Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dental musings

Because I know I am not alone in this, I am not ashamed to say that tend not to listen to my dentist. Years and years of hedging about flossing! But I like my dentist and my hygienist, and I've decided to see what happens if I do what they say.

Step one for me was using a rinse. I read the directions and saw, "Pour 20 ml into the cap." And, rather than trying to find the 20 ml line in the cap, I wondered how on earth they came up with that measurement.

  • Is it because there needs to be a certain ratio of liquid to tooth surface area? Not everyone has the same number of teeth. And what about my six or so crowns -- do they count toward surface area when they aren't true enamel? What if someone had only six teeth: should they use less mouthwash?
  • Since you have to swish it, wouldn't it be better to calculate the volume based on mouth size, since a larger mouth will be more able to forcefully swish 20 ml than a smaller mouth? Should they recommend people calibrate their usage based on jaw size and number of teeth?
  • Then my mind goes to high efficiency front loading washers. You have to use special, more concentrated detergent in them because they use less water (but can often wash more clothes in that water). How is the 20 ml impacted by the saliva content of the mouth? Perhaps they could market different products based on mouth pH, or perhaps everyone should be required to spit a certain number of times before using it so that everyone starts with a baseline dry mouth.
  • Here's another one: A different mouthwash I own has you use 10 ml, and the directions say, "Do not pour past 10 ml line." OK, then what happens? Is it a structural issue for the cap? Would it be too overwhelming for the average user to swish 11 ml? What about someone with a bigger mouth?
I don't measure: I just use however much I want, which is certainly less than they suggest. I assume the makers of mouthwash will be annoyed that it takes me longer to go through one of their bottles, and I feel self-righteous as I swish away.

Then there's the two-minute toothbrush. I have a sonic one, and it has a 30-second timer on it to make sure that you brush your teeth for a full two minutes. Boy, does that get boring. I would stand over the sink and reread the mouthwash instructions, spending my two minutes coming up with more questions about their 20 ml measurement. So I decided to take those two minutes back and catch up on my New Yorkers.

The problem is, I am one of those people who can't walk around while brushing her teeth. I need to be standing over the sink, preferably with a bib on.

So there I am leaning over the sink trying to read the New Yorker, getting it soaking wet. And sometimes I finish the page before my two minutes are up, and then I either have to spend more time on the mouthwash instructions or figure out how to manage a spraying sonic toothbrush while trying to flop a wet magazine to the next page.

Today I solved the problem: I bought a cookbook stand for my bathroom. It allows me to look at a full spread of two New Yorker pages at once. I can turn the page with two fingers. It props up the magazine so it doesn't lie in a puddle of water and get dripped on.

I am pleased with the greater reading opportunities afforded me by my new dental program.