07 March, 2012

Wholly Inadequate Tools of Dental Hygiene

Dental floss was taken out of the prison canteen six years ago, citing undefined security concerns. Since then, I've flossed with these blue rubber bands that come in a little zip-seal baggie — "safety dental floss" (patent pending). The label is mum on the subject of acceptance by the American Dental Association. The minimal packaging is given over to more important deceptions, though, beginning at the descriptor "mint flavor" and concluding at the instruction for loop use: "Grasp in opposite hands / Wind once around each finger / Place thumbs on each forefinger / Insert and slide between teeth." In fact, they have no taste, minty or otherwise, and anyone whose interdental spaces are too narrow to accommodate the passage of, say, a #2 pencil will find inserting and sliding to be a rough business. My experience is that winding one around my finger enough times to achieve the tension necessary to penetrate between molars means I am lucky if the floss loop doesn't snap apart.

Have you ever snapped a rubber band against your gums? Go try it now. You will never again think of flossing with a nice waxed string as an inconvenience, I promise.

A toothpaste snob — that was me, in another life. All I ever kept by my sink were Rembrandt and Sensodyne, both kept far enough away from my roommate's Tom's of Maine to avoid contamination. Here, the extent of the selection is Colgate, in a transparent tube, or some Chinese stuff called Dawn Mist (made, frighteningly enough, exclusively for prison sales). I drink a fair amount of coffee, and so am not too happy about the present whiteness factor of my pearlies. Not that I desire that lit-from-within cadmium shine it seems every celebrity and movie star has these days; just keeping my teeth from staining to the point of looking like a butter carving would be nice. Call me picky.

I asked around. None of the convicts I spoke with had ever seen or heard of anyone making a shank out of a toothbrush handle. Still, notice was put out by the Department of Corrections, a few years back, that full-sized toothbrushes would from that day forward be considered dangerous contraband. I relinquished my red Reach to a guard going door-to-door with a plastic trash bag. What was given in exchange was a lime-green travel toothbrush — a brush head attached to a ribbed grip the size of a nickel — that I'm astonished I have yet to accidentally swallow. Thousands of toothbrushes were disposed of, that afternoon, across the great state of Missouri. A lot of waste, sure, but think of how much safer everyone is without those nasty long toothbrushes around. All those would-be assailants can now only make stabby-type weapons out of melted-down tumblers from the dining hall, assorted fragments of glass or plastic (take your pick) from a freshly smashed TV set, a broom or mop handle, chipped-off shards of our porcelain toilets, or almost anything else they happen to find lying around. Yessir, safe.

1 comment:

  1. Most people with braces also have bands.

    Tiny rubber bands that have to be hooked around the wires in different parts to help align one's bite.

    I had them. I snapped them often. Sometimes while yawning. But the jaw restriction hurt more because it was constant.


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