I’ve used an electric toothbrush for a number of years now – I don’t remember when I switched, but I like the extra clean feeling that I get when I use my Spinbrush. Unfortunately, dental hygiene is not necessarily top of mind in China (I wrote a post on dental floss and the global supply chain some time ago) and so electric toothbrushes are not yet a standard part of daily life.
To make a long story short – I needed a new head for my electric toothbrush and we couldn’t find one. While we searched Taobao (the Chinese version of Amazon or eBay) – I switched to a standard, old-fashioned brush. Since this became a joint effort my husband and I talked a lot about toothbrushes and teeth brushing. It appears that Chinese children are taught differently than American children about how to brush their teeth.
I remember very clearly that you were supposed to brush in small circles – make sure you get into the back of the mouth and you needed to sing “Happy Birthday” three times to yourself to make sure you brushed long enough.
Li told me that when he was small they were taught to brush up and down – and that was it. I started asking – but how did you know how long to brush? Didn’t they teach you that small circles help get the food out better? Electric toothbrushes get into the gaps better than regular brushes. They strengthen your gums – didn’t you know?
I didn’t even bother to ask if he was taught to floss – as dental floss has only been available in China for about five to ten years. It wasn’t even an option when he was small.
But – as far as he remembers – none of what I asked was normal. He looked at me very strangely during this conversation.
Normal can be very different depending on where you start. Brushing your teeth is not one of those areas that I expected – but cultural differences are everywhere.
How did you learn to brush your teeth?