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The Write Way

11 July 2008

It Goes Boom-Boody, Boom-Boody, Boom

Greetings,

I suppose it comes with the territory, but when you reach a certain age ... I mean, when you're in your Prime, you start to experience the odd little twinge or flutter where once there was just "normal."

Such was the case a few weeks ago when my heart started to go all a-flutter for no apparent reason; the Love of My Life assured me it was simply his animal magnetism working its old black magic, but after too many years to count (and remember, I was a child bride), I felt this quite possibly wasn't the real cause.

Happily, this event coincided with my regular yearly check-up with my GP, and while she assured me all was normal, still I kept getting the flutters.

After chatting with a few acquaintances about similar funny feelings, I was relieved to hear a friend comment that he was currently enrolled in an experimental program with his doctor who was testing the relationship between heart flutters and toothpaste ... yes, you heard aright, toothpaste! 

So off to my best mate Google went I, to discover just what was in that white paste I'd been happily brushing away with for the past (ahem) years. And egad, dear reader, you don't want to know ... you just don't want to know.

But maybe you should know ... so wrap your laughing gear around this little lot:

Fluoride is the most popular active ingredient in toothpaste due to its proved ability to prevent cavities. Most toothpaste brands use Sodium fluoride (NaF); some brands use Sodium Monofluorophosphate - SMFP (Na2PO3F). 

(And as a by-the-by, did you know that as well as being the chief ingredient in fluoride toothpaste, sodium fluoride is also the main ingredient in rat poison? Just saying ...) 
Antimicrobial agents that fight the bacteria of dental plaque. There are two kinds of antibacterial agents used as ingredients of toothpastes :

- bactericidal agents as Triclosan that kill bacteria. Triclosan induces damage and lesions to the cell wall of bacteria resulting in bacteriolysis (death of the cell). 

(Remember, there are cells in your body as well as in the bacteria. Again ... Just saying ...)

- bacteriostatic agents as Zinc (Zinc chloride or Zinc citrate) that stop the growth of dental plaque bacteria by inhibiting their metabolism.

The combination of a bacteriostatic with a bactericidal agent as toothpaste ingredients is the most effective one to fight dental plaque and gum disease.

Surfactants (detergents) and foaming agents that help to carry away debris from the mouth and between the teeth. Common foaming ingredients in toothpastes are Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and ammonium lauryl sulfate.

(You may come across this chemical in your garage as well as in your bathroom cabinet, because it's used in garage floor cleaners, engine degreasers and car wash detergents. Nice ...)

Anti-tartar agents as Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate (TSPP). Pyrophosphates are water-softening agents that remove calcium and magnesium from the saliva, so they can't deposit on teeth creating tartar (calcified plaque). Pyrophosphate does not remove tartar, it merely helps prevent its formation.

De-sensitising agents to relieve tooth sensitivity. Strontium chloride works by blocking the tiny crevices (microtubules) that enable cold and heat sensations to reach the tooth's nerve. Potassium citrate and Potassium nitrate work in a different way by blocking the mechanism of pain transmission between nerve cells.

(Basically, these are anaesthetics and are responsible for that tingly feeling after brushing.)

Abrasives: Calcium phosphate (chalk) and alumina were used as the abrasive base of tooth pastes but they had the disadvantage of reacting with other chemical ingredients. Today the common abrasives are Silicon Dioxide (silica) and Titanium Dioxide. Hydrated silica is a transparent abrasive used not only in white opaque tooth pastes, but in gel toothpastes as well.

(And hydrated silica, you may be interested to know, is made from a crystallised compound found in quartz, sand and flint. Just the thing for your pearly whites!)

Baking Soda (Sodium bicarbonate) is a mild abrasive. It has a mild whitening action and helps to keep an alkaline environment (not friendly for dental plaque bacteria) in the mouth.

Teeth Whitening agents: the whitening toothpastes, except of the mechanical whitening action of toothpaste abrasives, use extra whitening ingredients such as Hydrogen Peroxide or Sodium carbonate peroxide that break down into sodium carbonate (washing soda) and hydrogen peroxide.

Flavour: Toothpastes come in a variety of flavors, most often being some variation on mint.
Additional ingredients such as enzymes, vitamins, herbs, calcium, mouthwash are often included in the formulas. Other non-active ingredients in toothpaste are humectants, coloring thickeners, water softeners and sweeteners as sodium saccharin. (Source)

And one final point ... the glycerin that's used in toothpastes and gels doesn't just come from vegetable sources, but also from pigs or cows. 

Are you beginning to see why your heart and mine often go boom-boody, boom-boody, boom instead of a nice steady lup-dup, lup-dup?

And the 'u' in lup-dup rhymes with 'put,' not 'cut.'

Which brings us to some interesting thoughts about why we English speakers seem to make life so difficult for ourselves (and for those trying to learn English as a second language). And it's all to do with the Great Vowel Shift that occurred back in the Middle Ages.

Sometime around 1350 to 1550, English pronunciation changed, with vowels shifting further back in the mouth, and that's why we have such inconsistencies in our words (and spelling).

You'll find an interesting discussion of the Great Vowel Shift on this University of Northern Colorado website, which also shows why poetry is an important resource! (Source) 

One theory to explain this sudden (well, relatively sudden) change in pronunciation is that after the Black Death, many thousands of survivors hot-footed it to London, and people being people, they all wanted to fit in, so these newcomers modified their speech and soon all the different dialects became standardised when they "raised Middle English long vowels, causing the high long vowels to become diphthongs, as the mid long vowels became high long vowels and so on ..."

Some examples of what we're discussing are the following pairs of words. To quote the article above, "In each of these cases, we can see that in Modern English, the pattern often seems to involve a lax vowel paired with a tense vowel articulated higher in the vocal tract, or (in the case of high lax vowels) paired with a tense diphthong.

crime: criminal
please: pleasant
grateful: gratitude
abound: abundant
goose: gosling"

And our horrific spelling with all its irregularities can be blamed on the widespread use of the printing press just before all these changes in pronunciation took root. Gutenburg's press came on the scene around 1440, and all the books that were printed used the Middle English pronunciation as the basis for spelling, even though Modern English pronounced some words quite differently.

And as we've seen, the GVS started almost immediately after this.

Talk about bad timing!

Anyway ... at least now we have some sort of a reason for our crazy spelling, and you'll find how I solved the problem of my flutters in this week's Little Something Extra.

 

Patient: "Doctor, I have yellow teeth, what do I do?"

Dentist: "Wear a brown tie..."

This week's quiz:

Try these dental terms and you'll be able to carry on a lively conversation with your dentist when you run into him/her at the supermarket ... 

pulpectomy, curettage, hyperemia, parasthesia, lingua villosa nigra, prophylaxis, pyorrhea, xerostomia, malocclusion, trench mouth

1. occurs when a personís mouth lacks sufficient saliva to keep it moist 

2. temporary or permanent loss of sensation that can occur after oral surgery. The numbness results from pressure or damage to the nerve usually occurs after an extraction and affects the tissues of the mouth including the tongue cheek lip or chin 

3. teeth are out of alignment crooked or crowded 

4. the removal of dead inner tissue from a gum pocket 

5. highly painful form of gingivitis or gum inflammation; symptoms include pain in the gums, bleeding gums, red swollen gums, greyish film on gums, deep ulcers between the teeth, foul taste and odour in mout, fever 

6. procedures of dental scaling and dental polishing 

7. increased blood flow to pulp tissue (inflamed tissue) can cause dental sensitivity and may lead to an abscess 

8. the excessive growth of fungi that normally live in the mouth; possibly as a result of an overgrowth of the bacteria normally present in the mouth causing a discoloration of the tongue.; this extra tissue can get stained by food or tobacco and become yellowish brown or black; bacteria can then accumulate on the finger-like projections from the surface of the tongue (papillae) 

9. common endodontic procedure in which the dental pulp and root canal are completely removed 

10. an advanced stage of periodontal disease in which the ligaments and bones that support the teeth become inflamed and infected; usually a result of gingivitis a periodontal disease that infects the gum through plaque leading to the formation of a pocket between the teeth that trap the plaque; can cause halitosis (bad breath) in which the jaw bone is slowly eroded due to painful and bleeding gums. Eventually the loss of tooth support can cause tooth loss and this disease is the primary cause of tooth loss in adults 

"Open wider," requested the dentist, as he began his examination of the patient. "Good God!" he said startled. "You've got the biggest cavity I've ever seen the biggest cavity I've ever seen." 

"OK, Doc!" replied the patient. "I'm scared enough without you saying something like that twice." 

"I didn't!" said the dentist. "That was the echo."

Last week's quiz:

Match each word with its antonym:

1. malinger

2. noxious

3. perjury

4. precedent

5. prodigy

6. proliferate

7. reclusive

8. renounce

9. sacrilege

10.subversive

participate

safe

telling the truth

follow-up

commonplace

shrink

sociable

keep

piety

co-operative

And if the kiddies have left the room, I can pass along this little story ...

A man and a woman met at a bar. They started getting along really well, and they decided to go to the woman's place for a drink.

A few drinks later, the man took off his shirt and washed his hands. He then took off his socks and washed his hands. 

The woman looked at him and said, "You must be a dentist!"

Flabbergasted, the man said, "Why, yes, I am. That's amazing. How did you know that?"

The woman replied, "Easy ... you keep washing your hands."

Well, one thing led to another, and they migrated to the bed. Things became more and more passionate and ... (fill in the blanks to the best of your ability).

After their passionate deed was done, the woman remarked, "You must be a GREAT dentist!"

The man was very flattered and said, "Well, yes, yes! I sure am a great dentist ... You amaze me! And how did you know THAT, my dear?"

"Easy," says she, "because I didn't feel a thing."

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A Little Something Extra

We really are fortunate to be living in this day and age, aren't we? Just imagine if you'd lived in ancient times when people cleaned their teeth with "abrasives such as crushed bone, burned and crushed egg, snail or oyster shells." Or if you'd had to pick at your teeth with a frayed stick or bit of pig bristle ...

Early "modern" tooth cleaners were usually made from chalk, soap and salt ... until we got to our present-day chemical concoctions (see above).

But, and I don't know whether you'll thank me or curse me for this, you can whip up a perfectly good tooth powder yourself from a couple of simple ingredients that should be in just about every kitchen.

Ready?

Get yourself a small, clean, dry jar with a screw-top lid. The best way to make sure jars are clean is to sterilise them with boiling water, empty and upend on a clean cloth to dry thoroughly.

Then mix in two parts bi-carb soda with one part finely ground sea salt. Shake well and that's it!

Wet your toothbrush, get a small spoon and shake on enough of your mix to cover your brush (about 1/8 teaspoon will probably do for most people), then brush away. (Make sure you keep the mixture dry and don't dip your brush into the jar because you can contaminate the mix this way.) 

The bi-carb cleans your teeth, whitens them, leaves your mouth feeling great, your breath fresh and your teeth shiny clean, while the salt acts as an antiseptic. You know how the dentist always tells you to rinse with a mix of warm water and salt after you've had any work done ... this is why, and you leave an opened box of bi-carb soda in the fridge to absorb odours ... See? It's all making perfect sense, isn't it?

You'll find you no longer have that furry feeling on your teeth in the morning, there's no more "morning breath" and your teeth really will look whiter.

Try it ... all you have to lose is some rat poison, some engine degreaser and a few more chemicals.

 

Word of the week: Diastema (n)  open spaces between the upper incisors (front teeth); created by an unequal relationship between the size of the teeth and the jaw

Oxymoron of the week: poor dentist

And if you're due to visit your dentist any time soon, here's just the Latin to describe how you feel as you walk in the door ...

A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi 

[AH FROON-tay preye-kee-PEE-tee-oom AH TAYR-goh LOOP-ee]

(A precipice in front, wolves behind)

Did you know that you can have your very own Latin reminders? How about undies proclaiming, Bene est rex esse? (It's good to be king) Or a shopping bag that warns, Emptrix nata sum (Born to shop)? 

Kind regards,

Jennifer

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