Oral Hygiene and its Empires

She tells us when you get in real close our teeth are a bizarre geography of mountain ranges and valleys, pock-marked and fissured; some other worldly landscape. And within this world there are populations of 100 to 200 different species existing. Those of us who practice oral hygiene can have up to 100,000 bacteria living on each tooth surface, while less clean mouths are more in the range of 100 million to 1 billion.

Oral hygiene. That’s what caught me. That every night — for some, three times a day — this universe is subjected to a literal cleansing that wipes out 90 percent of the population. How is this interpreted by those living within these circumstances? What kind of religion would evolve from such an act? Think of the anger of such a god, and how subject they are to its whim; the mythology that would build around such an act.

It must be our sins that are the cause of this.

The Great Brush works in mysterious ways.

The rise of bacteria death cults. Microbe virgin sacrifices.

A protozoa standing on a street corner with a sign that claims THE END IS NIGH.

Or perhaps it is a whole other scale of time. A day equals a millennia and our act of brushing is akin to the great extinctions. We are the meteorite, trailing a froth of peppermint across the gum line before making impact with the hard enamel surface.

Millions are lost in an instant, others are carried away in the act of rinsing and spitting. And those left behind are forced to begin again with little more than a passed along story of things to avoid the next time around, mangled like a game of telephone; a lesson of hubris, of getting too caught up in the highs of sugar.

They’ve been warned that the gingivitis is getting worse and that they are the cause of it —

but they ignore the data.

Kevin Broome is a writer, designer, artist and father of 3, living and working in xwésám (“fat fish” in the shíshálh language; Roberts Creek in English) He has had 2 cavities. 

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