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Location: Midwest, United States

I floss daily, brush after every meal, and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

My Sonicare and the Oral Hygiene Crank

I was pregnant with my son O. when I got my Sonicare spaceage toothbrush, and getting a Sonicare soon led to my encounter with an oral hygiene enthusiast of a less friendly stripe. I will call her the Oral Hygiene Crank.

Being pregnant had a lot to do with my decision to go out and spend more than $100 on a damn toothbrush. (I’m committed to my oral hygiene, but I’m also thrifty.) For whatever reason, pregnancy makes women more prone to gum disease and other dental problems. Early in my second trimester, my teeth were feeling weirdly sensitive. I was already a little concerned about the state of my teeth since I had sometimes forgone brushing during my ten weeks of 24-hour-a-day morning sickness. (Brushing my teeth caused me to ralph straight into the bathroom sink on several occasions.) Plus my mom, the original queen of oral hygiene, had recently gotten a Sonicare and was raving about its many benefits, including superior plaque removal and reduced chance of gingivitis and periodontal disease. How could I resist?

Soon after my Sonicare purchase, I traveled to New York State for a two-week summer writer’s institute. (The flight afforded me the opportunity to actually use an airsickness bag for the first time, my last hurrah of pregnancy-induced heaving. Those bags are too fucking small, so I actually used my own and my neighbor’s. Hi neighbor!) My hometown best friend was there, too, staying in the same dorm as me at a small upstate college. When she saw my Sonicare propped proudly on the fiberboard desk in my room she said “There’s another woman here with the same toothbrush, and she corrected my toothbrushing technique in the bathroom. She reprimanded me for brushing back and forth instead of in circles.” I felt pushy and eccentric by association. “Well, I’d never do that,” I said, tucking my weird electric toothbrush under my arm and making for the communal bathroom.

I encountered this dental critic in the bathroom a couple days later. She actually had a Braun spaceage toothbrush, not a Sonicare, but I could tell it was her by the dour look on her face. As I did my morning ablutions (sans Sonicare – for some reason I only use it at night), she struck up some small talk, asking me if I’d ever been to the institute before and how I liked it. (This makes her sound nice, but she asked in the most weary tone of voice imaginable.) When I mentioned that I missed my husband she let out a loud, huffing laugh: “Hah! Really? How long have you been married?” I told her we'd been married three years, expecting her to say “Well, kid, talk to me when you’ve been together ten,” or something along those lines. Instead, she looked surprised, but responded with a dismissive smirk: “You must be a couple of romantics.” At least she didn’t criticize my style of flossing.

The next day she caught me at my evening hygiene routine and I experienced a totally different side of her. She saw my Sonicare and animatedly asked me about it, detailing her satisfaction with her Braun and telling me that her sister had the Sonicare and had gotten so many compliments on her white teeth ever since she started using it. I listened politely, then told her I really hadn’t had it long enough to notice any appreciable effects, worrying all the while that someone would come in and find me in the midst of this maniac conversation.

I tell this story to distance myself and other reasonable oral hygiene enthusiasts from electric-toothbrush-wielding cranks and oral hygiene police. Oral hygiene is for everyone, and only your dentist (and maybe your mom) has the right to school you on the proper way to brush. Do not lead me in brushing; I may not follow. Do not brush behind me; I may get nervous, spit, and split. Just brush beside me, and be my friend.


Blogger angel of god said...

Ah, Oral Hygiene Queen, don't ye know? That cranky woman was an angel of god, just like meself. She came to you in that bathroom to bring ye yet closer to yer far away husband during yer two weeks of difficult separation while yer baby grew within ye. She's one of our more difficult angels, not comely and obviously angelic like meself, but an angel nonetheless.

She was also there to lead your friend along the path o' righteous brushing. Children, God wants ye te brush in circles, not back and forth.

6:36 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

So how disastrous is this not brushing in circles thing? And how easy is it to change one's brushing style after years of doing it wrong? Help me, Oral Hygiene Queen! You're my only hope.

And I'm so glad I'm not the only person I know to have used an airsickness bag. Of course, you were pregnant - but I have a good excuse, too - I was flying to IL to defend my dissertation. Yee-ha!

6:02 AM  
Blogger E. said...

It's very important, Elizabeth. All the authorities say so (even the minions of God). You must brush in circles, or your teeth and gums will suffer.

Then again, for people who have naturally strong and healthy teeth (like my husband, my abovementioned best friend, and you, if I recall correctly), it doesn't really seem to matter. Some people just harbor a lot less of the bacteria that causes tooth decay and gum disease, and if you're one of those lucky ones (and if you've never had a cavity, or hardly ever, you probably are) it seems like you can take less than perfect care of your teeth and still do quite well.

This is just based on my observation. But if you want to come correct, it's never to late to change. It's all in the wrist.

8:24 PM  
Blogger Orange said...

Hey, OHQ, if you're ever pregnant again, try Tom's of Maine toothpaste. I retched every time I brushed my teeth because there was too much foam, until I switched to Tom's for the duration of my pregnancy. As soon as I was no longer pregnant, of course, I switched back to delightful toothpaste.

9:05 AM  

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