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Aug 22, 2022

Have You Enlisted To Fight In The Toothbrush Wars?

If so, fangs for your service

By Ed Goldman

In this world of chaos and armed conflict, there’s another war being waged that still might not have made it to your smartphone’s lunch-interrupting/heartburn-inspiring news alerts. It’s the Battle of the Toothbrushes. 

Doesn’t just the sound of that make you…bristle?

Edgy Cartoon

The Tooth Comes Out

Let’s leave aside the question of whether it should actually be called the War of the Teethbrushes—or whether even a single toothbrush should be called a teethbrush. I realize that precedent is on the side of singularity here since we don’t call them hairs-brushes, hairs-combs or hairs-cuts. Yet clearly some joker in the days of vaudeville knew he was onto something when he wrote this exchange:

“Did you get your haircut?”

“I got them all cut.”

Tell me, do you use a “smart” toothbrush, such as the Quip Smart Electric Toothbrush($40)—or the Colgate Hum (also $40), Oral-B 10 Series 9 ($300) or the absolute Lamborghini of canine cleaners, the Philips Sonicare 9900 Prestige ($370!)?

I’ll admit that I still use a non-gifted, C-average manual brush. It doesn’t come with an app that reminds me of when to brush or floss. In fact, it has no personal initiative. If I didn’t pick it up and deploy it, I’m pretty sure it’d while away its day contentedly in the water glass in my bathroom, in which I store other once-loved/now abandoned brushes that were designed to massage my gums, root out my plaque, whiten my molars and possibly improve my all-around disposition.

None of these were “smart” toothbrushes. They relied on manual power, not electricity (or convenient AA batteries for when you’re traveling in, say, Falluja, and don’t have ready access to the power grid but are due at a cocktail reception. Again, the key words here are “in Falluja”).

Looking for a Great Gift?

Let’s examine some of the features you can access with a couple of the top chopper moppers.

“Synced to a phone, the Quip app can collect data on how often and for how long you brush and then award you points that can be redeemed at Target,” according to the Wall Street Journal, which means this is reliable info (the WSJ gets silly only in its editorial pages).

Meanwhile, the Philips app “can locate the brush in real-time and direct you to spend enough time in each of four quadrants.” I presume this refers to quadrants in my mouth. What puzzles me is why I’d need it to also find the toothbrush itself. A toothbrush isn’t like a set of car keys you might absently toss on an end table or kitchen counter when you walk into your home. Isn’t a toothbrush used in a single location? Or do some of you stroll around with it throughout your house, pausing here and there to swipe a grinder or two? I know some people who take one with them to restaurants but even there you’re likely to go into the bathroom to use it, not while you walk to your table, “work the room” if you see a lot of people you know, inspect the dessert buffet or select the live lobster that shortly will be murdered to your specifications. These are hardly appropriate moments to demonstrate your commitment to dental hygiene.

I realize that in recent years, after dentists invented tartar buildup because cavity-filling sales tapered off thanks to fluoride (see my Conspiracies column of 8/17/22), we’ve been instructed to brush our teeth for at least two minutes per session. This means all 32 of them—unless you’re still a fan of “Duck Dynasty,” in which case, all 12 of them.

Well, keeping one eye on the clock and one eye on the mirror, noting how awful you look when you brush your teeth, can be challenging. 

At my dentist’s office, the assistant will hand me a manual brush and set a timer. The brush has a special coloring gel on it that reveals the spots I miss in my ministrations—in short, it busts me for slacking off.

To make sure we brush at home for the prescribed duration, some of the new-fangled fang washers are equipped with timers. If you’re a multi-tasker this means you can simultaneously brush your teeth and boil the perfect two-minute egg, provided you brush in the kitchen. 

You could also keep a hotplate in your bathroom, I suppose, but neither I nor the American Dental Association would advise this—unless you’d enjoy a brush with death.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).