Two minutes is a really long time. This realisation dawned on me not from seeing the obvious dissatisfaction on my wife’s face but rather the one time I tried to follow through on my dentist’s advice and brush for a whole 120 seconds.

I have never quite understood where they got the figure from. It has to be arbitrary, which means that there can not be one set standard. Some people need nine hours of sleep, whereas I work perfectly fine on seven. Maybe, the same way I sleep fast, I can brush faster too without compromising efficiency.

Considering how much we have evolved over the last few million years and the fact that this dental advice has only been meted out for the last 50 years or so, I am sure that either our ancestors managed fine by just chewing on a twig every decade or else, nature would have transmogrified our teeth for some other form of ingestion like, say, suction fangs.

Jokes aside, the truth is that oral hygiene is an aspect which is as important as it’s also (sadly) neglected. We don’t have the same diets as we did even half a century ago (let alone a millennia) so the kind of care our molars and incisors need has also changed. Two minutes may or may not be the gold standard but not taking care of the world’s most advanced taste lab (i.e. your pie-hole) can be a painfully unforgiving one-way road to illness.

Here’s what the doctors advise: brush, floss, oil-pull even, avoid toothpicks and definitely don’t open beer pint crown caps with your teeth! So far, so good. What about charcoal toothpaste? Marketing hogwash! And whitening gels? Also, a gimmick. One can have teeth polished (or even whitened) but those are procedures that a dentist will conduct once in a while. No toothpaste can achieve it, not even with brushing after every meal without fail. A broom can clean a stone floor, but only a buffing machine can bring out a sheen.

Then there is the question of mechanical versus electric toothbrushes. Here is where I found doctors varying in advice. While some said nothing was wrong with the good old brush, which comes with early morning elbow exercise, new-age brushes that buzz like a gentle vacuum cleaner inside our mouth also have their advantages. I tried the The Realme M1 electric toothbrush which boasts a 34,000/minute frequency motor recently, and it made my mouth tingle, almost ticklish even, the first few times. The various modes felt like some sales spiel — what is ‘clean’ mode? Is ‘polish’ mode different from ‘white’ mode? And why do I have to choose between these options? But it has a set timer for two minutes which is a nifty little feature. This is when I realised just how long two minutes are. And that I had decidedly never brushed my teeth for more than a minute ever in my life.

The Philips Protective Clean 4300 does similar timekeeping, but also has a pressure sensor, which signals when one is brushing too hard and can go up to a frequency of 62,000/minute which makes it sound like there is a tiny spaceship zipping inside your mouth.

Having used these electric toothbrushes for a few days, do I prefer them over my trusted old fashioned brush? Or, did I enjoy two minutes of holding a brush at various angles, while staring at myself in the mirror, wondering if I have eliminated the only form of morning exercise I get to become progressively lazier? The jury is out on that one. Most importantly, does my mouth feel cleaner now? The answer is a resounding yes! Either I was using the regular toothbrush wrong or those micro-vibrations are doing their magic.

When it comes to toothpaste, sometime back I shifted to the non-chemical, non-fluoride variety — what they call the natural toothpaste. I would recommend this change to everyone. Why ingest chemicals, even if it is microscopic quantities, when you can avoid it? I have been using the toothpastes from Arata and Birdsong and both have been a big change from the commercial stuff.

Finally, a word on oil pulling. Much like Yoga, it is another Indian practice that had to be exported to the West just so that it can be repackaged and imported back again. It is a great way to beat bad breath and also ensure good digestive health. Sure, it takes some practice to keep gargling with oil and waiting for the right time to spit, but I combine it with my shower and am mighty proud of how well I multitask at it.

In the end, as long as you keep the mouth clean and free from debris, you’re lowering the chances of bacteria that attack teeth and induce halitosis. In other words, hydrate and rinse often. Oh, and try and actually visit the dentist once in a while.

(Featured Image: Unsplash/Representational)