Saturday, February 06, 2010

Stranger in a Strange Land

Gawd. His teeth are awful!

I have visited a strange, foreign land recently, one close to home, but in another way, far, far away. (And no, it wasn't Canada).

In this place, the people rise early and, before leaving their homes, they take a toothbrush, one that costs about $180.00, and attend to their teeth. The $180 toothbrush has a timer that alerts the citizens of this land when 30 seconds have passed, so that the toothbrush can be advanced to the next quadrant within the brusher's mouth. Quadrant by quadrant, the teeth are cleaned, front and back. Also the gums, which are carefully and thoroughly raked by the vibrating bristles, and also the tongue, which is regarded in this land as a kind of louche quarter, where bacteria linger and multiply and get up to their bacteriological evil doings and hence must be power swept away.

In addition to being freed from the menace of bacteria, the teeth in this process have also been just a little bit remineralized, as the toothpaste in question is a prescription-only $22 tube from 3M - the same people who make reflective material for Stop signs and Post-it Notes. How clever are the scientists at 3M! Their toothpaste has four times the amount of fluoride available in those toothpastes available for $1 at Family Dollar.

After the two minutes brushing is completed, the residents of this country replace their toothbrush in its charger and proceed to take out a small angled brush, with a little tuft at each end, something that looks like it might be used to clean one's ears. With this they reach back behind the back molars, wisdom teeth if they have been so unwise or so cheap as to have held onto those, and give those dark alleys a police raid. When that is done, they reach for the floss, which follows brushing in this land as night follows the day. The floss is wrapped tightly around the fingers and then, tooth by tooth, crevice by crevice, it is pulled between and behind each tooth. Again, the gums are tended. Then, at last, there is the remineralizing mouth wash.

This strange place is the land wherein my dental hygienist dwells. I visited her there this week. Each time I venture over her border, she insists on sharing the folkways of her country with me. She wants me to move in there. In my heart, I say "never, not a chance," but I don't say this out loud, of course. I lay back in the chair and look at the mirror, again, as she demonstrates proper flossing technique, again, and I lie, again, about my dental cleaning regime. She is polite, but I can tell she is not fooled. I can tell that she believes that I don't give my teeth a properly central position in my life, that I have refused to invest in them as I have been advised, both in terms of cleaning them and fixing them. I know she despises me, at least a little, for my apsotasy.

In her world, the tooth occupies the place that King Kong occupied in the life of the islanders from whom he was fetched by the white people. I am not at home in this land. I am hasty brusher with an inferior electric brush (no timer), a half-assed flosser, a gun ignorer. I am repelled by the idea of brushing my tongue and I suppose this shows

Honestly, my teeth aren't bad. All are white, or whitish - at least the ones in the front that anyone can see. More importantly, none of them hurt. My hygienist seems to be on a campaign to convince me that this is not good enough.

My resistance to her efforts to get me a passport for her country is made a bit easier by the fact that I sense she is working at least partly on commission. The references to the superior toothbrushes, rinses and pastes have the same ring as a hairdresser's pitches for shampoos, conditioners and fixatives when you are captive in their chairs. Ha! I was born at night, as the saying goes, but it wasn't last night. I'll give the office a call when something breaks or falls out or causes me pain.

I did buy the $22 toothpaste, though.