Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Spotless Sunshine of Your Mouth

When I was growing up, people drank coffee, smoked cigarettes and had yellow teeth. I am not endorsing any of these things, but I am feeling a bit disgusted over all the hoopla about having dazzling, white teeth.

Apparently, if our teeth are not brilliant enough to blind astronauts re-entering the atmosphere, we are no longer sexually appealing and become the object of sneering ridicule. Let’s remember something, folks: Mother Teresa had yellow teeth, Churchill had yellow teeth, and so did most of the great movie stars of the 1940s. So if compassion, leadership and glamour can smile with citrine choppers, then so can the rest of us.

A 1993 study in the Journal of Dental Research tested tooth whiteners containing carbamide peroxide—whatever the hell that is—for toxicity when ingested. Since this stuff is slathered on your teeth, they reasoned, you are bound to swallow some of it. Their conclusion was that, in female rats, "large doses of commercial preparations of tooth whiteners may be acutely toxic, sometimes fatal." Whew! Thank God we are not female rats.

Two years later, another study published in that journal found that the amount of carbamide peroxide bleaching agent that humans might expect to ingest during a procedure "may come close to or exceed" theoretical safety limits. This does not mean tooth whitening will make you ill; it just means the jury was out as of this 15-year-old study and I was not able to find anything more recent. The point is, why add more pollution to your personal environment for something dumb like tooth whitening when there is already plenty of toxins to go around?

It is bad enough that we are given inferiority complexes for not looking like pouting, anorexic models. Now we have to paint our teeth like picket fences and smile. Frankly, with the state of the world the way it is, I am not interested in doing either.

How about going back to basics? The goal should be to brush and floss, avoid excessive sweets and visit the dentist once a year for a checkup and cleaning. If you don’t have a toothache, abscess or bleeding gums, everything is fine.

It’s time to take our teeth back from the dental profiteers and flaunt off-white with pride. Remember, it is not how incandescent your teeth may be, but having them still in your jaw so you can chew with them that ultimately counts for something.

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