A traumatic annual activity from the late ’80s

Once a year, the school dentist and a representative from some toothpaste company, probably Colgate (as are they all, all Colgate,) made the rounds of the classrooms on their zero tooth decay campaign.

They gave lectures on proper brushing (i.e. do it) and handed out free toothbrushes and little tubes of single-use toothpaste that ended up in the bottom of bags and hardened into little tubular rocks.

That was all par for the course in eliminating tooth decay, and was a welcome respite from the rigors of, say,  learning the major exports of Philippine provinces (copra and abaca, generally.)

What was scarring about the whole thing was the part where kids were made to let bitter-tasting pink tablets melt in their mouths. The tablets would supposedly mark plaque buildup and, incidentally, rape your taste buds.

"but inside, I am a sad face"

"but inside, I am a sad face"

Supposedly, you were supposed to brush harder in the areas that were pink to get rid of plaque and have cleaner, whiter teeth. Never mind that your mouth is now stained pink and will probably remain so the rest of the day, also, your mouth is pretty much useless for things like eating and drinking.

The idea, I guess, was to make the plaque test so unenjoyable that children would opt to brush their teeth regularly. Or develop a subconscious fear of dentists that will limit dental checkups to those required by insurance companies. You can never really tell with childhood trauma.

One upshot is you got to take home a plaque detection tablet of your own to, uh, bring the fight against cavities to younger siblings and runtier kids in the  neighborhood.

In this aspect, at least, they got the Filipino psychology right: we are naturally concerned for  the wellbeing of others. Also, when we put something in our mouths that tastes like crap, we can be counted on to share the experience with others. By force, if necessary.


  1. We are an educational publisher based in Singapore and we are currently working on Science educational material intended for use in schools in Singapore.

    We would like to request permission to reproduce an image from your website (http://www.indolentindio.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/plaque-teeth.jpg) in our publication. Please let me know how do I go about getting the permission to use (and obtaining a high resolution photo of) this image.

    I would really appreciate your assistance. Thank you.

  2. We are an educational publisher based in Singapore. We would like to seek permission to reproduce the photo of ‘child’s teeth stained pink to detect presence of dental plaque’ (source from your website http://www.indolentindio.com/2009/03/a-traumatic-annual-activity-from-the-late-80s/) to be included in our publication which entitled as “International Primary Science Textbook”.

    We would greatly appreciate it if you could grant us permission and the high resolution photo. We ensure full acknowledgement to the source.

    Looking forward to receive your favourable reply soon.

    Thank you.

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