Reading Rots Your Teeth

Why four out of five dentists recommend illiteracy.

Reading Rots Your Teeth

So it seems I've been a dupe of the sugar industry all these years. And I have the cavities to prove it. Anytime I leave the dentist's office without another filling is a major life triumph. I've already had two root canals, and my teeth are now more gold, silver amalgam, resin, and ceramic than dentine and enamel.

Even so, I can't stop eating candy.

Though I am an atheist, I love Easter. I went into CVS the other day to fill a prescription and came out with three bags of Easter candy. SweeTart Chicks, Ducks & Bunnies only come around once a year, you know.

I welcome Valentine's Day, not for its celebration of romance, but for the red raspberry candy hearts, Jolly Rancher Xs & Os gummies, and red and pink M&Ms. Every Halloween, we have bags and bags of leftover candy, proving once again how I am just the plaything of sugar barons. I try to make it last until the Christmas onslaught of candy canes, peppermint bark, and red-and-green Hershey Kisses.

I love candy, and I love to eat it while doing another thing to which I am hopelessly addicted: reading. My guilty pleasure? Reading in bed with a bag of jelly beans. Or gummy bears. Or Zotz. Or Mike and Ike's. Or Mentos.

But never Laffy Taffy. I have my standards.

It's not just candy. Everything tastes better when consumed while reading. Eating and reading go together like sun and beach, dogs and walks, pizza and beer. I love meals with family and friends, but I also treasure solitary repasts, when I hunch over a plate of food with a book spread out on the table and marry the gustatory with the literary.

After all, there are not too many other things that one can do while reading. You can't read in the shower, or while cooking, or taking a walk, or engaging in most forms of exercise. I suppose it’s technically possible to read during sex, but if that’s your routine, then you probably aren’t having sex right.

It's not advisable to read while driving, though I have seen it done on the long, straight, and empty roads of southwestern New Mexico, where passing another car is such a rare event that lifting a finger of two from the steering wheel in friendly acknowledgment of the other driver is just common courtesy.

When I was young, before I was able to support my candy habit (I never had to support my reading habit; my parents were shameless enablers), I would settle down with the latest Cricket Magazine, or a Malory Towers book, or the next installment in the Little House on the Prairie series, and a soft banana, which I would suck through a straw. The banana would last all afternoon, ending up looking like one of my caries-ridden teeth: white, pulpy, and riddled with holes.

If I was in the mood for something savory, I'd pour Italian dressing in a cup and eat it with a fork. Before the advent of sour candy, I satisfied my craving for the union of sweet and sour by licking up sugar sprinkled on a halved lemon. That never ended well, though, as the sugar granules would painfully abrade my tongue.

The perfect accompaniment to a lazy afternoon and a pile of books? Pomegranate. Consumed juicy red seed by juicy red seed, one pomegranate provides hours of snacking. Alas, pomegranates are much more difficult to find than candy, and also messier to eat in bed.

Now, please excuse me. I’ve got a brand-new bag of Sour Patch Jelly Beans to start and a Faulkner novel to finish.

My next dentist appointment is in a month. Wish me luck. Damn you, World Sugar Research Organisation.

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