Next to the pesky gray hair, which was the topic around our little hamlet a couple of months ago when I brought up the subject, is that other fascinating bastion of regression: aging teeth and gums. I know what you are thinking. No, not periodontist. You are thinking about the piece of lettuce from lunch that is still stuck up there between your gum and lip, or worse, in between your teeth. Lost, like those people on the island. I go after those errant pieces of food wight now wif my tung and darn if I can't dislodge them. Yikes. My teeth and gums, it seems, have just become my most gaping assets.

And hey, I floss. I am one of those who was shocked into flossing in my 20s by a fiery dentist who threatened that I would lose all my beautifully straight teeth. He was cute and fiery, so I became a believer right then and there. I even perfected a technique of subtly asking my dates if they flossed or not; I would not kiss them goodnight if they didn't have good dental hygiene. This may be one reason I didn't marry until age 36.

But it was an important question to ask. Gums count.

Growing up, I could not understand the proliferation of toothpicks in restaurants for older folks like Denny's. And then I had a Chinese chicken salad with sesame seeds at age 49. Evidently those seeds logged in my pearlies right across the front, like ebony on ivory. And I didn't know it. Went through the whole day and not a person said a word. (What is with that? Hello! Take the plunge and whisper, "Honey, you have something the size of Gibraltar in your teeth and, as we learned in second grade, swish and swallow.") Geez, now I carry toothpicks and a floss card and yes, I take an immediate gander in the rearview mirror the minute I get in the car.

Then, I began to wonder about whitening. Talk about does she or doesn't she. But unlike with my gray hair, I decided to go first class. Thanks to the influence of another cute dentist, I had trays made and fill them with some goop every quarter and wear them around like night cream, talking with what I imagine is a pretty sexy lisp, sort of like Lauren Hutton. I do this religiously every quarter, right after getting my IRA statement. Whiter teeth and good retirement savings, that's my motto.

Because of these good habits (OK, and electric toothbrushes, which is a whole other topic), we are all going to have our teeth longer. That's the good news. The bad news is that there is going to be a shortage of dentists to take care of all these teeth we own. You think Social Security is a problem. Try finding a dentist when we’re 85.

I tell you it’s enough to make one think about skipping the flossing while camping, but then I think, what if I also need a date when I’m 85?

Lori Sweeney lives and flosses in Hillsdale. Feel free to trade dental hygiene tricks the next time you see her or email{obj:749}.

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