Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mummified Molars

I require only two things of my toothpaste: 

1. That it be cheap.

2. That it at least claim to whiten my teeth, so I can delude myself into believing my pearly-whites will bedazzle any potential mates and employers.

Two weeks ago, I bought toothpaste at our local Metromarket. The only kind that fulfilled both my demands was "Pepsodent," a brand discontinued in the United States in the 1960s and in South Africa in the 1970s, but still popular throughout the southeast Asian realm today. (According to Wikipedia).

I began questioning my "Pasta Gigi" (as the Indonesian label reads) a few days after I started using it. A squeeze of the tube produced a series of large bubbles before the extremely viscose paste itself emerged, and I detected a slightly soapy flavor. I related these phenomena to my flatmates.

Jess snatched the tube from my hands and muttered to herself as she scanned the list of ingredients. 

"Formaldehyde!" she finally cried out. 
"Well, doesn't your toothpaste have it too?" I asked.
"No," she said, exasperated. "No it doesn't." 
"What about Caitlin's?"
Jess groaned and shuffled out of the bathroom to get her own tube of Crest and Caitlin's Colgate.
"Listen, this toothpaste doesn't have any of the ingredients in either of our toothpastes."
"Hm," I said. "Hm."

We googled all of the other ingredients later, only to find that two-thirds of them are considered carcinogens. It also turns out that the EU recently banned all use of formaldehyde.

Jess tried to convince me to buy a nice old tube of Arm & Hammer, but I resisted. More than money was at stake here.

"Just think," I said, brandishing my Pepsodent. "In 2000 years, I'll be the only human specimen in North America with a fully preserved set of teeth and gums. I'll be an archaeological marvel!"

She wasn't convinced, however, and in the end I had to admit that the short-term disadvantages outweighed the long-term benefits. As Jake might say, the toothpaste was out of the tube.


  1. That is anecdote is so brilliant, in every imaginable way.

  2. A story on your birthday:
    Today in school, I learned something about formaldehyde. According to my teacher, methanol (found in grain alcohol) is converted to formaldehyde in the blood along its pathway to excretion. I'm sorry to say that this methanol-derived formaldehyde should be no different from the formaldehyde in your toothpaste. It is also no coincidence that grain alcohol will cause blindness, no siree. Formaldehyde associates first with the eyes and cross-links the proteins in those baby blues that otherwise let you see.

    So, Anna, I hope that you've gifted this away, or you might soon have you eyes cross-linked, I don't recommend. Also, I'm sorry if this has been at all worrying to you, but the toothpaste is out...

    Oh and happy birthday!