At our six-month one-year check-ups in October, the dental hygienist told the hubby we should get electric toothbrushes. I have never used an electric toothbrush and know nothing about them. Trying to get specifics about the brand and features that she recommended was like pulling teeth…all he’d tell me was “Oral-B” and “look at Bed Bath & Beyond because they’re often cheaper than Walmart if you use a 20%-off coupon.” So out of defiance for research purposes, I head straight to Walmart.
Holy dental hygiene, Batman! Do you know how many different kinds of non-manual toothbrushes there are? I had no idea—I blame my ignorance on being out of the country for five years. Lots of technology happened in my absence. I stand there blocking up the dental aisle for twenty minutes, examining package after package, trying to discern any significant differences that would make this battery-operated one $4.88 and that rechargeable one $189.95. I could buy a whole lot of batteries with the $185.07 I’d have left over if I purchase the cheap one. Paralyzed by indecision, I return home empty-handed. Further questioning of the hubby (“get a spinny one” and “she said it has a two-minute timer”) and subsequent browsing at Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl’s, Target, and Amazon.com lead me no closer to the mysterious toothbrush of the hygienist’s recommendation, so I put my quest on the back burner for a few
days weeks months.
Tool of the devil?
Finally, a couple weeks ago, the hubby is with me when we happen to venture down the small appliance aisle at Costco. Being Costco, there are only about six different electric toothbrushes in stock, so there is very little opportunity for indecision. Fearing the hygienist’s wrath for non-compliance at our next appointments, I force him to choose a toothbrush, any toothbrush, and we head home with a two-pack of Oral-Bs, complete with spinny head and two-minute timer. Mission accomplished.
With the hubby at work the next day, I dutifully unwrap and assemble the new toothbrushes as directed by the instruction booklet, thinking I can sneak in a trial run before he gets home. But no. There is no life at all in my toothbrush, and it is not a quick-charge piece of equipment. Following the guidance of the little booklet, I plug in the charging bases and settle in to wait…for seventeen hours. What? Why seventeen hours? Immediately, I distrust this toothbrush. Why not twelve hours or twenty hours? Who designs a battery that requires such an arbitrary charge time? I don’t like it. Not one bit. And guess what? It takes exactly seventeen hours.
Fast forward to the next afternoon. The charging light has finally stopped blinking, and trying not to be put off by the little booklet’s somewhat dire warning that “some bleeding of the gums is to be expected” I put a dab of toothpaste on the tiny little spinny head and prepare to face the unknown.
At this point, I should probably mention my distrust strong dislike hatred fear of spinny dental implements. In the dentist’s chair, I suffer through the horrible probing of my gums with sharp instruments, the dreaded scraping of metal blades against enamel, and the tortuously sharp corners of the bite-wing X-ray films. But by the time the hygienist reaches for the spinny tooth polishing tool, arguably the easiest part of the semi-annual cleaning, my heart is racing and my palms are sweating. It’s a mixture of fear and loathing. I fear something whirling at such incredible rpms near sensitive lips, cheeks, tongue, and gums. I loathe the mind-piercing sound of something spinning at such incredible rpms. And I absolutely detest the thick, gritty, foul-tasting toothpaste they must use in something that rotates at such incredible rpms.
So I angle my new electric toothbrush toward my left lower molars, push the button, and am immediately suffused with the fear I feel in the dentist’s chair. I am afraid that this toothbrush is going to catch the inside of my cheek and wrap my entire face inside out around its spinny head, so I’ve got my cheeks puffed out and lips peeled back as far as they can go, doing my best impression of a skydiver’s face. I’m afraid the same fate awaits my tongue, so it is wedged up behind the upper molars on the opposite side of my mouth. Drool, a normal physiological response to fear, is flooding my mouth. FYI, Crest does not stand up to this liquid assault like the thick, gritty, foul-tasting toothpaste my dental hygienist uses. Within seconds, minty spittle is flying around the bathroom, and I have no idea how to contain it, because I’m convinced that as soon as I close my lips around this instrument of the devil, they are going to be ripped off.
After an interminable 30 seconds, the toothbrush gives me the secret signal to move to a new quadrant, and I struggle to reposition it while keeping cheeks, lips, and tongue away from the whirling head. My lips are numb, so I don’t feel the globs of drool that are running out of my mouth until they plop onto my chest. My cheeks are quivering from the strain of being puffed out so far by the time I get the second secret signal—one minute down, one to go.
I’m resigned to the fact that I’m not only going to need a clean shirt at this point, but that I’m going to have to scrub the counters, the mirror, and the floor, and I begin to ponder the cumulative implications of these new toothbrushes. The hubby and me, brushing twice a day, usually at different times in the morning and together before bed. If we don’t remember to brush before dressing, that’s two extra shirts in the laundry twice a day, and at least three bathroom cleanings per day. These toothbrushes are going to cause a whole lot of extra work.
It seems like forever since the last secret signal, so with the toothbrush pressed against my upper molars, I glance at the digital clock on the counter and immediately wonder if we’re having an earthquake. The numbers on the clock are dancing wildly, to the point that I’m getting dizzy. The magic signal comes, and I find that moving the toothbrush controls the movements of the digital numbers—inside the upper incisors invokes a slow waltz, and against the upper molars incites an all-out boogie. Concentrating on this experiment, I forget where my tongue is, and it accidentally touches the spinny head of the toothbrush. Oh. My. God. This is the end.
Remarkably, nothing bad happens. A slight tickle from the bristles, but my tongue is not twisted around the brush or ripped out by the roots. Feeling brave, I relax my cheeks so that they, too, touch the spinny head. Again, nothing bad happens. Okay, maybe I can do this after all. But the drool. What to do about the drool?
I’m happy to report that after two weeks of practice, the volume of drool has decreased in direct correlation to the subsidence of my anxiety. I no longer have to brush while naked from the waist up to avoid having to change shirts, and I no longer have to keep a bottle of Windex in a holster on my hip to repair the damage I’ve done to the mirror.
I expect my hygienist to be pleased with the cleanliness of my teeth when I see her in April. I don’t expect that my adoption of this electric toothbrush has lessened the fear I’ll experience when she comes at me with her own spinny tooth polishing tool. But I do expect she’ll be impressed by just how far I’m able to move my tongue out of its way these days.