Working from home provided the author a good opportunity to revisit his dental hygiene routine.

The pandemic has taken us to some really dark spaces, mentally, but also physically, as we have found corners of our home that we were too busy to notice earlier and now have found ourselves cleaning regularly. I, for one, found parts of my wardrobe hitherto unexplored, holding artefacts that have made me question the need for formals, the authority of big brands, and my taste in fashion. But as much as I have enjoyed looking sloppy on the outside, I have never been more conscious about cleaning up from within. No, this is not my attempt at being spiritual. I am talking about self-care. While the chief on the self-care radar has been skin, a close second would be my teeth.

I belong to the camp that knows you must brush for two minutes, and if you ask me in public, I will shamelessly lie about it too but in reality, I rarely spend that much time on my pearly whites. Of late, I have made an effort to check out what is out there. And what I have seen has left me intrigued about dental hygiene. Besides, I found a host of new stuff out there, which has not only got me brushing for full 120 seconds, but also persuaded me to try out different kinds of toothpastes, natural mouthwashes, and get this, oil pulling. Here are some pointers.

TOOTHBRUSH: I have always used the Oral-B Pulsar, a hybrid between a regular and an electric toothbrush, picking them up on my travels abroad. It works with a battery, but isn’t as high frequency as the new ones out there. This time, I got the Realme Sonic, which claims an unearthly 34,000 vibrations per minute. I have tried to wrap my head around that number, but failed. All I can say is it felt tingly to the point of ticklish, the first time I used it. Then, I got used to it. The brush charges wirelessly and has a battery that lasts months with two-minute brushing twice a day. It has an inbuilt memory function to start on the same chosen mode every time and it also has a two-minute timer. All in all, I have been brushing better.

TOOTHPASTE: I have always abhorred Indian pastes for their use of sugar and lack of fluoride; now, some may argue that fluoride is entirely avoidable, and perhaps it is, but as long as it isn’t ingested, I think I’ll risk it, or some of it. Toothpastes made by multinationals always left me feeling fresher, especially a few hours later. Glad to say that today, we have a lot of local and smaller brands that are doing a much finer job. Only trouble — they are a shade more expensive. But if you can stretch your quotidian budget, go for the dental pastes from Arata (which come packed like a face cream and yes, that mistake has been made) or Herbostra, which looks more ‘regular’, and both proudly claims to be fluoride and triclosan free. With a slightly abrasive feel that gives the teeth a thorough clean, both boast nature-found ingredients, and the taste reflects that too (Herbostra tastes a lot of jeera (cumin) so oddly has a masala zing to it) but most importantly, they are both great at suppressing bad breath for a good few hours.

MOUTHWASH: I have always been told to avoid them by dentist friends — if you have constant bad breath, you need an appointment in the ‘chair’. But if you must, see if you can find Crest, else good ol’ Listerine works fine, both are ADA accepted, which is the gold standard for dental products. Just don’t gargle too long with them lest you wish to singe your palate into complete numbness. Also, don’t drink anything tart right after, especially orange juice.

OIL PULLING: This is something I was introduced to many years ago, and immediately scoffed at it for the ‘primitiveness’ that it seems to emanate. Gargle with oil to feel fresh. What will they think of next? Coffee beans for teeth whitener? Well, I tried it again, and in two days, I was convinced it works. In fact, I suspect it has even improved my general gastric health. I normally use coconut oil and it certainly takes some getting used to — five minutes, and your body starts the gag reflex. The Herbostra version is labelled as a mouthwash, but they suggest you do it for 10 minutes. It is quite a flavourful mix in what seems to be a sesame and clove oil base, definitely tastes herbal, but in a very palatable way