The spiritual dangers of irregular flossing | Doug Bursch

If flossing were truly important, half of us would be dying of gum disease. We'd be daily opening the obituaries, lamenting the loss of another fine upstanding citizen who'd succumbed to the inevitable consequences of irregular flossing.

If flossing were truly important, half of us would be dying of gum disease.

We’d be daily opening the obituaries, lamenting the loss of another fine upstanding citizen who’d succumbed to the inevitable consequences of irregular flossing.

However, for the most part, we’re all surviving the effects of our flossing truancy. I’m well aware that people exist who truly follow the recommended flossing regiment, but I assume they are too busy doing all the recommended things in life to continue reading.

Speaking of recommendations, what happened to all those commercials with four out of five dentists recommending the latest oral hygiene product? It always bothered me that the dentists could never find consensus. No matter how great the product, there was always one cranky, lone wolf dentist unwilling to give it the thumbs-up. I wonder if that naysaying dentist annoyed the other four. I think I read somewhere that four out five dentists are slightly annoyed with one out of five dentists.

To be honest, my early dental memories are tainted by a fair amount of shame. I was not a big fan of brushing teeth and flossing was a twice annual event that corresponded with the morning of my twice-annual dental check-ups. My dentist and his dental hygienists were well aware of my unwillingness to heed their gum disease warnings. Consequently, every visit included some sort of verbal disciplinary action, frequently accompanied by graphic visuals of what my future mouth would look like if I continued with my floss-less life.

I also wasn’t a big fan of the hygienist flossing my teeth. It just seemed humiliating, like having someone clean behind your ears or blow your nose. Actually, the whole process of regular dental checkups was less than empowering. The awkward guttural conversations; the gritty, pasty, tooth scrub, wax and buff; the saliva/tongue sucker; the radiated x-ray snapshot; and the stop-time-in-its-place fluoride treatment. All of this leading up to a stern dental talk and the drumroll anticipation of discovered cavities. Of course, all this trauma was somewhat offset by the ability to pick a 10-cent toy from a faux treasure box.

Maybe these less than ideal childhood memories are the reason I don’t regularly visit the dentist as an adult. It could also be my poor dental coverage. I think my plan only covers four out of five of my visible teeth when awkwardly smiling. There’s a free yearly tongue scraping, but I always forget to bring the coupon.

As a pastor, I sometimes think my admonitions for individuals to get involved in a local church come across in the same vein as suggested flossing. Even if one thinks it’s probably a good idea, it still seems like more of an awkward chore or a frustrating imposition. If I warn people of the dangers of churchless living, I begin to feel as if I’m threatening gum disease.

To make matters worse, some individuals don’t have very positive memories when it comes to early childhood church visits. Others have been less enamored with their twice yearly, Christmas and Easter checkups. Sadly, for many people, church is a theoretically good idea that they just can’t seem to put into practice.

What do I say about this dilemma? Well, to be honest, I just want you to know that you are welcome to visit. But you are loved whether or not you visit. If we’ve made you feel uncomfortable in the past, I sincerely apologize. If you need a place to grow in the knowledge of why you exist, then I’ve got some great recommendations. In fact, I’m pretty sure four out five dentists would find at least one of my recommendations worth pursuing. As far as that fifth dentist … well, we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

“Live from Seattle with Doug Bursch” can be heard 4-6 p.m. weekdays on KGNW 820 AM. Doug Bursch also pastors Evergreen Foursquare Church. Evergreen meets at 10 a.m. Sundays at 2407 M St. SE next to Pioneer Elementary School. He can be reached at or, or found on Twitter @fairlyspiritual.