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LIFE BY LOUIS: Ever suffered from stressed teeth?

Friday July 26 2019

I visited my dentist over the weekend and after shining a few bright lights into my mouth, she concluded that my teeth are suffering from stress. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH

I visited my dentist over the weekend and after shining a few bright lights into my mouth, she concluded that my teeth are suffering from stress. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH 

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I visited my dentist over the weekend and after shining a few bright lights into my mouth, she concluded that my teeth are suffering from stress.

I sat upright and my eyes almost flew from their sockets. I wondered how stressed teeth are supposed to be treated. Do they require a hard drink or enrolment into a support group?

She must have understood my ignorance towards the subject matter, for she broke it down further and told me that my teeth are getting eroded.

It still took me quite a while to understand that statement. Upon further prodding because I believe that the consultancy fee that I pay her includes one free dental surgery lesson, she told me that I am using the wrong kind of toothbrush.

Dentists recommend that you replace your toothbrush every other month, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. I consider that as useful information for academic purposes and impressing girls who like men with white teeth but not applicable to my situation.

The last time I replaced my toothbrush is more than a year ago. The bristles are so frayed until they are facing backwards like that haircut style of old called ‘rayparker’.


When I brush my teeth, I almost use the bare frame because the bristles are missing in action, and sometimes it hurts.


I once soaked the toothbrushes in hot water to see if the bristles could straighten but it was all in vain.

I have also tried to bite the bristles back to shape when brushing my teeth, but is an activity that is as useful as painting your dog. 

The last time I replaced my toothbrush, I did not throw the old one away. And probably the three of them before that.

The glass hanging bravely in my bathroom has four of my old toothbrushes standing there proudly like sports trophies in the headmaster’s office.

Where I come from, you just don’t throw anything away unless the public health inspector is coming around to enforce a government directive to throw away all used items in the house.

Used toothbrushes and old cooking fat containers are part of the family and they are protected under domestic statutes.

My mind is not wired to replace anything until it has completely and irreversibly broken down and forcibly resurrected several times using super glue and rubber bands.


I can't logically explain why I keep the old toothbrushes though. The oldest one behaves like a matriarch or a polygamous husband. It gladly welcomes the newbies and probably warns them of tough times ahead.

The broken glass where I keep the toothbrushes resembles that building in Nairobi called National Archives that everyone knows the location but very few have ever entered.

Old, graceful and occupying prime space in the bathroom, the old glass has bloomed into a colour that is approaching dark brown. Germs dread that glass like a plague, therefore I rest assured that the occupants of the glass are in safe hands.

Every time I pass by the supermarket high end shelves that stock toothbrushes, I just stand there and marvel at how some of them cost fifty shillings and others close to a thousand bob.

Once in a while, there is a cute salesgirl who is trying to push the sales of a toothpaste by offering a free toothbrush as a bonus. I always ignore her because I must consult my old toothbrush first before I walk in with a replacement. Such misdemeanours like ad hoc replacement of toothbrushes causes trust issues with the incumbent.

I then proceed to other shelves with things that are less intriguing and that I can easily identify with. Like the salt shelves.

Salt calls a lot of shots in the kitchen yet it never causes unnecessary scenes in the supermarket like the toothbrushes.

Speaking of salt, we grew up brushing our teeth using a twig from a particular tree. On special occasions, you soaked the twig into a salt bath, and that felt like a premium treatment to your teeth.

The tree that bore the precious twigs did not grown in every homestead. You had to make a deliberate decision to go and look for the twigs, or wait until you happened to be using the road where the tree grew so that you could pluck a twig.

This tells you that brushing your teeth was not a priority.  

When the government is considering subsidising the price of maize flour, it should be cognizant of the fact that there are some of us here with mightier problems, and who need subsidized toothbrushes, prayers and counselling.