By: Kyle Kowalski
It’s you and the TV. No distractions, no obligations, no pressures from the outside world. Just pure sloth and reruns of Friends. But within seconds, you’re blasted with bright colors and a blaring soundtrack from the early 2010s. There are sports cars, models, slot machines spitting out money. What is this?
It’s a toothpaste commercial. All these emotions are pent up inside of you: anger, surprise, wonder, awe, lust, mystique. Random facts are shouted at you from behind the TV screen. Why are Sofia Vergara and Ice T shaking hands? 70% FLUORIDE. NO ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS. VEGAN. But finally, the part you dread most of all: nine out of ten dentists recommend this product.
Who are these dentists? Are they bound and locked in a cold basement cellar, forced to try different toothpaste brands? Do they just love toothpaste? Has it created problems with their marriage in which they’re forced to either manage their toothpaste addiction or see their spouse walk out the front door? You’re not alone in your questions. I too am an intellectual. This has been something that has haunted me for years. And it wasn’t until yesterday that I discovered the truth.
It was a regular, old day at the dentist: strapped to a table as blood pours from my gums. As I talk about my weekend with my torturer, my mouth spitting out gargled, inaudible words, I notice my dentist doesn’t look quite like his milquetoast self.
“What’s wrong?” I ask. My dentist, hands still in my mouth, stares off into the distance.
“I witnessed tragedy this weekend,” he said. “My fellow dentists and I, ten of us all together, decided to go explore our favorite river bridge. We would play checkers on the bridge–chess was a bit too intense for us. But I always felt nervous around that bridge. Something about it would always beckon me into the middle. That aged stonework with its damn cobblestone, inviting me to enjoy ephemeral pursuits. And the other dentists knew. After every game of checkers, blood rushing through our veins, we would look towards the edge of the bridge. My mother always asked me: ‘if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you as well?’ I would always promise her that my friends would never make me rethink my character. I understood peer pressure was bad. It’s haunted me all my life. But we’re dentists. We’re social(ish) creatures.
“Peter jumped first. All because he was riding high on a win. We should have played Scrabble. But no. It’s always checkers!! Michael followed him. Then Steven. Then Michael 2. One after one they all jumped. Soon, it was just me on the bridge, alone. Nine out of ten dentists were gone….
“They survived obviously, the bridge was only 10 feet tall. They were playing Chicken Fight in the water, giggling amongst each other. But I was too afraid to jump. I couldn’t conform and violate my word. At that moment, I had lost community. I felt ostracized, lost, forgotten. I wouldn’t recommend it.”
“Cool story, but what’s with the toothpaste stuff?” I mutter.
“It’s not as deep as you think,” says the dentist with a grim complexion, “we are just too afraid to voice our own favorites. I hate Crest, I’m an Oral-B enthusiast. But if I ever bring it up, hell, even Arm & Hammer, suddenly every dentist is too busy to hang out with me. You can either have a great time with nine of your friends at the bar or sit in solitude on weekends with your only solace being that fresh, minty blast of Oral-B every morning. I have chosen the higher path.”
With that, a single tear fell down his face. It landed on the chair next to me, which brought with it a soothing wave of fluoride mint. At that moment, I understood his anguish. Thanks, Oral-B.