Tuesday, January 20, 1998

I'm Getting Dental Mental Over You


The good Lord gave us a pair of teeth. The function of this gift was to help us survive by being able to chew our food to get nourishment. The good Lord was even good enough to provide us the luxury of two sets of teeth so when we aged and got big mouths, the additional room would allow for bigger teeth. It's amazing that even the smallest detail like this was worked out by the one who created the whole universe in just seven days. I sometimes forget to wear two socks.

Somewhere along the line, man and woman developed food that caused our teeth to decay. Thus chemicals were developed to help prevent this decay. A whole profession sprung up to care and repair our teeth. These dentists and hygienists scrape the crud off of, and repair the cavities they find all the while being quite proficient in scolding us for our lackadaisical care, and poor brushing and flossing habits. Used to be we were supposed to visit the dental office once a year. Now it's recommended we see them every six months. So one must ask is this in the name of better health care or just another health scare?

Shortly after caring for teeth became a national pastime, the beauty industry stepped forward and defined what beautiful teeth were supposed to look like. Like every other area of human endeavor people were quickly separated as to the quality of their looks. Beauty in this area meant having straight teeth, no visible gaps, no protruding upper or lower teeth, and above all the teeth had to be white. The whiter the better. Gaps between and crooked teeth were fixed by affixing metal braces in the mouths of young children forcing their teeth to grow into an acceptable pattern.

At first having white teeth was just a function of a visit to the dentist. Polish was a part of treatment along with fluoride to prevent decay. But soon it was determined that wasn't good enough. Soon toothpastes were developed that were advertised as whitening agents to improve the all important smile. With all the advances in medicine and technology a disproportionate amount of time has been spent in developing better and better toothpastes.

Walk into a store to pick up some dental products and you'll find a whole aisle to choose from. First it was fluoride and approval from the American Dental Association. Then it was gel over paste to make the goo taste better. Then it was tartar fighting paste for a deeper cleansing. Then it was a better container for ease of use. Then it was baking soda to freshen the breath. Then it was peroxide to whiten the teeth. Add to this a myriad of different types of toothbrushes with varying sizes, shapes, and textures and the consumer is bombarded with a multitude of choices.

Well, enough is enough. We don't need five thousand toothpastes to choose from. We don't need a thousand different brands each with different pastes and gels that do different things. I'm sick of all these slick toothpaste salespeople who could sell a bunny a lucky rabbit's foot and a non carrot diet.

The industry has learned to reach us early. I was at a birthday party the other day when my three year old nephew walked up to me and told me he had a new Batman toothbrush and toothpaste to fix his brown teeth. And recently I was eating a sandwich and cracked one of my back teeth. My first thought was I was in deep trouble that a broken tooth surely meant unrelenting pain and problems lie ahead. I've been conditioned to react with alarm every time there is a problem with my teeth. Don't want to end up with a pair that soaks in a glass overnight. I have to report it just hasn't been so. Sure the jagged edges feel foreign to my tongue but I can still chew and thus far no pain has shot through me. The sky has yet to fall.

So for me the myth has been forever shattered. I'll still brush 'em and floss 'em on a regular basis. But I no longer give a damn what those four out of five dentists recommend. For what it's worth, they can bite me.

-a dissatisfied customer

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