Picture if you will, way back in time, a mountainous cliff with openings called "caves." In one cave were a caveman and a cavewoman, (what else?) sitting by a fire eating chunks of meat.
Later that night as they began to cuddle, the caveman looked at the woman and said, "I find you repulsive. Your breath smells like a can of worms sitting in the hot sun." (That should make your mornings eggs slip down easier.)
The woman retorted, "Your breath doesn't smell like a bed of roses either, so take that!"
That night they slept in separate caves. It's been all downhill from that point.
It would appear that civilization was about to go the way of the dodo or the saber-toothed tiger, but lo and behold, a man stepped forward claiming that he had an invention that prevented bad breath. It was a stick, the end of which had been shredded into wood-like bristles. He called it a "toothbrush."
The toothbrush, was a featured article on the main cave wall, which recorded all the events of the tribe, and as soon as people saw the practicality of it, they went berserk. The inventor made a million clams and retired to a nice cave in Aruba where he sported a million-dollar smile.
The population continued to grow, saved by a brush that left your mouth with a "clean taste."
Many eons later someone invented the word "halitosis," which means the same as smelly breath, and the cycle of stunted population growth started again.
The problem wasn't so much as smelly breath as it was yellow teeth. It was a giant no-no to have yellow teeth. If you had yellow teeth, you were a social pariah and you had to live in a cave rather than a white frame house with green shutters and a picket fence.
But once again, an inventor type found a way to remove the yellow stain on teeth. He was so happy that he used to sing: "You'll wonder where the yellow went if you brush your teeth with broken glass." (Or something like that.) Unlike the caveman who was paid in clams, this inventor wanted "greenbacks."
Everybody was happy for a long time _ brushing with bristles, using toothpaste that removed yellow stains and freshened your breath. But someone decided it was time to separate the cleaning of teeth with breath freshening so they made a "stripe type," toothpaste. It was pretty to look at. In fact it resembled a barber pole as it exited the tube and was deposited on your brush.
Today we have toothpaste just for sensitive teeth and flavored toothpaste for children to encourage them to use it. There are mechanized brushes that pulse, squirt or rotate, all to make brushing a pleasure, and best of all "I don't have any cavities, ma!"
The latest fads are whiter-than-white teeth and an extracted tooth being replaced by a screw in tooth that "lasts forever."
The dentist of my youth was Dr. Brutal Hurtsem, who had the latest equipment _ a drill that ran on a pulley system and drills that were also used to engrave names in granite. To say they were dull would be putting it mildly. They say that the pain is caused by heat created by the dull drill boring into my innocent little tooth. Well, as Bill Cosby would observe, "I smell smoke."
In my case it was not only smoke I smelled it was a three alarm fire that was burning in my tooth.
"Aaarrrhhhh," I said trying to explain my pain while he not only has the entire drill in my mouth but a shoe, socks and bow-tie as well.
When Dr. Brutal said, "Almost done, just a little bit more," he was lying. In truth he was saying, "Hang on baby, if you think this hurts you haven't seen nothing yet."
When we finally finished, I was usually drenched in sweat and was shaking all over.
The best dentist I ever had was one who used nitrous oxide _ laughing gas _ as a means to control pain. I never felt a thing and when I was done I felt so happy that I was alive.
He was a young guy fresh out of dental school and we made a major cap job of six front teeth together. I laughed most of the time.
Why? I haven't a clue.
That was more than 50 years ago and every dentist since has commented on the outstanding job that was done on my badly pitted front teeth.
It wasn't too long ago that I was reminiscing about the town where I grew up as a kid, and Dr. Brutal Hurtsem's name came up. It was then that I found out that Dr. Hurtsem had died of a self injected shot of Novocaine.
When I heard this news I was surprised because I felt nothing. I didn't think that Novocaine lasted that long.
As time goes by, we move on to the next adventure in life _ which includes teeth whitening.
What will they think of next? How about staining your teeth to compliment the color of your wardrobe?
You could have a "rainbow smile."
Henry Geerken is a three-time NYSUT award-winner writing humorous articles addressing retiree and senior citizen concerns. Geerken also writes for Sail-World, World Cruising Newsletter, regarding his many humorous sailing episodes through the years. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. 'Senior Scene' columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/seniorscene.