Just home from a visit to the dental hygienist, I was emptying the little goodie bag that rewards “good” patients. OK, everyone gets the stuff, but personal superlatives are nice now and then.

There was a toothbrush, a little tube of toothpaste, and a tiny spool of floss. I briefly thought of the choices involved in compiling the loot: color of brush, type of paste. I chose a pink brush and a tube of paste designed for sensitive teeth, seeing as how mine had just undergone a rigorous cleansing.

But I wondered how much whitening the other choice would have provided.

As I struggled for some unknown reason to read the itty-bitty print on the toothpaste tube, a thought occurred to me.

Why didn’t we have a toothpaste shortage during the early days of COVID?

Did the unending newscasts warn us about any potential nationwide shortages of dentifrice? Mouthwash? Dental floss? I think not. I recall being advised of possible diminished availability of other staples, but not the aforementioned.

Think about this. More groceries were being sold. More beverages were being consumed, albeit in the privacy of one’s own home or with smaller contingents of cohorts. All of this consumption involves the oral cavity and its components.

Certain shelves and departments were devoid of product at grocery stores in April. Six months later, many items remain in short supply. Perhaps you noticed that stocks of dish detergent were and still are lower than normal. By the same token, hardly any paper plates were available in the early stages of coronavirus panic and they remain a hot commodity. If people were (and still are, evidently) eating off of paper plates, what are they doing with the dish detergent? Pots and pans? There’s another subject for contemplation!

Yet there was always plenty of toothpaste to go around.

With kids being schooled online, spending more and more time at home, they were snacking all day long. Did they not brush their teeth?

Taking into account such vast increase in dental effort, chewing, etc. shouldn’t we have used more oral cleansing agents? Did we increase our tooth-labor load and decrease our dental maintenance duties? Surely all this eating had a detrimental effect on our dental health, and increased coffee and tea intake stained our pearly whites!

Yet, there’s still loads of toothpaste everywhere you look. And there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of brushes.

While I was worrying about everyone’s teeth, a lightbulb went off in my head.

I see there’s a customized shampoo store available online where you choose the shampoo you want, based on the particular needs of your crowning glory.

Maybe there should be a customized toothpaste store, too. We could choose what qualities are most important in a toothpaste. Do we want to avoid cavities, fight plaque, have fresh breath, improve our gum health? Do we want teeth that are blindingly white?

Did toothpaste originally set out to take care of all those areas of concern? When the first twig brush was used and mint was the cleaning product, did the user ask him/herself about those things?

When you stand in front of the toothpaste section of your pharmacy, grocery store, department store, whatever, how do you decide which toothpaste to select? If your kids are wearing braces, they can’t use whitening toothpaste. But the teen without braces wants teeth so white they can be seen from the ISS. Dad has sensitive teeth, so he needs an ingredient for that, and Mom’s strictly the anticavity enthusiast. Does a family need to buy four or more tubes?

Sometimes too many choices can be detrimental to our mental health.

Better than having customized dentifrice, let’s just settle for “Toothpaste: Does what it’s supposed to do.”

At the risk of starting never-ending arguments, let’s just agree that the ultimate goal of toothpaste is to clean teeth.

Wonder if our predecessor with the twig and mint leaf knew what he/she was starting?


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