Since we were little, we were taught to brush our teeth at least two times a day: In the morning and before we go to bed. I think that is the usual frequency of people brushing their teeth. But after almost 6 months living in Korea, I found that Koreans’ way of brushing teeth is unique for me. Everyday, (especially after lunch time or dinner time), the bathrooms and toilets in every public places are crowded with people fighting for a sink to brush their teeth. These public places include school and universities’ bathrooms, public toilets in subway stations, malls, and even tourism places. Back in Indonesia, I don’t think I usually saw someone brushing their teeth after lunch in malls, schools or restaurants.
I once asked my Korean friend why they brush teeth so much even in public places. And she said that it’s just a habit and perspective how Koreans really value oral hygiene. That is why they ALWAYS bring a toothbrush and a tooth paste in their bags, everywhere they go. I usually witness my friends “disappear” to the bathroom before classes start, after eating lunch in restaurants, or even in malls- and then come back a few minutes later, carrying a set of toothbrush and toothpaste in his/her hand. There is even a joke saying that you could forget to bring your phone, but don’t ever forget to bring your toothbrush! Lol
Aside from the cultural thingy and habits, there may be some scientific reasons on why Koreans need to brush that much:
- Korean foods contain a lot amount of chili powder. (KIMCHI, for example). This Korean chili powder, (고추 가루), isn’t really powder at all and should be called ‘flaked chili’ or ‘coarse chili powder.’ Flaked chili is not easy to “flush” with just drinking water and chili speckled teeth have never been nice to look at. (it could be so embarrassing, tho!) Those flakes grip the surfaces of the smoothest enamel and easily embed themselves between the teeth.
- The second ingredient that could be commonly found here is Kim, (김)- which means seasoned seaweed. This seaweed is commonly used in Kimbap (sticky rice with fillings wrapped with seaweed), Fried Rice, and many other foods. However, having this seaweed stuck in your teeth after eating could be embarrassing. Substantial, dark green patches on the teeth can be mistaken for missing or severely rotted teeth or an advanced fungal infection.
- Garlic, is also a common food that you could find in almost every Korean food. So that could be one of the reasons why Koreans brush their teeth after every meal!
I hope this post could help you in knowing Korean culture little by little!