I’ve decided you can tell a lot about a person by examining her toothbrush.

At a recent trip to the dentist, I expressed some concern over a spot in my mouth where I had felt some pain and sensitivity when drinking cold liquids. The hygienist explained to me that I had very minimal evidence of receding gums. I was shocked. I take excellent care of my teeth. I attend check-ups twice yearly as I should.

“What caused this to happen?” I said.

She asked, “Do you use a soft toothbrush?”

I assured her I did.

“Do you find that you brush and scrub your teeth rather fiercely to get them clean?”

Hmmm…I assured her I did that too.

“Well, there’s your problem,” she went on. “I used to do the same thing. There’s really no need to brush roughly to get your teeth clean. You can be thorough, but gentle. And try out this toothpaste in the meantime,” she concluded, handing me a tube that definitely looked like something my grandparents used at one time or another. Great.

Well, the toothpaste tasted like shit, so I threw it out. But I tried, and still do, to be mindful of how hard I brush my teeth.

I always get such a kick out of comparing the state of my toothbrush at the end of a month’s use with that of my husband’s. His always looks brand new. I swear, if I didn’t see him brushing his teeth morning and night, I’d say that his perfect looking toothbrush is proof he doesn’t use it. 

Mine, on the other hand, has bent and wayward bristles, pointing this way and that, looking like a wild broom that’s swept the cobbled streets of Boston for over a century or more.

How can this be? 

Is my brushing symptomatic of the stress and anxiety I feel on a daily basis? And my husband’s neat little brush a sign of his almost never ending patience, and peaceful spirit?

I think I might be onto something here. Check your brushes, people. How do they look? Strangly and scary? Nice and neat? Somewhere in between? Do they reflect your state of mind?

I’d like to know.

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