Have you brushed your teeth today? Yes, I’m talking to you. Have you brushed your teeth today? My guess is that you have… at least I hope so. You’ve probably brushed your teeth almost every day of your life since you had teeth. It’s a pretty logical thing to do. It prevents cavities, bad breath and gum disease as well as a bunch of other great health benefits. But you probably don’t think about all those reasons when you brush, do you? You just do it because it’s a good habit you’ve developed (or it feels gross if you don’t).

So where does this habit begin? Rules or advice can come from a dentist or a health professional giving great advice, but a habit comes from being reminded or encouraged to do something every-single-day until you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

Brushing your teeth is one of the important lessons our parents teach us from an early age. We are taught that our teeth are important in many ways. If we take care of them, they’ll help take care of us. Strong, healthy teeth will help us chew the right foods to help us grow tall and strong. They will help us speak clearly. And yes, they will help us look our best. You can’t just go to the dentist once every six months and get a really intense, professional cleaning and call it a day. You gotta brush daily! The lesson here is that when it comes to the things that matter, consistency beats intensity.

However, if you want a different sort of motivation to brush your teeth regularly, just think about the history of teeth-brushing. We are lucky that we know so much now about taking care of our teeth. Long ago, as people got older, their teeth would rot away and be very painful. To get rid of a toothache, they had their teeth pulled out. Finally, people learned that cleaning their teeth was important, but they didn’t have toothpaste right away. While you’re swishing that minty-fresh paste around your mouth, remember people long ago used to use ground-up chalk or charcoal, lemon juice, ashes or even tobacco and honey mixed together. Yuck! It was only about 100 years ago someone finally created a minty cream to clean teeth.

So now it hopefully makes a bit more sense as to why your parents are constantly nagging you to brush your teeth. My mum used to smell our breath to see if it smelt minty or would check if the toothbrush was wet to see if we had truly brushed. Not only that but she would send us back into the bathroom after a minute of brushing to make sure we completed another two minutes. At the time it seemed way over the top and used to drive us crazy, but now I couldn’t be more grateful. I’ve never had a filling and my teeth are still sparkly clean. Not only that, but I don’t even think about brushing my teeth as a chore anymore, I just think of it as a regular part of my day. To me, that is the way it should be. 

So yes, mum, I have brushed my teeth!

Critical Thinking Questions:

  1. What happens if you don’t brush your teeth?
  2. What are three more things you can do for your teeth, other than brushing them? This can involve particular foods to eat/avoid, other methods of cleaning them, etc.
  3. In what year was toothpaste invented and how has it developed since then?

Practical Thinking Questions:

  1. What would happen if no one in the world brushed their teeth?
  2. Make a journal this week of the number of times you brushed your teeth and how long for each time. If it was less than three minutes, twice a day then you need to increase your brushing!
  3. Think of new and interesting ways to make brushing your teeth a fun habit. This could mean listening to your favourite song for the duration of brushing your teeth, etc.

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