Thursday, September 23, 2010

Brushing Up on Dental Care

This week's subject took seed months ago and, finally, I can share results. In previous posts, I've mentioned a few merits of baking soda (e.g. Odour Takes a Powder & Atmospheric Disturbances.) Along with vinegar, lemon and salt, soda is part of my "wonder-products" arsenal – commonly found in most stores, safe for family and environment, marvellously effective for a multitude of household purposes, and, with the occasional exception of lemons, inexpensive. I'm always searching for new uses and applications.

So, last winter, when my sensitive teeth acted up, I began an experiment. The traditional, brand-name toothpaste I had been using made my teeth feel electrified after brushing. Sensitivity toothpaste (also brand-name,) helped lessen the sensation, but my teeth didn't feel clean – the paste coats my mouth in a very unpleasant way. I acknowledge that these effects could have been due, in part, to the hard water here in Cache Creek but, regardless the reasons, the store-bought toothpastes just weren't working well for me. I decided to try a mixture I remembered from childhood, one my mother used whenever toothpaste ran out: baking soda and salt. Back then, I didn't much like it. There was no sweet, minty flavour and no foam. But, with "electric" teeth, I figured anything was worth a try.

Results came quickly. Within a day, all sensitivity was gone. Within a week, my teeth were visibly whiter. Brushing with the mixture left my teeth pearly smooth and, unlike regular toothpastes, didn't stimulate a mucinous response. Okay, I still don't care much for the flavour, but now I actually prefer the lack of foaming action. I wondered, though, what the long term effects of using the mixture would be. Would the soda and/or salt damage tooth enamel? Would plaque build-up quicker? Would breath odours be neutralized?

This week, I went for my first dental cleaning in over six years. Gasp! I know. With no aspersions to the clinic's staff – which is very friendly, attentive, and professional – dental appointments have always caused me serious trepidation. A combination of sensitive teeth and Temporomandibular Joint disorder (or TMJ syndrome) can make even a simple cleaning painful. I've never had strong tooth enamel, either, so check-ups normally resulted in a filling or two.

This check-up was drastically different. First, I had no cavities. None. Nada. Wow! Assessments like that happen so rarely, I can count previous incidents on one hand and still have digits uncounted. I asked, pointedly – after explaining I have been brushing with soda and (powdered) salt for about ten months – if there were signs of damage to tooth enamel, or if plaque build-up was excessive. Before answering, my doctor asked how long it had been since my last check-up. Though her eyebrows shot up when I told her, she withheld any rebuke and said my teeth were in good condition "given the lapse of time." Though they were in need of de-scaling, "plaque was not excessive and tooth enamel appeared unmarred." Surprisingly, she was unconcerned with my choice to brush with a soda-salt mixture. Her only caution was to advise both can affect blood-pressure (mine is high) so I should avoid ingesting the mixture. Not something I'm tempted to do, anyway, so that's not a problem.

Not everyone has sensitive teeth, though. Many are repulsed, either by the salty taste or by using a powder. This mixture (4:1, soda to powdered salt) won't appeal to everyone. But, for those who want a more natural tooth cleaner, one that not only cleans ably and economically, but also reduces (or eliminates) tooth sensitivities and brightens teeth, this mixture has plenty of merit. One unexpected bonus: drinking citrus juice after brushing with it doesn't prompt shuddering.

Oh, and for those who wonder, hubby says my breath smells sweet. Yes, I flashed him my freshly-cleaned smile.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Politics of Thrift

There is a bias against thrift. To some it means impoverishment, stinginess, poor quality, or low status. Advertisers tell us, in overt and subliminal messages that consuming their products will make us happy. They insist we must have the newer model, or to spend more frequently to be satisfied. And consumerism runs amok, leaving burgeoning landfills to bear witness to the glut.

First, thrift isn't about doing without. It's about doing the most with what you have. Shopping smart and purchasing only when necessary and with long term perspectives in mind, are the foundations of thrift. It's not about buying the cheapest item. It's about the cost per use: the item's packaging, its healthfulness, its recyclability and its durability. Most of these have long term costs which are less obvious, but no less pricey. Durability has direct impact on any product's cost per use: the longer the product's lifetime, the less cost per use and the longer the item survives outside a landfill. So, in a very real way, thrift is one expression of caring for the environment.

I've heard it insinuated by financial pundits that spend-thrifts are withholding from the economy and that makes them "unpatriotic." I couldn't disagree more. Thrift is conscious consuming, and thereby one of the truest economic acts. It supports businesses which offer the best quality, longest lasting products at reasonable prices. Supply and demand are the foundations of a vigorous marketplace. Avid consumption for the sake of numbers on a ticker, with absolute disregard for struggling eco- and social systems only distorts the ideals of a "free" economy. Thrift respects human need and works to balance that with the short- and long-term costs of resources.

There is no shame in thrift. Advertisers perpetuate a modern mythology in which thrift is the cave where the boogie man dwells. It can be, if one believes the myth. Thrift, for some, is an unavoidable and seemingly bitter result of economic downturn. For those who choose it, thrift is liberating: tastier, healthier, and a much more satisfying lifestyle. There is mania in working to keep pace with the demands of a greedy marketplace and the competitive consumerism it provokes. And ploys like planned obsolescence work against even the thriftiest consumer. It's not the frugal shopper who's to blame for a weakened economy. Thrifty people, more than most, are voting with their dollars. Thrifty people are choosing healthier foods and products, sold at reasonable prices, and questioning how much junk they'll be forced to send to a landfill. This is not seditious. Nor is it denial of comfort. Thrift is taking control of life in tangible ways.

Thrift is the strongest voice the people have.