We Boomers in school were used to having our health enhanced, as well as our minds. For instance, in elementary school every year, a dental technician would show up with posters, free toothbrushes for all, and something ominous known as plaque detection tablets.
The posters were scary, too. They would show what happened to little kids who DIDN’T brush their teeth regularly. Yikes, talk about some ugly rotted images.
But the scariest thing was popping those red tablets in your mouth for the first time. It was the first grade for me, and I remember some kids crying because they were frightened by the scarlet pills. But the teacher tried to reassure them, while still pointing out that resistance was futile. You WILL have your plaque exposed.
And boy, did we have plaque. It seems that we were all hopelessly incompetent at brushing our teeth. The dental technician would shake her head in sad wonder. Then, she would educate us on avoiding the future embarrassment of failed plaque detections.
The problem was that we just weren’t brushing hard enough or long enough. So we were trained to brush our teeth in such a way that would virtually guarantee future receded gums. Up like a rocket, down like the rain, back and forth like a choo-choo train. For at least five minutes.
A shorter brushing session followed by flossing was a better idea, but nobody was doing that in 1966.
True, the dental tech’s advice on brushing might have been overzealous by today’s standards, but I look in the mirror today and see a healthy set of forty-seven year old choppers. My father, raised in rural Minnesota through the Depression, had a set of dentures by the time he was forty. Baby Boomers as a whole have managed to keep their original teeth, thanks in large part to those ominous red plaque detecting pills.