Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Support Universal Toothbrushing

Everyone agrees that brushing one's teeth is important. Major tooth decay is preventable if everyone would simply brush their teeth twice a day and floss once a day. The problem is that under our current system of private home dental supply purchasing, there is a great inequality among tooth care products. Millions of Americans are using out-dated toothbrushes (the American Dental Association says you should replace your toothbrush every 3 months). Even worse, millions more suffer from preventable tooth decay. We can only assume that this is because they have inadequate access to the latest toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental floss.

My solution to this crisis is to start a federally funded universal home dental supply program in the U.S. Instead of everyone buying their own toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss, the government will purchase a new toothbrush for every American every three months. The government will also make toothpaste and floss freely available to every American. Of course, this will require a national database to track every American and send them their new toothbrush every three months. Also, the government will have to implement programs to make sure people aren't taking too much toothpaste or floss. But let's face it, the current system of private home dental care is unfair. The richest Americans get sonic toothbrushes that beep after you've brushed the needed two minutes, as well as advanced plaque-fighting toothpaste that also whitens their teeth. Meanwhile poor Americans get a generic, stiff toothbrush and some generic, knock-off toothpaste made in China that might contain anti-freeze. The only way to have a fair system of tooth-care in the U.S. is to create a universal home dental care system. This way, all Americans will have equally beautiful teeth and the needless poor oral hygiene that has plagued out nation for too long will disappear.


Does that seem a little silly to you? While it may be tongue-in-cheek, it represents the way I see the calls for universal health care in the U.S. I certainly don't mean to belittle the difficulties many Americans (including myself and my wife) have in getting quality health care. But I tend to agree with Ronald Regan's view that "The government solution to the problem is often times as bad as the problem itself". While the government can certainly take steps to improve health care in this country (for example, by increasing funding for medical schools so that there are more doctors and nurses available or requiring individuals with so-called "gold plated health plans" to pay income taxes on those plans), I do not believe that a government run universal health care system could ever be more efficiently run than private health care.

One of the arguments used for universal health care is that private health care is not fair. The rich get better care than the poor. My response to that is "Welcome to capitalism". Our country was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, not that the government should keep them equal. Inequalities should and will exist as long as we live in an imperfect world filled with imperfect people. That doesn't mean that rich have no duty to help the poor - I think they do. Right now, the rich do not do enough in the area of health care to help those less fortunate, in my opinion, and I would support the government taxing them a bit more to help out the less fortunate. But the key is that the free market system of health care must be maintained.

For me, it comes down to this: do you believe that individuals are more capable of taking care their health care (and dental hygiene) themselves than the government is? If you answer yes, a private health care system is the only way to go.


  1. I enjoyed the post Nick.

    I will say for the record I do not believe the government should get involved in doing things for people that they should be able to do for themselves, like purchase a toothbrush.

    The question, in my mind, arises: when should the government get involved in helping people who can't help themselves? For example, a person in my ward has a wife who now has cancer. She is applying for a full time job with health coverage, but the cancer goes down as a pre-existing condition so they woun't cover all the expenses.

    She is doing all she can do. (Full time job with health coverage.) She can't help herself. Should the government help her?

  2. I think the government should supply essential health care for people who cannot provide it for themselves in the same way the government provides income (via Welfare and/or Social Security) to those who cannot provide for themselves. But essentially, I think that the government's role is not to solve problems, but rather make it possible for people to solve their own problems. In rare cases when people cannot solve their own problems (i.e. the lady in your ward, hurricane victims, etc.), then I think the government should get involved.


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