tycoon.) I also interviewed Frank's widow, Gail Zappa.

Q: Who do you plan to market this to?

A:
I plan to show my film at festivals, museum film programs, dental association conferences, and on television. (I’ll floss that bridge when I come to it.)

Q: Is this your first venture into the dental world? If not, what other dental involvement have you had?

A:
Getting people to agree to do interviews for my earlier films was like pulling teeth. That's about the only connection I can think of.

Q: Do you truly find dental floss useful?

A: Very. I spent some time at artists' colonies in California and Connecticut working on the film. There I created 10-foot diameter spider webs that I spun from dental floss. Caught in the web were kernels of popcorn. I called them "Charlie's Web" as a tribute to the great Charles (C.C.) Bass, one of the giants of preventive dentistry.



Q: Do you use it daily?

A:
I've been flossing daily since I began making the film.

Q: What are some of your other recent films about "mundane" topics?

A: I made a film about cats that live in libraries throughout the country called, "Puss in Books: Adventures of the Library Cat." My first film was "Off the Ground & Off the Wall: A Doorstop Documentary." I plan on releasing both films on DVD around the same time I release the DVD of my floss film.

Q: Anything else you'd like to share with our readers?

A:
I plan to have a special guest at the premiere of the film. I joined Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay 14 years ago and became a Big Brother to a wonderful eight-year-old boy. One of the reasons we were matched is that he knew then that he wanted to be a filmmaker. We've spent a lot of our time together working on his films. My Little Brother will premiere one of his films when I premiere my floss film. My plan is to have a series of screenings together that will benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters.

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