Nothing on my shopping list has as many different products from which to choose as those that greet me in the toothpaste aisle. Any one of them would probably do a good job, but I spend considerable time trying to decide which would produce a sparkling smile most comparable to that of the most attractive advertisement models on TV.

In my early years of learning about oral hygiene, we had a choice between powder or paste as the cleansing agent. The only brand names that come to mind are Ipana and Pepsodent, although I’m sure there were a few more.
Our family preferred paste, and the soft metal squeeze tube wasn’t much bigger than a grown-up’s finger. We voluntarily rationed it to ourselves for special occasions and used baking soda for everyday brushing.
We kept a little jar of soda near the water supply bucket on the kitchen counter. Sometimes we added a few grains of salt for enhanced abrasion power.
We each had our separate tumbler in which the toothbrush rested, bristles end up for better drying between brushings. Mine was a small bright orange tumbler, flared at the top, originally containing a cheese spread. It was nicely designed by the manufacturer, foreseeing its being repurposed -- as most things were in those days.
We partially filled the glass from the water dipper, wet our brush, and went to work. Sips along the way were swished around and spit into the slosh bucket. In good weather, we often stepped to the edge of the back porch and spit in the grass.
I did not relish the discipline of brushing my teeth, but not often did I cut it short. Anything was worth doing if it might prevent a visit to the dentist. Unfortunately, I had a few negatively-impressive experiences as a young child. Soft skills, as we call them today, were either not taught when my dentist went to school or he failed those particular classes.
If I had a toothache, I bit down on a wad of cotton soaked in oil of clove for hours hoping to solve the problem and avoid the dentist. When it didn’t work, there was no other alternative. After a nervous ride to his office, I submitted myself with fear and trembling. He went at the task as if he were working with inanimate objects at the shop, not giving any reassuring explanation of what he was doing nor offering understanding encouragement to me. Thank goodness, later dentists, gradually erased those fears and there are no service professionals whom I now appreciate more.
Back before my day, tooth care was more simplified, and shall we say, straightforward. Friends pulled friends’ teeth, and even their own if no one else was available. I can’t imagine.
Preventive care meant picking your teeth after a meal and keeping the toothpick wobbling at the corner of your mouth for a long time just in case the tongue discovered another lodged particle of food.
Some people made their own disposable toothbrush. They would cut a live twig from an elm or other small-fiber wood, feather the cut end with the pocketknife, and handle it in rotary motion on their teeth.
Then there were some people who never brushed their teeth by any method, but I’ll spare you the description of that.