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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Herb Benham

I received a bad report at the dentist. I thought I could slip through one more cleaning and checkup without incident, but I couldn't.

I knew things weren't going well when Denise, the dental hygienist, took extra long when she was picking at my teeth with the dental explorer or sickle probe, as Wikipedia calls it.

I was in cringe mode as Denise chipped away. She slips, the dental explorer goes south and the next thing you know, she's got my liver on a hook.

"You're not usually like this," Denise said. "You have a lot of buildup."

Dental hygienists are two things: Cheery and polite. All of your teeth may have rotted except one and the hygienist will say:

"It looks like you are really taking care of that tooth."

The mood shifted during this visit. The sun had gone beyond the clouds and even Golden Tooth Mountain wouldn't save me.

"Your gums are puffy," Denise said. "They're bleeding and sensitive to the touch."

Puffy gums? Consider it fashion coordination. My eyes were puffy and I wanted my eyes and gums to match.

Who was I fooling? My dental program was loose. A light jog around the block with the toothbrush. Brushing never lasted more than 40 seconds. The toothbrush barely got wet.

Floss? Sometimes. If I have ribs and stringed beef I floss, but Greek yogurt? That's overkill. I'll chase that with a peppermint stick.

Denise kept at it. This wasn't good. She might tell Shirley, my dentist, which is akin to a teacher telling the principal that you crowded the lunch line so you could get a flying saucer cookie before the women with the spider nets on their heads ran out.

"Have you ever thought about using an electric toothbrush?" Denise asked.

I had but I had brushed the thought aside.

My teeth were fine. They were still a grayish white. They weren't as tall as skyscrapers but they soared above my puffy gums.

"What do you think about the electric toothbrush?" I said, nodding at the two models that were on the shelf.

"Everybody in the office uses them," she said.

That was strong. It was like being in a restaurant and discovering that the staff ate the pork chops.

Sonicare by Philips. Neither model was cheap. I could buy new teeth for what those things cost.

"What's the difference between them?" I asked.

"It's the difference between a Rolls and a Toyota," she said.

What kind of Toyota? A Tercel or a Lexus? Toyota has some pretty good cars in its line.

"The more expensive one has great hand feel," she said. "The handle is porcelain."

Great hand feel. I like the sound of that. Hand feel is something you never tire of. You leap from bed in the morning because you can't wait to get some great hand feel.

"It comes with a travel case, charger and a cup," she said.

A travel case? I'm in. I'll take my great hand feel on the road.

I'm not saying how much the brush with great hand feel costs. I felt guilty enough about buying the Rolls that I stuffed my pockets with the freebies the staff gives you at the front desk: travel toothbrushes, multiple boxes of toothpaste and enough dental floss to walk across the Mojave Desert, if you strung it between two Joshua trees on either end.

The toothbrush stays on for two minutes. Two minutes, two times a day.

My grayish teeth feel good. I think I'm sleeping better and standing up straighter. The hand feel alone makes the brush a bargain.