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Are your teeth white enough?

Are your teeth white enough?

Posted: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 8:00 pm

The Messenger 02.29.12

It was a simple trip to the toothpaste aisle. I wasn’t prepared for the attack on my sensibilities and self-esteem. There are now 812 varieties of toothpaste. Most of them claim some type of supernatural power … usually related to whitening. According to the marketers, your teeth should be much brighter and much whiter.
Did you miss that job promotion? Probably related to the color of your teeth. Still looking for love? Clearly, you need to brighten those pearly whites. Manufacturers are counting on your emotional response and lack of intelligence. They relish the fact that you’ll pay $4 for a tube of toothpaste because you think it will change the color of your teeth. Come on. Change the color of your teeth? I mean, if you’ve eaten spinach salad for the last three days and lived at the two-gallon coffee maker and you haven’t brushed your teeth in a week, that tube of toothpaste is likely to change the color of your teeth. But for the rest of us daily brushers, no chance.
Knowing there would be skeptics to the “whitening” toothpaste, companies decided to do an all-out push for other “whitening” products. Expensive products. You can apply little strips to your teeth which are supposed to bleach your teeth. Apply and leave on for 30 minutes twice daily for two weeks and your teeth are supposed to be … get this … one shade lighter. One shade lighter. Wow. That job promotion is fully in your grasp now. You’ll be on The Today Show within the year. And all for just $24.99.
If the strips don’t appeal to you, there is a little clear tray that you can put on your upper and lower teeth like a retainer. Evidently, it has a squishy substance in it which also makes your teeth whiter. You wear the tray until your teeth are white enough to meet your knight in shining armor. I know. It doesn’t matter how much it costs or how long it takes. This is the price you pay for love.
All of the above products remind me that marketers are the true geniuses of our society. Advertising folks are the real rocket scientists. They set out to convince us we have a terrible problem … and then they rush in to sell us a product which will solve the problem.
I never even knew my teeth were yellow until they showed the air-brushed pictures of all the people whose teeth had been miraculously whitened. It all made sense now. Everything that had ever gone wrong in my life was clearly linked to the inferiority of my smile. Just about the time I consumed the bait and the hook was nestled in my left jaw, an overwhelming sense of frugality kicked in. I picked up a $2 tube of toothpaste and threw it in the cart with my $1.19 shampoo and conditioner. It only promised to clean my teeth. That seemed good enough.
I believe in the free market system. But living in our prosperous society, I have to constantly remind myself to have a little common sense. I can’t live on the whim of every societal trend.  If I did, I’d start whitening my cat’s teeth and buying my kids $100 tennis shoes. Yes, my teeth are the same shade they were last year. I doubt anyone will notice as long as I choose to wear a smile.
Editor’s note: Lisa Smartt’s column appears each Wednesday in the Friends and Neighbors section of The Messenger. She can be reached by email at For more information about Lisa Smartt, visit her website,

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