Interview with Chrystle Cu of Cocofloss on Changing the way you floss
Finally, someone is rebranding dental floss. Dr. Chrystle Cu, a dentist of over 10 years, was tired of treating the same, preventable diseases and conditions over and over again. She'd tell her patients to floss, but the message would fall on deaf ears. A phenomenon I'm sure we're all too familiar with. On a mission to help you keep your teeth your whole life, Chrystle and her sister Catherine started Cocofloss to change the way you think about floss.
What’s your background?
I’ve been practicing general dentistry for just about a 10 years.
What inspired you to start a flossing company?
After practicing dentistry for several years, I had this overwhelming desire to create a better floss that people would look forward to using daily.
One of the biggest issues that I came across with nearly all my patients was that they weren’t flossing at all. I don’t think people understand how important their gums are. Gums frame your teeth and therefore are an important part of your smile. Having a healthy, confident smile has a big impact on how you look and feel.
What are the consequences of not flossing?
When you don’t floss, you are unable to reach 40% of your tooth surfaces, the areas where your teeth touch each other. Bacterial plaque and food get trapped in these areas, and your gums become inflamed. When your gums stay inflamed for an extended period of time, your jaw bone that holds your teeth in place begins to break down resulting in a reduction in bone height. This is the all-too-familiar “gum recession” scenario, also known as gum disease. With untreated gum disease, you can lose so much bone that your teeth fall out.
When you think about a pretty, youthful smile, you think of pearly white teeth. But, if you look carefully at the smiles you see on the covers of magazines, you’ll notice that an important component of the “movie star smile” is the pink, healthy gums that frame the teeth. Unhealthy gums are a red or purplish color and bleed easily while healthy gums are firm and pink.
Can you “undo” the bone damage caused by gum inflammation?
No, unfortunately you can’t replace the bone that has been lost. Flossing can help prevent bone loss, so as long as you still have teeth it’s never too late to start!
Why did you feel like you needed to create a better floss, versus another oral health product?
Talking to my patients every day about flossing, I realized that even if I could convince them to floss, I didn’t have a favorite floss that I could recommend to them. I knew there was a need for a better floss.
Existing floss brands weren’t very effective. Drugstore brands are thin and slippery, meaning that they are more likely to cut your gums than remove plaque effectively.
I started working on Cocofloss with my sister, Catherine Cu, about three years ago to create a better floss and to help people build better habits to keep their teeth their whole lives. I want to help people get healthier, starting with their gums, teeth, and smiles.
Why is Cocofloss different?
There are a lot of negative emotions around flossing. It’s something people dread and put off. It’s something you know you should do because your dentist has been nagging you, but you’re not sure why. It’s something you feel guilty about not doing.
Cocofloss is a product that people look forward to using. We designed it to feel less like a chore and more like a treat or vacation. When I would ask my patients about their flossing habits, I would ask them where they kept their floss. Most people would say that their floss was in the back of their drawer or medicine cabinet because the floss itself was ugly. We made Cocofloss beautiful so that people would want to keep it out and thereby keep floss top of mind. Seeing floss on your counter top serves as a visual reminder to floss every day.
We also wanted to create different floss fragrances to evoke the feeling you get when you step into an ice cream parlour. In my dental practice, we have around 20 different flavors of polishing paste that our patients can choose from. My patients, both young and old, tell me time and time again that they looked forward to selecting their polish flavor. I wanted to replicate that feeling of delight with our floss. We have five fragrances: Strawberries, Peppermint, Cara cara orange, Fresh coconuts, & Delicious mint.
The texture of Cocofloss is thick, fluffy and towel-like. It pulls plaque off your teeth while remaining gentle on your gums. We also include coconut oil in our floss because it allows the floss to glide more easily between your teeth.
We decided to make a subscription available to help our customers build a habit of flossing every day.
Have there been any challenges in getting Cocofloss off the ground?
As a full-time dentist, I have a pretty busy schedule. Getting a product off the ground seemed impossible. With my sister’s help, we were finally able to do it.
As you can imagine, people generally aren’t interested in floss. Building a brand that resonates with consumers has been a fun challenge. I credit my sister with being able to translate the “science” into something that people can easily relate to and understand, without scaring them away. We’re very proud of how we’ve been able to provide education while keeping it fun.
What does your oral health routine consist of?
I brush my teeth two to three times a day. I use Cocofloss once a day at night. It’s better to floss at night because when you sleep, your salivary glands stop working and bacteria proliferate. The primary cause of bad breath is bacteria that has fermented carbohydrates and created acid in your mouth overnight. If you brush and floss thoroughly before bedtime, you can prevent a lot of that bad odor from forming in the first place.
How do you manage stress?
I believe that there is always a silver lining to every difficult situation. When I’m stressed, I try to think about what I’m grateful for.
Oh - and I’m obsessed with hot yoga. Specifically, Ritual Hot Yoga in San Francisco. I go up to five times a week!
Any other parting oral health advice you want to share with our readers?
Besides the obvious (making sure you’re brushing and flossing on the regular), I also recommend that you avoid nail biting at all costs. It can really wear down your teeth over time. Some people use their teeth to hold things, like hair pins or pencils, but don’t. You’ll thank me when you’re older.
Anything exciting in the works for Cocofloss?
As a dentist, I’m very passionate about oral care and disease prevention. I’m always thinking about what else I can create to help people take better care of their teeth and gums. I'm so excited to share that we’ve just released our first book, Pina Colada Floss Party, a.k.a “The Gum Guide.” I can't wait to hear what people think about it! Also, we are always thinking about what to launch next!