I remember one dentist who, after the routine and ritual torture treatment in ‘the back room,’ would give me a tube of toothpaste wrapped in a dollar bill as a parting gift. Because I was never sure if the dollar was a bribe designed to keep me ingesting his toothpaste or a favor designed to further indebt me to him, I always received the back-handed token with fear.
When I was a bit older there was another dentist who, in addition to the usual mind tricks and guilt-therapy, actually tried to convince me I had negatively affected the physiology of my face by breathing through my mouth as I slept at night. No, it’s true—he told me this seemingly innocuous habit had worked to narrow my nasal passages over time, thus producing a thin and pointy nose. As you can imagine, I couldn’t thank him enough for his helpful and clearly relevant observations.
My gnawing suspicions about dentists finally chewed their way to the surface like so many Trojan cavities when my five-year-old son, who eats nothing but celery sticks, carrots and organic apples (why is my nose suddenly getting longer and thinner…?), was diagnosed with as many rotting teeth as years he’s been alive. That’s five, in case you weren’t paying attention. And yet I had carefully brushed his tiny teeth every night! This left me with only one possible culprit. In a flash of insight so obvious it was shocking I’d never seen the connection before, I realized with horror-- the toothpaste was causing the cavities. This, my friends, is the grinning face of white-collar job security. This is the denture-bearing sneer of dishonest dentistry. Here’s my theory:
Smoke-screen tactics ‘The Dentists’ use to hide the real purpose of toothpaste:
Tactic #1: Use big words.
The following quote was lifted, verbatim, off the tube of toothpaste in my bathroom:
“Crest has been shown to be an effective decay-preventative dentifrice (??? -- Emphasis mine) that can be of significant value when used as directed in a conscientiously applied program of oral hygiene and regular professional care.” – Council on Scientific Affairs/ American Dental Association"
Okay… do I even have to say it? “Dentifrice?” Really? That word has to be made up. I know I’ve never heard it. I’m mostly sure you haven’t either. Seriously? How would that even be used in a normal sentence? “Hey Bob, your teeth look dentifrific!” Puh-lease. I looked it up on my laptop’s built-in dictionary and it told me the word didn’t exist. Just in case my computer doesn’t know everything, I Googled it. The result? “DENTIFRICE: A substance for cleaning the teeth; toothpaste.” So, basically, it’s a made up word that sounds more fancy than ‘toothpaste,’ but actually means… toothpaste. Shameless trickery.
Tactic #2: List complicated chemical ingredients.
Active Ingredient: Sodium fluoride- 0.243%
Fair enough; sodium fluoride has indeed been shown “to enhance the strength of teeth by the formation of fluorapatite, a naturally occurring component of tooth enamel” (wikipedia). But I have to ask, if that’s the ‘active’ ingredient, what’s making up the rest of the percentage? I mean, doesn’t that leave like, I don't know… 99.757% ‘inactive’ ingredients making up the difference? Now I’m no scientist, but ‘inactive’ ingredients don’t sound very helpful. My hunch? Ninety-nine odd percent of that toothpaste is made up of sugary sweet stuff so that the dentifri—er, I mean the toothpaste-- is even remotely palatable. Oh, and so it can cause the cavities it’s supposed to be preventing.
Tactic #3: Manipulate with threats and shameless fear mongering.
“If more than used for brushing is accidentally swallowed, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away.”
Do you know why they say this? I think there was a CSI episode a while back where a lady died, frothing at the mouth, after being force-fed too much toothpaste. My guess? The idea behind this tactic is an ‘a fortiori’ argument—that if half a tube of accidentally swallowed toothpaste can poison a child, just think how much more damage “a pea-sized dollop (the suggested dosage)’ can do to a cavity! The parent, now equally terrified and convinced of toothpaste’s magical powers, dares not consider other alternatives. Sickening subterfuge.
Tactic #4: Deflect close scrutiny by adding superfluous, distracting and otherwise demeaning product instructions.
The following advice is boldly emblazoned on my toothpaste tube in bright red letters:
“For best results, squeeze tube from the bottom and flatten as you go up.”
Feeling humiliated and oddly empowered at the same time, I quickly avert my eyes every time I see this clever suggestion. Which has always kept me from reading everything else on the tube... until today.
I’m officially convinced toothpaste causes, instead of prevents, cavities. It’s a diabolical conspiracy that targets and manipulates some of the most helpless among us. Anyway that’s what I think. You?