That oral thing

Ed Smith
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

People keep asking me if I've made any New Year's resolutions.

I hadn't up until today. Today, I ran out of toothpaste. Consequently, I was left with the decision as to what kind of toothpaste I should buy that would get me through 2012.

That's not a problem I've taken very seriously up to now. I mean, toothpaste is toothpaste, right? Same as underarm deodorant is underarm deodorant, except that these days, it had better be scent free. Other than that, some of it could be the pits and you'd hardly know it.

But toothpaste is where my New Year's resolution begins. I realize that if I can run out of toothpaste, I could also run out of teeth, so I'm going to be more judicious about good oral hygiene and I'm going to start, as I believe I just said, with toothpaste.

Have you listened to the current toothpaste ads and what they promise? You talk about being all things to all people. Toothpaste and other oral hygiene products these days are all things to all teeth. Is that bad? Just listen.

There are several major brands in these products that have grabbed my attention, me still having the vast majority of the teeth I was born with. I've got good genes in my gums. My father had practically all his teeth when he died at 86. He had all his senses, too, and most of his hair. But you can't have it all.

I'm doing fairly well with everything except the senses. No one would believe it if I did claim I had that one

1. Whitening of the teeth.

It's supposed to last for several days, which I assume means the whitening, not the teeth which one hopes would last a little longer.

One of my peeves is the persuasive power in advertising. In this whitening commercial, the girl has a family portrait session coming up in a couple of days, but, holy mackerel, look at her teeth! They need whitening fast. So, she gets what I think in this case is a gum (the chewing kind) and happily she is on time and all ready for the snap session. The teeth were as white as whitewashed headstones to begin with, and were the same at the end. But the advertising makes her believe otherwise, same as it does you.

2. Prevention of evil gingivitis.

I'm not even sure what gingivitis is. Neither my friendly dentist, nor his lovable assistant mor my lovable hygienist, has said a word about it.

One gets the impression they're afraid of it. Now that terrifies me. If it's so bad, why don't they stick the muzzle of a 12-gauge shotgun in my mouth and let go. (I hope no one in that office is reading this.)

3. Prevention of plaque build-up.

I'm wondering if the medication I take for medium-high cholesterol is effective for this plaque as well.

I see pictures on television of plaque build-up in your arteries and it looks like very nasty stuff. It's bad enough to have that mess around your teeth, let alone climbing up a major blood highway to your brain.

It seems to me, therefore, that toothpaste and high cholesterol medication acting conjointly should pretty well wipe out any trace of plaque anywhere in one's body. Of course, I stand to be corrected.

4. Protection against tooth decay.

There is no understanding of that insidious process. I went for 15 years - 1984 to 1999 - before seeing a dentist and without developing one cavity. I regard these as the golden years of my dental health.

On the strength of that, I went another six years between checkups and found I had almost as many cavities as I had teeth. In fact, I'm wondering if I have any teeth left and my mouth is full of fillings. Next visit, he'll be filling the fillings. There's a lovely thought.

5. Guarding against halitosis.

For the 99 per cent of you who have heard this before, I do apologize - I'm doing it for the other one per cent who are Mary Poppins fans and know that the longest word in the English language is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

In India, there lived a skinny little mystic named Mahatma Gandhi who walked around barefoot and thus developed large calluses on his feet. He also suffered from terrible bad breath. In time, he became known as a super callused fragile mystic hexed with halitosis.

Mahatma could have used mouthwash.

6. The promoting of healthy gums.

I'm all for healthy gums, especially those that are prominent in the smiles of many people. Some people really show their teeth when they smile - they're the ones with the whitening problem. I don't think the whitening ingredient is intended for the gums.

7. Killing unwanted germs and bacteria in the mouth.

It's difficult for me to imagine that there are wanted germs and wanted bacteria running around inside your mouth. I'm told, however, that such little creatures do have a role to play in buccal hygiene. Obviously, they're not that highly favoured in serious kissing, except for the exchange of bacterial DNA.

8. Protection of tooth enamel.

The advertisements say that once enamel is gone, it's gone forever. In that respect, it's something like one's sexual appetite, although in some cases that appetite seems to hang around forever.

I think that's where dirty old men get their raison d'être. Sadly, I don't know about dirty old woman.


I hesitate to think what ingredients may be in products that offer to do all these things for your teeth. The main ingredient is probably essence of mothball.

In the old days, if you said a bad word, your mother would wash your mouth out with soap. That was considered to be child abuse.

Now they force children to cram this stuff into their little mouths and nothing is done about it.

Dentists can't be too happy about any of this.

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His email address is

Geographic location: India, Springdale

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page