Sunday Life!, 1 March 1998

Pearly rites

Toothbrushes, once thought to be good for only cleaning teeth, are really a sign of democracy in (circular) motion.

By Paul McDermott

I have been brushing my teeth all my life. Every morning and night I enact this ritual that begins and the ends each day. Over this time I have witnessed the evolution of the toothbrush and waited on each new development with bated breath. I can remember when you polished your baby pegs with sandpaper and emery board, your gums bleeding so prfusely they stained your teeth crimson. The days when you flossed your teeth with a toilet brush covered with caustic soda. The days you flossed with razor wire and r insed with unchlorinated water. Happy days, yes, but those days are gone.

Thankfully, every few moths for as far back as I can recall, there has been amaing progress in dental hygiene, particularly regarding the toothbrush. This is the result of countless hours of careful research and not token changes meant to inspire a flaggi ng market. In tandem with these advancements for the brush have been marvellous changes in the paste as well. Flouride, calcium, tri-colour gels, glitter, minty flavours, peroxide and baking soda, but it is the toothbrush that continues to impress me with its unceasing transformation.

You'd think with these these continusal changes the humble toothbrush would be the most exceptional piece of bathroom hardware, yet it has remained essentially the same. A solid piece of plastic measuring 18-20cm in length (roughly the distance from the i ndex finger to the wrist) with a collection of scrubbing bristles at one end. It is in the minute detail that the brush has undergone dramatic modification. The array and choice of the modern brush is testament to our free society. It means no-one need go unbrushed: regardless of your dental state there will be something to suit you.

The antiquated and cumbersome ectangular head that ruthlessly tore your gums has been replaced by a streamlined diamond head. If the diamond head fails to satisfy there's the advanced rounded head or any number of geometric shapes you can stick in your mo th. Angled, tapered, compacted with an articulated neck, this implement (nothing more that a stick with hair) defines the need for design.

Tootbrushes are no longer slippery lumps of 4/2 that fly out of your hand at a moment's notice. These days they have rubber pads for greater control and thumb grips for assured manouverability. Never before has a toothbrush felt so comfortable in the hand or flown so effortlessly over our teeth, never before has it felt so natural in your cakehole.

Then there's the bristles (what a limited word for the modern wonder of these dental exercises). The bristles of today are longer than ever before, enabling them to reach further, push deeper. Why didn't someone think of this earlier? They're rippled for maximum plaque removal, polished with rounded ends to prevent irritation and in the past few weeks they have become micro-textured. I pity the generations that have passed away never knowing the joy of the indicator brush. A brush that gives you a visual sign it needs to be replaced. No longer do you have to peer at the frayed head wondering if it's time for a new brush. Now a fading blue line alerts you before you have time for concern. How stupid we were using shabby and worn brushes that were ineffect ive nd perhaps dangerous. With the indicators brush, a look at the bristles is all it takes.

Forgive me, for all those extraordinary advances, I can't feel the difference. How can something in a state of constant change look exactly the same? And how much further has the tootbrush got to go? When will the designers and builders say "This is it, the pinnacle of oral hygiene?" I fear the toothbrush of today will be nothing in comparison with the tootbrush of tomorrow. And yet, as long as the toothbrush continues to evolve, we can safely say "We live in the free world!"

-Typed up by ktwong