HERE’S a fantastic dental fact for you. You only have to floss the teeth you want to keep.
That’s the advice a bossy dentist gave my friend Emily once. I’ve never forgotten it.
Here’s another: brushing is negotiable, but flossing is not. You don’t have to worry that much about the delicate fur that accumulates on your fangs after a box of Lindt balls and a wheel of brie – it’s the unseen fragments that wedge between your teeth.
Floss ’em out and you can forget brushing. It just doesn’t matter as much.
Another dental fact. Ditch low-fat foods. They’re full of sugar and acid and they’re guaranteed tooth-rotters.
Low-fat yoghurt is a doozy. So is orange juice. Tooth-wise, you’d be better off with a beer and some more brie.
OK. One more fact for the road. Fluoride is a crucial part of modern public health. It is the polio vaccine of dental health. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is a turkey.
But, here in the early 21st century, the turkeys and the loonies are taking over.
They’re invading local councils. They’re infesting local health centres. They’re practising as chiropractors, running health food shops, becoming personal trainers, writing silly books that rocket to the top of the best-seller lists.
I’ve made myself lots of friends this year in the Clovelly-Mosman-Balmain hippie community by championing vaccination. Here at the Telegraphs (sorry, the Corrupt Handmaidens of the Evil Rupert Murdoch Global Big Pharma Conspiracy), we successfully campaigned for state and commonwealth to clamp down on parents who refuse – in the face of all reason and medical evidence – to give their children the gift of lifelong immunity from deadly diseases like polio, diphtheria and whooping cough.
Next we’re campaigning for water fluoridation to be a non-negotiable tenet of NSW Government law – not a matter for fringe North Coast shire councils to decide. We started the campaign when Lismore Council voted to remove fluoride from the water supply – a disgraceful decision that should, if Barry O’Farrell has any spirit, be crushed now by overriding state legislation).
No doubt the fluoride thing will elicit the usual deluge of emails from parents claiming their children have major problems from vaccination/fluoride/daylight saving.
Bring it on. Accuse me of corruption. Tell all of Twitter I’m naive and a puppet of GlaxoSmithKline.
There’s a reason why the anti-fluoride activists are closely connected with the misleadingly named Australian (anti) Vaccination Network. They’re in the business of denying science and refusing to accept that people with PhDs know anything about public health. They want to ascribe conspiracy theories to the most basic principles of modern medicine. They say doctors are really all part of a giant plot to give all our children brain damage and ruin everybody’s life forever.
And they’re crackers.
I have great teeth. It took 35 years for me to get anything approaching a cavity in these babies. I can crunch ice-cubes without a twinge of pain. I’ve used them to rip open packages and cut loose threads for years without a single ill-effect. They’re strong as anything.
But that’s got nothing to do with me. I was lucky enough to grow up in a suburb where the water was fluoridated. Every mouthful of tap-water I drank – and the water my mother ingested before I was even born – created my prized set of pearly whites.
Mum had quite a bit to do with it post-birth, actually, too. Like most kids, we’d shamelessly lie about having brushed our teeth when, of course, we’d done no such thing.
At seven, I was so desperate to avoid brushing I developed an elaborate system of wetting my toothbrush with a bit of water, then putting a dab of toothpaste on my tongue so my breath smelt minty-fresh.
Mum did spot-checks that would have done any medium-security remand facility proud. She would ask every night if we’d brushed our teeth, and every night we’d fib: Yes, mum.
Some nights – but you never knew when – she’d whip out a little bottle of red liquid and put a drop on our tongues. It was disclosing fluid, and it would stain every particle of plaque fluorescent pink.
The only cure was vigorous brushing and then flossing.
It taught me the habit of just doing it, every night, no excuses. But it also instilled a life’s respect for the virtues of fluoride. When my mates were writhing under the dentist’s drill in our 20s, I was getting spray-tans and reaching for another Lindt ball. That’s the gift fluoride gave me.
I’m forever grateful.