In Venezuela, where a tube of toothpaste costs half a week’s wages, people are rationing its use, according to a recent report from The Washington Post by Rachelle Krygier.

“Five years ago, when Hugo Chávez was president and Venezuela was a much different place, Ana Margarita Rangel could still afford to go to the movies and the beach, or to buy the ingredients she needed to bake cakes.

Even three years ago, when the country’s economy was beginning a severe contraction, Rangel earned enough for an occasional treat such as soda or ice cream.

Now she spends everything she earns to fend off hunger. Her shoes are tattered and torn, but she cannot afford new ones. A tube of toothpaste costs half a week’s wages.

‘I’ve always loved brushing my teeth before going to sleep. I mean, that’s the rule, right?’ said Rangel, who lives in a hillside slum 25 miles west of Caracas, the capital, and works in a cosmetics factory down in the suburban city of Guarenas.

‘Now I have to choose,’ she said. ‘So I do it only in the mornings.’

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The American Dental Association recommends brushing for two minutes, twice daily, and with the numerous health benefits beyond the mouth (see below) linked to brushing, it’s easy to understand why.

  1.  “By working with your dentist or periodontist, you may actually be able to prevent or diminish the progression of harmful diseases such as pneumonia or COPD,” said Donald Clem, DDS and president of the American Academy of Periodontology [source: ScienceDaily].

  2. According to Dr. Angela Kamer, the NYU lead on a 2010  New York University’s College of Dentistry study, people with “periodontal inflammation are at an increased risk of lower cognitive function compared to cognitively normal subjects” [source: American Dental Association].

Read more lesser known benefits of toothbrushing

Gain insight on the crisis in Venezuela and how dentists are helping