In which I discuss dentifrices

Monday April 26, 2010 @ 11:54 PM (UTC)

I have brought it to my own attention that this blog has been both sparse and all-work-no-play of late. Therefore, I am going to post about something very trivial and obvious which bothers me, in celebration of the fact that this is still a blog and it is still on the internet, and all this substantive stuff and serious business needs a little leavening.

So, people of the internet: I do not want to whiten my teeth. Seriously, I don’t want to paint whitening agent on my teeth or bathe them in a whitening wash, or even commit the relatively sane step of asking my dentist what whitening process he recommends. And most of all, I do not want to whiten while I brush. This should not be difficult to accomplish. I just want toothpaste that does what it says on the box: when used in a regimen BLAH BLAH BLAH, keeps my teeth from rotting and falling out. Because I like being able to eat a steak, because cavities make eating chocolate painful, because tooth pain can cause headaches, because tooth disease can cause other more systemic health problems. Because cleaning our teeth is a pretty basic hygienic standard we’ve mostly agreed on for decades (if not more).

Which is why it’s so frustrating to find more and more of the grocery store toothpaste aisle devoted to whitening every day. I actually have to read the fine print on each box before I buy it, to make sure that I’m not being accidentally whitened. Fates forfend I should try to buy a travel-size of plain toothpaste. It’s as if I walked into the canned veggies aisle and found that 80% of canned green beans now come mixed with diet supplements, because you can’t just want green beans.

We all have our personal capitulations and complicities with the beauty standard. But we don’t have to embrace living in a world where every single part of our body has an established yardstick by which its appearance is inadequate. “Clean” is a pretty good social standard: for hair, for skin, for teeth. If we accept that the default version of a simple toiletry should include extraneous “beautifying”, we’re accepting that the standard isn’t just clean, it’s also “shiny and manageable”, “toned and tightened”, or “white and glistening”. There are enough channels telling people they aren’t good enough in America. Why does toothpaste have to be one of them?


I’ve always been a little horrified by whitening treatments, and I also am plagued by the constant search for non-whitening toothpastes. My biggest problem is with silica, the most common whitening ingredient: I’m a dedicated brusher, and that crap can sand off my enamel to the point of pain. I’ve even tried switching to soft-bristled toothbrushes (which I also dislike), but without significant result. And almost all toothpastes have this stuff in my experience, even if they aren’t labeled for whitening.

My teeth are a natural ivory, and both I and my dentist are perfectly fine with this. He consistently gives me glowing reviews, despite knowing that I don’t brush at night! I’m less inclined to believe that I have super dental genes than I am that most people are just doing something wrong.

Also agreed. Inadvertently using whitening toothpastes over the years has worn down my enamel and for a good long while (until I realized what was causing it) made my teeth painfully sensitive to heat, cold, and even sweets.

I switched to Colgate Cavity Protection toothpaste (which doesn’t contain whitening agents or silica) a year or two ago; the sensitivity has gone away, and my teeth are healthier than ever (and as far as I can tell, no less white).

I just returned from a natural-type co-operative grocery store, where it was difficult to find an ADA-certified toothpaste, but not at all hard to find a whitening one. Really? Even hippies disapprove of natural-colored teeth? (Note: the ADA-certified non-whitening Tom’s paste I did eventually find does not contain silica, Rusty.)

Canned green beans are disgusting!!!

I miss my Tom’s of Maine so much! My tube from USA Trip 2009-10 ran out a month ago and it made me sad.

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