No Run on Floss

I knew something was weird when all the stores started running out of toilet paper.

Why toilet paper? My understanding is that COVID-19 is a respiratory virus. I don’t think we have to worry about pooping a lot more. But let’s be honest…we humans are a weird bunch. I think that as soon as we heard that the stores were running out of toilet paper that our lizard brains decided that we needed ALL THE TOILET PAPER.

So, we have a run on toilet paper.

What I have noticed is that there has been no run on floss. Every store I visit remains well stocked. They’ve got waxed, unwaxed and mint. From what I can see, the supplies of dental tape are at an all time high. Floss buyers will be in good shape for the next few months as this novel virus runs its course.

It comes as no surprise to me that our national floss supply remains unaffected. As a dentist, patients who run through a lot of floss are few and far between. I will admit that patients that use a lot of floss generally don’t end up in my chair. When they do come to my office, they’re typically making the day of one of my hygienist with their healthy gums and sparkling smiles. The flossers out there make the job of a dental hygienist much easier. Flossers are the ones who pay attention to their oral health and in general don’t need to spend a lot of time in the dental office.

But now we live in strange times. A few days ago the American Dental Association recommended that all dental offices “postpone elective treatment.┬áThat means we’re only treating emergencies. The unique virulence and unknown qualities of this new coronavirus makes it so providing regular dental care like cleanings, fillings and crowns could be dangerous. People might have the virus in their system and not show any signs of it, so we as dentists and hygienists can’t treat typical dental needs in a safe and predictable manner at this time. We don’t want to be the reason this virus spreads, so most of us have closed.

Several states have issued a mandate that requires dental offices to cease regular dental care and only offer emergency care. In Oregon this mandate is for 3 months! With how fast things have been moving, it’s likely that these mandates will cover the United States pretty quickly.

So what does this mean to dental patients?

It means that you should go buy some floss. Get a new toothbrush (soft bristles, please) and some toothpaste. We’re going through a lot of stuff here, and it’s time for you to up your dental home care game. You won’t have the dentist to fall back on except for true dental emergencies for awhile.

What do we mean by a “dental emergency?” We’re talking about something that might cause a dental patient to go to the emergency room. You read that right. We’re only trying to keep people out of the ER. So that’s uncontrollable pain, swelling, fever and infection.

You won’t be getting your teeth cleaned. You won’t be having that cavity fixed. We’re not going to be straightening your crooked teeth and we won’t be placing any implants for awhile.

In case you’re wondering how dentists and our teams are feeling about this…make no mistake. It kills us to not be able to be there for you. The anger and fear going through our dental communities is palpable. A lot of good people are out of work and we’re sad that we’re not able to do what many of us feel we were called to do. When we’re able to, we’ll be back.

Go out and get some floss, folks. Learn to use it. And take care of yourselves.