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Death, Taxes, and When to Brush Your Teeth

It’s another dreary night at Burton dining hall. The quiet murmur of Carleton’s esteemed student body echoes around the tea room. Suddenly, you are sprung into action: your friend asks you if you brush your teeth before or after breakfast. This was the situation I found myself in last Tuesday. As I fervently defended my side, I realized that this discourse may be one of the great unspoken conflicts of our time. I can only compare this dinnertime debate to inter-family political conflicts during Thanksgiving.

I don’t care what the dentists have to say. They’re not even really doctors anyway, so I don’t trust them. There seem to be conflicting schools of thought among them anyway. A defining life decision like this should be left to the gut. When I did ask my dentist about this issue, he just stared at me blankly and told me it doesn’t matter, leading me to believe there is more to this decision than I might think.

Hector Capeilleres ’25 seems to have a complete disregard for the gravity of this decision, favoring convenience over health. He says, “At college, I brush my teeth before breakfast because normally I eat breakfast and then go directly to class, and if I brush my teeth after class I’d have to go back to my dorm and then back to class. At home, I brush my teeth after breakfast because then they actually get cleaned.” Like many other Carls I surveyed, Capeilleres’ decision comes down to logistical considerations, regardless of his feeling that brushing after breakfast is more hygienic.

A source who preferred to remain anonymous offered me a different perspective: “If I lean in for an early afternoon smooch with my girl, I don’t want to taste her Burton breakfast. She shouldn’t have to taste mine either. This is a matter of respect.”

It just doesn’t make sense. You brush your teeth before bed. That’s acknowledged as a fact of life. Your teeth are clean and you go to sleep. If you brush your teeth properly, they should really still be clean when you wake up too. Even if you argue that your teeth become dirty overnight, there’s no way they are dirtier when you wake up than they are after you violate them with LDC eggs and a waffle. Not only that, but people are willing to go the entire day with coffee stuck to their teeth? Even if you don’t drink coffee, I still don’t really get it.

Imagine you wake up, brush your teeth, use mouthwash, and you’re out the door. You inhale the crisp Minnesota air. Your breath feels unbelievably fresh. You feel like you’re walking on a cloud. You’re confident, enthusiastic, and think to yourself, “This is what happiness feels like.” This is a feeling that could last hours, compared to mere minutes, if you choose to brush after breakfast.

I hope that the imagery and logic I’ve presented here, though completely devoid of medical study or academic research, will prompt you to make a positive change in your life.

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