By Thegreenj (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Over a lifetime, how long does a person spend brushing their teeth?

Short answer: In a lifetime, the average person will spend 852 hours, or 35.5 days, brushing their teeth.

Long answer: If you spend a minute every morning and every evening brushing your teeth, every day for 70 years, then you will have spent 35.5 days of your life brushing. Put another way, if you could do a lifetime of brushing in one sitting, you’d be in the bathroom for over a month. At two minutes per day, this is about 0.1% of your life.

But is it worth it?

From an economic standpoint, all that time could be spent working and making money. Assuming your time is worth a modest amount, perhaps $10 per hour, you are missing out on $8500 over the course of your life by brushing your teeth. And that’s not counting the cost of toothpaste and brushes. If a tube of toothpaste costs $2.00 and lasts about 2 months, then your lifetime toothpaste costs are about $840. You can cut your toothpaste costs back by using less though; dentists recommend only a pea-sized amount. I’ve always suspected that the advertisements and commercials showing toothbrushes slathered in toothpaste are part of a vast conspiracy to sell more toothpaste by tricking people into using more than they need. Either way, even if you’re frugal with your toothpaste your lifetime dental personal hygiene costs are going to be in the neighborhood of $10,000.

 

By Sheffield Pharmaceuticals (Sheffield Pharmaceuticals Private Archives) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Washington Wentworth Sheffield, inventor of toothpaste tubes and father of the greatest scam in dental history.

So again, I wonder if it’s worth it? The alternative to brushing seems to be frequent and considerable restorative dental work for all the cavities you’re going to have. Fortunately, there are actually good numbers about the lifetime cost of a cavity, courtesy of Delta Dental Insurance. I tend to trust insurance companies on matters like this because their studies are usually fairly reliable. While a lot of corporate science is pretty biased in favor of their product, their cost saving studies are usually quite rigorous. After all, it’s their money that’s on the line.

According to Delta Dental, the average lifetime cost to maintain a cavity incurred as a 10 year old is $2,187. I imagine that if you’re not brushing you’re going to incur quite a few cavities and will need additional work whose cost will greatly exceed our paltry preventative $10,000 [1]. This isn’t just my assessment of the numbers, but is also the opinion of Marilynn Belek, D.M.D., chief dental officer at Delta Dental: “While one cavity can be expensive, two or more cavities can drive expenses well above the lifetime cost of preventive care,” [1]. The take away is clear – brush your teeth.

If that didn’t make you feel better, and if the cost that I calculated above is still bumming you out – that the time you spend brushing is worth $8500 – then just think about the other things that you do for 2 minutes every day. In a short drive, you probably spend that long waiting at red lights. Perhaps you also spent that long reading this page. The minutes add up quick, but you can recoup some of your losses by multitasking. So if I ever see someone pull up next to me at a red light, reading on their phone, and brushing their teeth, I’ll know they saw this.

 

 


 


image credit: Wikimedia Commons

 


 

 

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