Remember Non-Electric Toothbrushes?

Remember when no one used electric toothbrushes?

I do.

I am sure that someone can cite me an article that says that electric toothbrushes have been around since the Roman Empire.  But it was not until I was at least old enough to bear sole responsibility for brushing my teeth that I first heard of the electric toothbrush.

I never liked brushing my teeth.  It seemed like a lot of extra work, and at eight years old I could not be wasting time with needless personal hygiene.  My parents told me that my teeth would rot and fall out if I did not brush them regularly, but I debunked that myth whenever I could.

And then one day I saw a commercial for an electric toothbrush.  I could not believe my eyes.  A man was standing in front of the camera and was holding this electric toothbrush in front of his teeth.  His arm was not moving; the toothbrush was doing all the work.  This was the answer.

I persuaded my parents to splurge for a electric toothbrush by making up statistics and saying “please” many times in a row.  On the first night of Hanukkah I opened my gift and it was an electric toothbrush.  It was small, with the brush on one end and a Mickey Mouse figurine on the other end, satisfying the universal law that any appliance designed for children must have a superfluous plastic cartoon figurine welded to it.  The electric toothbrush my brother received had a Donald Duck figurine so that he would not use mine by accident.

I popped in a battery, and, for the first time in my life, raced up the stairs to the bathroom to brush my teeth.  I put the toothpaste on the brush, and held the brush to my teeth, said a quick prayer, and flipped on the device.

I don’t know what I was expecting.  Perhaps I thought the brush would clean my teeth without my so much as flexing a wrist.  The brush vibrated next to my teeth for a few moments, but it was not really brushing them.  I took the toothbrush away and saw that I had only gotten some white toothpaste lather on my front teeth.  “Ah,” I said to myself, “perhaps I have to move the brush around.”  I moved the vibrating brush around my teeth, but I still did not feel like the teeth were getting clean.  After another minute I was moving my arm in a brushing motion, and was basically brushing my teeth as I normally would but with a vibrating brush head.  After a few days I returned to my old brush, and the Mickey Mouse figurine sat idle on the counter with dried white toothpaste on his mouse ears.

Years later, just after a marathon cleaning session at the dentist’s, during which I heard the hygienist retching into the wastebasket several times, my dentist advised me to get an electric toothbrush.  I followed these instructions and duly parted with $80 or so for the recommended fancy state-of-the-art toothbrush.  It came in a large box, and had charging station instead of a space for a battery, and had nothing in place of the Mickey Mouse figurine.  I charged it up, put it up to the front of my teeth, said a prayer, and flipped on the device.

I guess I should have known what to expect.  It vibrated, and my teeth did not get clean, and I found myself applying the usual amount of torque from my elbow and shoulder.  And after a few days the electric toothbrush was lying idle on the counter, with dried white toothpaste collected all over the charging station.

And so every morning when I get up, and almost every night before I go to bed, there I stand, in front of my mirror, in a world of iPhones and Tivos, brushing my teeth with nothing but the sweat of my shoulder and elbow, and my ergonomically-handled, aerodynamically-headed, uniquely-bristled, plain ol’ non-electric toothbrush, that I picked up for $80 or so.

Thanks to Curtis Dozier for the topic.

8 thoughts on “Remember Non-Electric Toothbrushes?

  1. The only mechanical toothbrush I use will have to include a complete hygiene regimen ala The Jetsons. White gloved hands on mechanical arms and the like.

  2. I bought about 100 toothbrushes on E-Bay a few years ago. They were the extra soft ones, the ones you can’t find anywhere. I love them. I pull out a new one every month. I have an electric toothbrush, it is packed away somewhere.

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