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What Next?

by Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
I mean, really! I'm brushing my teeth this morning, and it is kind of exciting because I have a brand new tube of toothpaste. I like new anything, including toothpaste, because you get such a little tingling sense of possibility. You never know when you try something new, whether this time will be The Time. This time, with this new tube of toothpaste, maybe all my oral hygiene dreams will come true. I was so excited! Okay. I wasn't that excited. I mean, it was five o'clock in the morning and I was getting ready to go to work. So, I wasn't exactly bouncing up and down squealing, "New toothpaste, new toothpaste!" I was just a tiny bit more excited than I usually am in the morning. In other words, I was wet, barely conscious, picked up the toothpaste and thought, "Hmm. New toothpaste." That was approximately my level of excitement.

I began to brush. As I brushed I began to read the back of the tube of toothpaste. I did this not because I am interested in toothpaste. I am interested in it only in vague general terms. For example, do we have any? Do I need to buy some more soon? Is the sticky stuff on the outside toothpaste or something more sinister? That type of thing. I was reading the tube because the mirror was foggy so I couldn't stare at it to see if, after 44 years on this earth, this was the morning that I suddenly looked cute brushing my teeth. There was nothing else to do. I read, "Contains stannous fluoride." Oh good, I thought. I read on, "Stannous fluoride may produce surface staining of the teeth." WHAT???

Then what the heck was I doing? Why waste my time? What in the world are they thinking? Wait. Let me think. How about this, I could drag myself out of bed, go outside and roll around in the flowerbed for a while, dig some filthy clothes out of the hamper, smear butter in my hair and then brush my teeth with something which will cause surface stains! What am I so upset about?

Then I could go downstairs, pour some orange juice on the kitchen floor (why not, everybody else in this family does!), wash the dishes in pancake syrup, put the trash in the refrigerator and go pour a bottle of Icey Fresh Spring Water into my gas tank and go back to bed! Why not? I mean, if I'm going to spend three minutes (okay, one minute and forty-five seconds, but promise you won't tell Dr. Brush For the Duration of a Song on the Radio. He and I have an uneasy truce. I say yes I floss and he doesn't call me a liar. To my face.), spend three minutes brushing my teeth, only to find that I have carefully applied surface stains, well then! If you ask me, all bets are off.

What next? Hand lotion that makes your skin crack? That would be good. Fabric softener that causes unsightly stiffness in your sheets and towels? Maybe they are thinking that stannous fluoride is so amazingly good for your teeth that you will not mind having some surface stains. But this is the age of the fluorescent white smile. Teeth that are nearly blue are everywhere, all around us. It has gotten to the point that when you see someone with normal, unbleached teeth, you kind of think "e-yew" for a second. Is it possible that stannous fluoride is so much better than the old kind of fluoride, the kind that we are all used to and were raised with that we should not care if it stains our teeth? And if this is the case, why did they not say so on the toothpaste tube. Because I am gullible. If it said, "This stannous fluoride is so wonderful that you will be able to chew your way through bricks," I would be impressed. And then if I read, "but it may cause surface stains," I might still give it some consideration. "Hmm. Surface stains? But chew through bricks! It's got to be worth it!" But they didn't say that. They just said that, "the stains are not harmful or permanent and may be removed by your dentist." So great! Use this product and you have to make an extra trip to see Dr. I Don't Know What You're Crying About. Yeah! Sign me up. I'm buying two tubes next time. This has got to be the worst idea ever!
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
"The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything" >
December 16, 2006 Column
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