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Life Lessons

This Giant Visage Of Jerry Seinfeld Is What Finally Got Me To Floss

A poster of Jerry Seinfeld showing his perfect teeth. It's Dental Health Adviser from Fall 1993, and it's a large poster. It's telling you to floss.
Photo: Dan McQuade/Defector

I want to make it clear that I have good teeth. I got regular dental care as a child. I had braces. My teeth have shifted a little bit since then—and as a vain, paranoid person I am very self-conscious about it—but in reality they’re fine. I do like my smile, especially after I learned the “testing” trick from John Madden’s personal photographer. But my wife has perfect teeth. I am jealous.

I do have bad teeth genetics. My mom calls them “Hall teeth,” which is her side of the family (and my middle name). I had cavities on basically every trip to the dentist as a kid. I had a root canal on a six-year-old molar when it was coming in; it took half a dozen procedures. I remember throwing up afterward in a wastebasket at the drugstore while my mom picked up pain meds.

And so I hated going to the dentist. I got yelled at a lot, even though I do not think it was always my fault. As an adult, this aversion to dentists and a lack of luxury bone insurance meant I rarely went. When I finally did, I learned that your mouth does not have to hurt. I got a few cavities fixed. I found a good dentist—he liked to joke around and did not yell at me—and began going regularly. My dental health improved. I started using whitening strips at home. I achieved better dental health. Unlike Alex Rodriguez, I have not received a gum disease diagnosis.

But I always got dinged for one thing: I did not floss. It was just not part of my oral health habits. I knew it was something I should be doing, and when I occasionally did floss I actually kind of liked it. It hurt, but it was the kind of pain I welcomed. I’d spit blood into the sink, which was metal. I’d do a thorough brushing afterwards. The pain would subside and I’d feel really good.

My wife flosses her perfect teeth all the time. She alone could not convince me to begin flossing, but eventually she unveiled a secret weapon. Or, rather, my mother-in-law did. She brought us a 20-inch-by-30-inch laminated poster of Jerry Seinfeld’s face telling you to floss. It is a poster of the Fall 1993 edition of Dental Health Adviser, which appears to have been a quarterly publication that primarily put out dental health PSAs. It was a different time in media: The bottom of the poster lists 30 employees. For reference, Defector has 25.

The poster features some notes about how Jerry Seinfeld is a meticulous flosser, and it has some almost-jokes about flossing from Seinfeld. Imagine if you went to a performance and he ended his set with, “Brushing and flossing: They’re the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers of dental hygiene.” Eh, in his voice I can kind of feel it working.

Apparently, this was on the wall at Jan’s childhood dentist, Dr. Deem. (“A hunky Republican,” my wife says.) My mother-in-law, who rules, asked if she could have it when they were done with it. The hunk dentist apparently agreed, and she held onto it until her daughter bought a house with some guy she eventually married and had a kid with. Also, it was a good investment: Though they are in better condition, the two copies for sale on eBay are listed at $999 and $1,250. I bet you could make an offer.

I don’t think my mother-in-law could have fathomed that price, or how much this poster would help her future son-in-law. I put it on the wall of my bathroom. It horrifies me every time I walk in. But it does work. I have never flossed more in my life. I floss all the time now, and I have Jerry Seinfeld to thank.

On a recent trip to the dentist, I received the following compliment for the first time ever: “Good job with the home care.” Suddenly, I can’t wait for my next appointment.

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