The economy is not experiencing scarcity yet but I did notice lately that the range of choices for various goods has diminished. It has been three months or longer since my favorite dental floss and toothpaste have been missing on store shelves. They finally reappeared recently, to disappear again, an obvious sign of manufacturing shortage. This prompted me to check out the new sonic care air flossing gadget. The price alone could buy 40-80 rolls of floss, not to mention the need of electricity to make it work.
People don’t realize how important their teeth are. There is a direct correlation between the health of one’s teeth and the overall body health stemming from the ability to chew and eat nutritional foods, including the health of one’s heart, which can be adversely affected by oral bacteria and decaying dentition.
I am not sure when flossing was revealed as a necessary dental hygienic tool. Anthropologists found evidence that ancient peoples and even isolated tribes used sticks for interdental cleaning. Credit for inventing the dental floss goes to a New Orleans dentist in 1815. In 1896 Johnson & Johnson patented its silk version produced out of the same thread used for surgical stiches.
Some toothless 45-50 year old Europeans might have saved their teeth and the troubles of finding a dentist who would properly fit them with dentures if they had known about flossing. Come to think of it, the Eastern Europeans, in their utopian socialist/communist states, did not have floss and had difficulty finding toothpaste and toothbrushes, much less adopt a daily brushing routine. On my last trip, young women were selling Crest toothbrushes and handing out leaflets in a strip mall with instructions on how to properly brush your teeth, including the tip that it had to be done daily. When I asked her if I could photograph her booth, she refused.
Growing up in the village, Grandma and Grandpa had two toothbrushes made of rough and uneven bristles, stored outside by the water pump, hanging on a wooden board with nails for hooks. The tube of gritty toothpaste hanged in a cloth bag. The water coming out of the ground was as cold as a mountain spring. Each family member used the same two brushes once a week, making sure they were properly hanged on the hooks. Flies loved to land on them during the day. After a year of two, when the bristles were so bent out of shape or have fallen, a new toothbrush was purchased.
The socialized medicine dentists who were paid the same as everybody, a miserable salary decided by the communist elites, could not care less about the people’s dental hygiene or keeping their teeth. They got paid the same whether they did their job well or poorly. Anesthetics were non-existent. I had root canal at the age of 15 without any anesthetics, howling and wriggling in the dental chair, and the torturous “treatment” stretched over six months, at the end of which he had to pull the tooth out anyway.
When braces became popular, a close relative, who is a dentist and had terrible misaligned teeth herself, chewed me out for putting braces on my two young daughters. “What kind of ignorant mother are you, did you not know that braces cause cavities and ruin people’s teeth?” Thank God, her “stellar” socialist medical training was wrong, my beautiful daughters have gorgeous pearly-whites.
Western European dental care did not fare that much better. There is a good reason why so many Brits have yellow and bad teeth. Their national medical care rations healthcare and the waiting period is so long for many procedures, tests, and labs, including dental care, that people pull their own teeth out after weeks and months of agony while waiting to be seen by a doctor.
I can still see my dentist, buy floss, see my doctors; I can have a needed test within a reasonable amount of time because capitalist competition works well. Come 2014, under the “new and improved” unaffordable socialist and misnamed Affordable Care Act, our medical care will more closely resemble the care we used to get under socialist medicine – rationing, special polyclinics for the elites, black market for needed drugs, empty pharmacy shelves, bring your own drugs and syringes to the hospital, and shortages of basics, either over the counter drugs, vitamins, and prescription drugs.