Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Of Candy Canes and Caries

Caries:  dentist's reference to cavities.  First time I was reluctantly ensconced in a dentist's chair and he said that, I was perplexed.  Cheerfully, he explained it, as he reached for the largest chisel on his tray of medieval torture instruments.

Raise your hand if an adult ever chided you by saying, "All that candy is just going to rot your teeth!"  I thought so.  Well, for once an old wives tale (no single women were ever consulted?) is true, sort of.  Sugar, in and of itself, does not rot teeth.  Teeth get rotted (?) by the interaction of sugar with bacteria already in your mouth.

Sugar + bacteria = acid and that's what eats away the enamel which is said to be the toughest surface in the human body.   But how tough is enamel  if there's an acid that will harm it, but the acid won't kill you by just being there?  Put it this way, I have my doubts about the toughness of enamel.

Further, this enamel-gorging acid lasts 20 to 30 minutes in your mouth.  It was said that bolting down a sugary soda rather than sipping on it all day is better for your teeth, if not the waistline.

So:  sugar does rot teeth.  Better to crunch to smithereens any candy and wash it down quickly with soda.  For those who like to savor their food rather than gobble it down like pigs in the barnyard, this is disquieting news.  I am one of you and you have my sympathy.

But:  when we were children of six or seven, our so-called baby teeth were falling out of our mouths like gentle rains on a meadow and we didn't care a bit!  Because we were all potential entrepreneurs and a lost tooth meant cash under the pillow.  (rub hands together and leer.)

And we Americans are not alone.  All over the world little kids are getting rewards for lost teeth!  We are not innovators!  How disappointing ...  however, let us brush embarrassed tears aside and see who shares our greed.

Native Americans have a twist.  The tooth is buried on the eastern side of a sage bush which is a symbol of childhood.  No mention of the kid getting anything but presumably a plat map to show where his sage bush is located.

In Turkey, parents who want their child to grow up and be an academic bury the tooth somewhere on the local university grounds.

Brazil and Greece toss the tooth up on the roof.  Egyptians tissue-wrap it before tossing.  The Japanese have made tooth disposal more complicated by throwing a top tooth on the roof to encourage the new one to come in and the bottom tooth is buried to form strong roots for the new tooth.

Swedish kids put the tooth in a glass of water at night and next morning there are coins in the water and the tooth is gone!  Midas would have been envious.  Turning a baby tooth into gold.  No child under 6 years old would have been safe in his village.

A dubious honor in Latin American countries and France is the belief that a rat comes and takes the tooth away.  El Raton (Hispanic) and Le Rat (French) are believed to have extraordinarily strong teeth and the parents want their child's new teeth to be just as strong.  To be real carie-fighters!

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