The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Conventional wisdom holds that toothpaste is essential to cleaning your teeth. Not so. A good brushing and flossing can do that.

So just for laughs, think about this the next time you go shopping for toothpaste:

The human mouth contains 32 teeth, but Crest markets 42 varieties of paste with Colgate right behind at 40.

Some might call this an absurdity. But then, absurdity becomes a moot point when companies are battling for the hearts and mouths of consumers.

Hence the “need” for deluges of offerings of something you don’t really need in the first place.

And, oh, what offerings they are.

There are stripes. And gels. And a Crest grouping called “Nature’s Expressions,” which sounds like a fine name for a feminine hygiene product or book of sappy poems, but not something one wants to shove in one’s mouth.

Yet there they are: Pure Peppermint Fresh, Citrus Clean Mint, Mint plus Green Tea Extract, Mango Mocha Mucho Mountain Mist.

I could be wrong about that last one, but you get the idea.

Can’t decide between a paste and a gel? Your angst is over. Crest Whitening Expressions Striped boasts that it gives you both in the same tube. Is this a great country or what?

Colgate, not to be outdone, clocks in with Sparkling White Caribbean Cool, the self-esteem-boosting Fresh Confidence and, for the aphrodisiac set, Max Fresh Kiss Me Mint.

I’ve yet to decide on my favorite paste, but the current leader in the clubhouse is Crest’s nocturnally nonsensical ProHealth Night.

This is toothpaste specially formulated for use at, um, night. And to bolster that claim, Crest’s promotional material touts its “unique nighttime flavor.”

Someone actually got paid to think that up. This too:

“We wanted to make the brushing experience more exciting.”

There’s more toothpaste lunacy. So much more. But in the interest of civility, that’s enough. Just go pick your poison. You can’t go wrong with any of them.

And speaking of poison, steer clear of that Chinese stuff. The federal government warned consumers recently that toothpaste made in China may contain a toxic chemical used in antifreeze.

But if it’s good to 30-below, what the heck.

Brian Ojanpa is a Free Press staff writer. Call him at 344-6316 or e-mail bojanpa@mankatofreepress.com.

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