Quilting, Farming, Variety

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Borrowed Toothbrush

For some reason, a visit to the dentist is usually not an experience a person enjoys. I was told once, by my dentist, if my husband had looked in my mouth before we were married, he wouldn't have married me. I didn't take it too personal and continued going to him for treatment until, at the age of 46, I took the big plunge and got braces. Now when I go to the dentist, I only see him once a year; the cleaning, x-rays, etc. are done by a dental hygienist. We talk and have even become friends in some cases.
There is no reason now to have dirty teeth. After each visit, the hygienist gives me a "goody" bag containing a new brush, toothpaste, and dental floss. Over time I've accumulated quite a collection of brushes.
Brushes have not always been available, or maybe affordable, for all children. As a child, I knew how to break off a little stem from a sassafras bush, chew one end until it was frayed, and then use it as a toothbrush. Of course it was pretty stiff and rough on my gums. I had a store-bought toothbrush; the sassafras brush was just something to try and I liked its taste.
I'd think all children have access to a toothbrush now and most probably complain about the chore of cleaning their teeth. This brings to mind a little story about my mother when she was a child:
Mama wanted a toothbrush; a real one with soft bristles and a celluloid handle.
She was tired of the rough, sassafras brushes she made and used on her walk to school each day. Two girls in the school had store-bought brushes and she was sure her teeth never looked as bright and shiny as their teeth. She looked with envy at the real brush someone had given to her baby brother. He didn't use it much; why couldn't she borrow it? So without anyone knowing it, she slipped the brush out of the house and brushed her teeth. How clean they felt! She ran her tongue over and around every tooth, savoring their sleekness. She went inside and looked into the mirror; how pretty and white her teeth were! But now she must put the brush back before someone missed it. First she would wash it good. There was a pan of hot water on the heater; she could use it to scald the brush. So she took the pan to the porch and poured the water over the brush. To her surprise, the bristles began falling out of the celluloid handle and in a jiffy they were all out. The brush was ruined.
Now I don't know what kind of trouble she was in, she didn't tell me that. However, it made such an impression on her that she remembered it for the rest of her life.
How spoiled we are!


  1. This story makes me a little sad. Can you imagine how panicked she felt when the bristles started coming out?

  2. Kind of like when that stick broke off in the lock....

  3. Oh Charlotte-makes me feel bad for her-but I love the part about her feeling her nice clean teeth!!

  4. Awww... bless her heart! This story makes me think about how many things we take for granted!
    Glad you and your dentist are "friends" now, Charlotte... I worked as an orthodontist assistant for 18 years!

  5. I'm happy to hear your dental visits are a positive now. Way to go!

    It's sad to consider how few personal items an individual child had way-back-when. It's pretty interesting how it was figured out that a sassafras twig could serve as a makeshift toothbrush. There was so many clever substitutions for items back then. :)

  6. We Americans do take a lot of things for granted, especially these days. My parents, on the other hand, lived through the great depression and the war and I think there is a greater appreciation from that generation.

  7. Such a good story and my heart felt for her when the bristles fell out. blessings,Kathleen

  8. I'm happy to say my dentist and I are friends and I don't mind going at all. Besides, they don't weigh you like the other doctors do! I'm thankful we have such good dental care now.