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I like toothpicks. I think people underestimate the usefulness of toothpicks in everyday situations. They’re useful for opening stubborn plastic packaging, marking one’s place in books, and attending to one’s fingernails in the absence of a proper manicure kit. And, of course, for picking teeth in scenarios where digging at your molars with your pinky nail and flossing with your own hair aren’t socially prudent.

Therefore, it seems to me to be perfectly reasonable to carry around a box of toothpicks on my person wherever I go, along with a flashlight and compass for when the my weak eyesight and horrendous sense of direction get me into trouble. It’s gotten to the point where I can scarcely eat potato chips or cheese crackers without a toothpick on hand to make sure my snack foods don’t set up shop any longer than necessary.

I’ll be tragically honest: I’ve never been the most conscientious person in regards to dental hygiene. Make no mistake, I brush my teeth as often as I need to in order to avoid bioweapon status on my passport, but I find regular flossing a challenge. My approach to flossing is similar to my approach to doing laundry. In general, unless mishandled caramel or an urgent orange soda stain prompt immediate action, I do my laundry whenever I run out of a given type of clothing item (today, it’s socks) and not much more often than that. Not strictly what one might consider a wholesome understanding of home economics, but I’m hoping that the fact that I’m a college student will excuse me somewhat.

To my credit, I do use an electric toothbrush in the name of dental preservation, although that strikes me as sort of like compensating for poor driving skills with extremely attentive turn signaling. It doesn’t fix the primary problem, but it makes it less obvious to those nearby.

Call me pretentious (hey — that wasn’t very nice), but I prefer electric toothbrushes over manual ones. I view them in the same category as sleeping masks. Sure, they may seem like luxuries for people who care too much about trivialities, but when you want to get your teeth extra-pearly or catch some shut-eye when your roommate needs light to study by, they get the job done.

Make no mistake, an electric toothbrush really does clean teeth better (albeit at the expense of the local power grid), especially when you’re on the brink of unconsciousness and don’t have adequate motor control to move the brush back and forth yourself. The flip side, of course, is that if you’re particularly drowsy and uncoordinated, accidentally brushing your nose is considerably more gruesome with an electric toothbrush.

In the event that my poor dental habits are responsible for my smile’s demise, I imagine that an accomplice will be found in the wide array of snack food containers strewn around my room. I once decided that if I were ever stuck on a deserted island with only one salty snack and one sweet snack, I would want popcorn and gummi bears. Well, popcorn’s long-standing invasion orders against one’s teeth is well-documented, and gummi bears are practically engineered to lay siege to enamel coatings, being a highly-soluble form of sugar that sticks to surfaces and encourages heavy chewing. The danger of both combined with Costco’s tendency to sell gummis in bags of 7,500 or more was perhaps single-handedly responsible for the most recent strain on my dental insurance.

I suppose I should consider myself lucky that my family’s choice of dental office doesn’t read my column. I’d hate to ruin a good thing — their dental hygienist has enough finesse not to floss-saw my gums bloody, and the dentist can fill two gummi-induced cavities and send me on my way in under half an hour, waiting room time included. As far as I’m concerned, those could easily qualify as the two miracles required for sainthood.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I should go buy some dental floss. Maybe it’s just my paranoia getting to me, but it occurs to me that if there’s a Dentists’ Union, there may be a Dental Mafia, and if such a thing exists, I don’t want to get on their bad side.