Cultural trends

What’s the deal with black toothpaste?

You might be taken aback when you see an inky black substance snaking out of the tube on to your brush, but remember that this is the current dental rage. It’s got charcoal that’s supposed to help absorb stains and I suppose kill bacteria that can cause bad breath.

Black toothpasteSo when you finish brushing with this stuff your breath smells like a freshly opened bag of briquettes.

Black toothpaste hasn’t been studied much, but a group of British researchers last year concluded it was nothing more than “a marketing gimmick.” It can actually “increase the risk of tooth decay and staining,” the BBC said in a review of the study that came out in the British Dental Journal.

“When used too often in people with fillings, it can get into them and become difficult to get out,” Dr. Greenwall-Cohen co-author, told the BBC in May of last year.

“Charcoal particles can also get caught up in the gums and irritate them.”

Charcoal powder used in black toothpaste is more abrasive than traditional toothpaste and can potentially harm the enamel, he said.

Another problem is that many black toothpastes don’t contain fluoride, a longtime additive that fights tooth decay.

Dental experts say toothpaste with fluoride is better for your teeth, but there are side effects. For example, there have been concerns over the last 60-70 years that using a fluoridated product can turn you into a communist, so for some people who are more susceptible to political persuasion, a no-fluoride paste may be a good option.

(Fluoride was first added to toothpaste in 1914, and the Russian Revolution began in 1917. Need we say more.)

Toothpaste has an interesting history that goes back to the ancient Egyptians, who cleaned their teeth 7,000 years ago with a combination of crushed rock salt, mint, flowers and pepper.

Other societies have used ground ox hooves, brick dust, ground up eggshells and yes, even charcoal.

During the 18th century, people brushed their teeth with burnt breadcrumbs, and soap was added to more abrasive ingredients by a dentist in 1824. The first modern toothpaste came from Colgate in 1873. It was sold in glass jars.

Companies that produce toothpaste these days are looking for any marketing advantage they can find. I mean, can you blame them? It’s such a crowded field, you have to be creative to get your product some attention. Whitening is a major concern, and good gum health, so that’s a huge angle when it comes to advertising.

But I would argue that traditional toothpaste is fine for that and besides, some people have their teeth whitened to such a degree that it looks unnatural.

A little yellowing is proof that you didn’t get your choppers at the dollar store. Relax and enjoy that tea, coffee and blueberry pie!

  • (Image credit: John Nelander)


Life in the U.S. goes by in a blur in this photo titled “Busy New York at Dusk.” (Credit: Angelo DeSantis via Wikimedia Commons)

Next time somebody tells you they’re overworked, give them sympathy, a pat on the back — and a gold star. Overwork, it turns out, is a new sign of social status.

In many other cultures, people who have lots of leisure time on their hands are looked at in high regard. But a new paper published in the Journal of Consumer Research says that’s not the case in the U.S., where folks hold the overworked and those who say they “have no life” as being at the top of the social pecking order.

Researchers call it “humblebrag.”

“We uncovered an alternative type of conspicuous consumption that operated by shifting the focus from the preciousness and scarcity of goods to the preciousness and scarcity of individuals,” write the authors, Silvia Bellezza of the Columbia Business School and Neeru Paharia and Anat Keinan of Harvard University.

“People’s social-mobility beliefs are psychologically driven by the perception that busy individuals possess desirable characteristics, leading them to be viewed as scarce and in demand.”

They studied groups of people from the U.S. and compared them to groups in Italy, where just the reverse is true. People there assign high prestige and status to those who lead a more leisurely life.

The paper notes a 2014 Super Bowl commercial by Cadillac that said:

“Other countries they work, they stroll home, they stop by the café, they take August off— off! Why aren’t you like that? Why aren’t we like that? Because we are crazy driven hard-working believers, that’s why!”

If you really want to impress someone tell them that you are “in desperate need of a vacation.”

So yeah … Americans respect work. But are their noses really held to the grindstone?

In the movie Office Space (1999), Peter Gibbons explains his job to a pair of efficiency consultants: “Well, I generally come in at least 15 minutes late. I use the side door, that way Lumbergh can’t see me. And after that I just sort of space out for about an hour.

“I just stare at my desk. But it looks like I’m working. I do that for an hour after lunch, too. I’d say in a given week I probably only do about 15 minutes of real, actual work.”

In 1974, Bachman Turner Overdrive said: “And if your train’s on time/ You can get to work by nine/ And start your slaving job to get your pay/ If you ever get annoyed/ Look at me I’m self-employed/ I love to work at nothing all day.”


ALSO: Americans want their vending machine snacks and they want them now!

A study conducted by Rush University Medical Center in Chicago demonstrated that people choose healthier snacks if they have to wait 25 seconds for their greasy, salty chips to roll down the chute.

The delay had the same affect as charging people more money for unhealthy choices or discounting healthy options.

“Having to wait for something makes it less desirable,” said lead author Brad Appelhans, a clinical psychologist. “Research shows that humans strongly prefer immediate gratification, and this preference influences choices and behavior in daily life.”

So much for the old saw: Good things come to those who wait.