Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Bloody Truth

The bloody truth: every time I went to the dentist for a cleaning I bled like a victim of the St. Valentines Day massacre. Hell, the same thing would happen every time I flossed. If you're American this happens to you too. Apparently, ten years ago this was not the case. This all brings me to my recent trip to the dentist for my simi-annual cleaning.

Now most people don't like the dentist, and I feel sort of strange admitting that I don't mind going there at all. No, I'm not the Bill Murray (or Jack Nicholson, depending on how old you are) character in Little Shop of Horrors. I don't like for a dentist to hurt me. When I lived in Taft, California we went to a dentist in Bakersfield and the dental assistant that worked on my mouth was a sadist. She hurt me like no one in a dental office ever did. I never went back.

That I would not stand for, but the gentle probing of a good dentist (I have a good dentist) feels kind of reassuring to me. That fact that it doesn't hurt that bad registers to me as "good news." No real pain, no real problem and the feeling of having my gums massaged is only a plus. But the blood! Argh! That I could live without, only on my most recent trip there was almost no bleeding at all through my full cleaning.

When it was over I asked my dentist if he noticed the lack of blood and he said he did and that a non-bleeding patient is becoming more and more of a rare occurrence. He asked me what I had done differently and and I told him.

"I always liked the feel of a firm toothbrush but it is almost impossible to find one these days. But I did find one and have been using it for about four months. I know the ADA says firm toothbrushes are bad, but I don't care. My gums have never been better." I also told him that I run my toothbrush through the dishwasher every month to sanitize it and I plan on using it till it completely falls apart.

And my dentist, much to my surprise, said I was exactly right and that the ADA is the one wrong. The ADA has run away from firm toothbrushes because they are terrified of Trimarco vs. Colgate Palmolive, an idiotic 1999 class action suit that never went anywhere, but for some reason had the ADA caving like a John McCain statement on the economy. Trimarco vs. Colgate Palmolive alleged basically that toothbrushes are "unsafe and unreasonably dangerous" and should carry package warnings on the "risks of toothbrush abrasion" as well as instruction on how to use brushes to avoid abrasion. The ADA freaked, Colgate Palmolive freaked and they pulled firm toothbrushes off the American market.

They still make firm toothbrushes, but they don't sell them in the United States, though occasionally one will slip into the U.S. market. My dentist also said that since the "ban" on firm toothbrushes, the average American mouth is a mass of soft, tender bleeding tissue. So, the next time you go to the drug store, spend a few minutes searching the toothbrushs. You might just find a firm one and if you do, grab it like the gold it is.

On my next cruise to Mexico I think I will pass on the cheap Viagra and bring home a suitcase full of firm toothbrushes.


kurt wilcken said...

Dang. Y'know, my wife Lute gripes about this every time she needs to buy a new toothbrush. There just aren't any firm ones. So she cusses and searches and finally takes the least-soft one she can find.

It won't make her any happier, but at least I can tell her she's not alone.

-Keller said...

The firm ones do accidently show up in stores every now and then, in a onesy twosy fashion. I spend a minute or two looking every time I go to the drug store. Ya never know when you might find one.

My parents are going to Mexico in November and I am going to ask them (well, my sister actually) to grab a handful of the firm ones.