Earlier this year David Sedaris, the American humourist, took as his subject European dental care. He had, he wrote in The New Yorker, proudly told his French dentist he had been flossing every night. “Hey,” she retorted, “enough with the flossing. You have better ways to spend your evenings.”
To an American audience this was a cue for big laughs. Big, white, toothy laughs, from the nation that invented dental floss and went on to elevate flossing to the status of semi-religious devotion – they use nearly 5 million kilometres of it a year. Americans don’t flagellate themselves, they attack their teeth with nylon wire until they sting and bleed. And now, increasingly, so do we.