Orally Complicated

19 Feb

I brush my teeth like it’s the last time I’ll ever be allowed to do it. Each and every tooth deserves individualized attention of at least five seconds duration (I timed it once) and it never feels clean enough until I’ve got to those hard-to-reach places at the upper corners. If it frequently takes me more than the recommended two minutes – well, I do have great big, horse teeth that take up a tremendous amount of space in my mouth.

My upper wisdom teeth are a particular obsession: I practically unhinge my jaw every night, trying to make sure I’ve brushed behind it. One of them broke in half sometime after they came in and I didn’t feel a thing. I have a memory of biting down on something hard and faintly powdery in the middle of a meal and swallowing it without inspection because we were at a formal event and I’m used to horrible food they serve at occasions like those, but I’m also very prone to false memories after the fact so I could be just making it up.

This specific memory suggested itself after a nasty trip to the dentist who inspected the broken tooth and then looked at me as though I were a rhinoceros who hadn’t yet realized it was missing its horn.

“You don’t feel anything?” he asked me with mounting disbelief, tapping it with increasing amounts of firmness.

“G-Unh,” I said, my mouth wide open and draining into that contraption by his side.

Nothing at all?” Tap-tap-TAP. Well, if he was going to try and knock out the remaining half without anesthesia…

“G-Unh?” I said again, rolling my eyes for emphasis.

“Amazing,” he murmured.

I hate young dentists. Evil potheads. [Actually, this is an impression gleaned from my college years and might not be strictly true. Every single student dentist I ever met during that time was in school on the “Satisfy the Damn Parent with a Goddamn Medical Degree” quota and making up for it in their off time by partying it up like nobody’s business. Not that I’m in any position to throw stones but at least when I had a hangover in the morning, I wasn’t pulling out people’s teeth.]

But my broken tooth, which the dentist helpfully filed down and left alone because he admired its pain-free existence, is not my only bugbear. I also have these giant upper teeth that look like they’d appreciate a steady diet of fresh hay and apples with the occasional sugar cube for a treat. They’re not quite Sarah Jessica Parker teeth, but by the time I’m her age, I bet they’ll look exactly the same. Because the awful truth about teeth is that they grow. And grow. And keep growing. In directions you wish they didn’t. And then people are going to laugh and point.

“I’m going to file them down when I grow up,” I informed my mother when I was twelve and saw the writing on the wall. She guffawed. Then she found out about capped teeth and the laughter died and trepidation took its place. Ha! But then I heard those things chip and break rather easily, so she feels much less threatened. Boo! Given my general clumsiness, I’m deathly afraid that I’ll get them and then one day I’ll look up from my delicious meal of ribs or somesuch and find myself with gargoyle dentures. Help of that kind, my looks can not take.

Dear God who art in Heaven: I know I do not look like Vivien Leigh but could I not at least have had her teeth? It would have made up for much. (I suppose I shouldn’t have cared then, in the way I do not care about other facial features. Hmm.)

But this is not about my oral shortcomings. [We will not touch the pun implicit in that sentence with so much as a barge pole, please. This is a family blog. Or so we will pretend for today.] What has often disturbed me in the midst of all this physician-approved dental hygiene is the… um, mess of it.

Have you ever seen people brush in the movies? Just as making love in the movies looks divine, brushing teeth in the movies looks so much neater than what I do. My process does not involve minimal amounts of foam, discreetly spit into the basin and rinsed out with one mouthful of water.

My process involves a great deal of foam and spit, sometimes dribbling down my chin, frequently hanging by thick threads of toothpaste coated saliva, and requires several mouthfuls of water. Gross, yes? But clean, my friends, clean. When I go to bed at night, I know that all the microscopic evildoers in my mouth have been terrified into paralysis at least for the time being. Most of them are probably dead.

Yet, it occurs to me that I’ve never actually seen another person brush so I don’t know if this is normal. I look the other way when I find myself sharing a sink with another person, be it my best friend or my mother. When I’m at a public bathroom (on a train, at the airport) and somebody is cleaning out their mouth, I politely look elsewhere. I’d love to say this is because I’m just that icily well bred, but actually, it’s because I’ve never felt the need to check out somebody’s cleaning rituals in case they’re just as gross as mine. I don’t think I could look at my near and dear ones the same way if I had to see them with toothpaste-y drool running down their face.

This might have a mistake in strategy because I just realized I really have no idea if I’m an offense waiting to happen. Does everybody else brush like the movies?


Posted by on February 19, 2010 in Personal


17 responses to “Orally Complicated

  1. ad libber

    February 19, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    They do. The roommate does. In such a polite, non-offensive manner, it lead me to think my mother failed me when it came to teaching oral hygiene. Worse is, the roommate also has extremely perfect teeth.

  2. Empowerment Engineer

    February 19, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    I can not brush without watching TV at the same time. So I inflict the sight of my teeth being brushed on all who happen to be in my living room at the time. Usually just poor DH 🙂

  3. bollyviewer

    February 19, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    After a root canal, three years of braces, a bridge and a crown, 4 wisdom teeth pulled out, and numerous visit to the dental hygienist for cleaning, I figured that if I have to live half my life in the dentists’ reception, I might as well brush like in the movies! So, I spend like 30 seconds each time I brush, and the censors never need to slap on an R-rating on my brushing act.

  4. ad libber

    February 19, 2010 at 5:49 pm


  5. pitu

    February 19, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    My husband brushes like the people in movies! He’s so neat and attractive while doing it! And he has singlehandedly managed to finish a HUMONGOZOID bottle of Listerine that he picked up at Costco. He does that whole -my-mouth-is-on-fire-help-me-jesus-but-i-will-do-my-required-listerine-quota thing. He also flosses! Ugh! And he is so terrified of his dental hygienist (this matronly Gujju woman who accosted us outside the Aeropostale store at the mall!)! It’s bizarre!

    I brush like you 😦 TMI but I often have to wipe down the bathroom mirror after I’ve brushed 😀 And I only brush once a day, don’t floss, don’t use Listerine.

    However, proving that life is unfair, the goodygoody husband has shit teeth and mine are phenomenal 😉 BWAHAHAHHAA!!

    And the doggy gets her teeth brushed with beef flavored Petrodex toothpaste 😀 That requires her being leashed to the toilet, my left hand inside her jaw and the toothbrush thrust in with my right hand while husband pins the dog to the ground while she wildly thrashes. Don’t ask! :p

    • memsaab

      February 20, 2010 at 1:45 pm

      I brush Gemma’s teeth too (well, it’s more an exercise in futility but at least I try) ever since the $1000 veterinary dental bill I got last year when she had to have eight of her teeth pulled 😦 The guilt!!! The depleted bank balance!!!

      And I am happy to say that I brush my teeth like they do in the movies, once a day, and never floss—and I have big perfect white horse teeth myself 🙂 I think it’s all the red wine I consume (studies have shown that the red vino is good for controlling dental bacteria as well as keeping your arteries free and clear).

  6. Shas

    February 19, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Ha ha….i can never brush the way they do in the movies coz when i had tried it was painful coz it takes long yet one doesn’t feel clean enough.

  7. Amey

    February 19, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    If you are afraid of puns, don’t ever use the words “__ shortcomings” and “barge __” so near to each other.

  8. Gradwolf

    February 20, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Thanks a lot for writing this. I’ve always wondered how to brush so neatly. The same things happen with me, foam dripping(!) all over my chin, upper lip etc.

  9. pitu

    February 20, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Ooh just remembered something! Some dermatologists believe that flouride toothpaste foam on the chin area is one of the possible causes of perioral dermatitis (fancy way of saying acne in the chin area)! It’s still up for debate though. One of the many reasons I exclusively use Vicco 😀

  10. Piyush

    February 21, 2010 at 12:54 am

    I always thought the reason why brushing looked so clean in the movies is because they didn’t use tooth paste.

  11. dipali

    February 21, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    I’m paranoid about brushing my teeth but am not very good at it, and cannot bring myself to floss despite all good intentions. In fact I need to go to the dentist soon:(

  12. straitlace

    February 22, 2010 at 12:13 am

    I’m surprised no one mentioned brushing the tongue??!! It sounds gross i know, but it works wonders for your breath. Also i came up with this brilliant tip for those who can’t stand Listerine – swish your toothbrush in a capful of it and brush your teeth with it as the grand finale to your brushing ritual.

    • pitu

      February 22, 2010 at 4:14 am

      You are brilliant! I am so trying that!

  13. sachita

    February 22, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    haha… ok ‘Bacho’, pls to stand in the line, apparently the clumsy me has been doing one thing right – brushing the teeth without foam covering half the face but i will not go into details of state of my toothbrush after the very first use – horror is a genre i dont cover.

    But these sort of discussion is good, the start of it goes all the way back to kramer’s question on the various procedures involved while bathing…

  14. Amrita

    February 22, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    There are so many things I want to address but I’m all tuckered out by my unusual interest in Rajesh Khanna.

  15. Amrita

    February 23, 2010 at 11:46 am

    ALibber – oh thats just not fair. 😦 the least s/he can do is to have it all fall apart.

    EE – LOLz!!! I never heard that one before!

    BV – HAHAHA! I surprisingly had a very easy time of it with my braces. Of course, I refused to wear the temporary ones. I figure I’ll get those adult ones when I’m a little older if I need them.

    Memsaab – yup, definitely want to be you when I grow up!

    Shas – right? It feels all scuzzy in there. ew.

    Amey – well, I’m not a delusional male so didnt think of it 😛

    Adithya – dont worry, you’re among friends here 😀

    Pitu – Ahahahah! Yes, I’m familiar with the wipe the mirror down before someone comes in sheepishness. My brother absolutely REFUSED to share a bathroom with me when we were growing up.
    Re: dermatitis – I did not know that! that explains a great deal to me! 😦

    Piyush – you might be right! And that always makes me gag so thats out.

    Dipali – I floss about three times a week but it’s a CHORE. I know I’m supposed to do it everyday but the one time I stuck to doing it everyday, I still ended up going to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned so now I dont feel bad about doing it less regularly. Also, I’ve decided to take the advice of the mother of one of my friends and NOT get my teeth professionally cleaned on a regular basis.

    Straitlace – oooh, sneaky! I do brush my tongue on days that I don’t floss. I do it very very carefully because it’s guaranteed to make me gag. My tongue dont like it at all! Maybe I should get one of those bendy rod thingies.

    Sachita – I clearly must do a “hot to bathe” post sometime soon! 😀

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