On Toothpaste

God help those of you without sensitive teeth. I don’t know how you all choose a toothpaste. I’ve made a series of poor dental decisions over the years, so for me the decision is much simpler. I use Sensodyne, because that stuff is like a dentist in a tube, but even this simplified decision leads to problems.

See, I don’t know enough about toothpaste to make much of a decision. Even Sensodyne has its varieties–maximum cavity protection formula, extra whitening, repair and protect, and fresh breath. I don’t know what that meansOn a very literal level I understand that the whitening variety will gradually whiten my teeth; I’m not that daft. But how does it compare to the others? If I choose to repair and protect my teeth, will they gradually turn a dull yellow? Or if I choose to avoid cavities, will I suffer from bad breath? If I want I don’t want to offend people with my breath, will I have to embrace a life of unprotected teeth?

This guy knows what's up.

This guy knows what’s up.

There’s a “Find the Right Sensodyne” feature on the product’s web site, and even after using it several times I’m no closer to feeling comfortable with my toothpaste decisions. I remember on the wall of my dentist’s office as a child was a poster offering the only real advice I’ve had from an official source on the matter: the poster was of a smiling cartoon molar holding a gleaming toothbrush that whacked away the green plaque monsters. Which Sensodyne does that?

This is one of the few times I’m thankful to have an unfilled cavity in my mouth, because I don’t know what I’d do if the toothpaste decisions became more complicated. Crest offers a “3D Whitening” variety. Isn’t every toothpaste three-dimensional? So is everything else in this world. Another variety promises baking soda and peroxide with a tartar protection stripe, but I can only assume it’s the passe two-dimensional kind. There’s “Complete Multi-Benefit Extra White + Scope Outlast” in Lasting Mint flavor. That seems to make all the other varieties obsolete, but I can’t say for certain.

Whatever happened to toothpaste? Plain, simple, gets-the-job-done-with-no-frills toothpaste? In an age of branding and product diversification, I’m not equipped to make the hard decisions anymore. And I’m reasonably certain my teeth are suffering for it.

I wish it were only toothpaste that confused me. Weather forecasters often get a bit of hell for incorrectly predicting the weather, but I have trouble even why they get it right. What, after all, does a 60% chance of rain mean? For some of you the answer to that question must be so obvious that I’m coming across as an idiot right now. That may be true, but hear me out! In this age of technological marvels we now have hourly forecasts. The weatherman can tell me that there will be a 60% chance of rain between 3:00 and 4:00 AM this morning. But does that mean there’s a six-in-ten chance that it will rain at all? Or that 60% of the amount of rain will fall compared to a 100% chance? Or that we can expect rain for roughly thirty-six minutes during that hourly span?

“No Trespassing After Dark” signs are another notion that’s confused me for years. Trespassing, in itself, is a bad thing if the Lord’s Prayer is to be believed–“forgive those who trespass against us.” So a notice that’s designed to tell you when trespassing is in effect should be phrased affirmatively: Trespassing After Dark. Otherwise it makes the sign seem like it’s telling you it’s okay to be hanging around after dark–it’s not trespassing! Cops and I have quibbled over this one before, and I always lose.

I’m badly equipped for these modern times. Nothing more profound than that today.


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