Teeth and Giving Up Before You’ve Started

Americans may have no identity, but they do have wonderful teeth. ~ Jean Baudrillard

I went to the dentist the other day. I just had my braces off a couple of months ago, and I needed a cleaning — not just for normal, “let’s get rid of that nasty tartar” reasons, but to have the last vestiges of adhesive removed. I have to admit to being a little bit excited about it — I was having the last evidence of my braces removed, and after this I could really enjoy my pretty new smile, completely cement free!

They took X-rays and did the cleaning. At the end, the dentist told me that not only am I cavity free, but that I have “excellent dental hygiene”; that I was one of only two people she’d said that to this week, and that I should keep up the good work.

Well, shucks.

I’m still glowing like a kindergartener who was the only one in the class to get a gold star, and who is too stupid yet to realize that people hate braggarts*.

Why doesn’t the dentist give out ribbons? I WON I WON I WON!

Now, Baby has teeth, too. He has five of them, two on the bottom and three on the top. He is, justifiably, very proud of them, smiling toothily at family and friends alike, showing off.

Thing is, in spite of the fact that I am an Oral Hygiene Expert (WOOT), he refuses to take my professional advice and allow me to brush his teeth. Everyday, twice a day, we have a wrestling match that includes both him and me, two toothbrushes — one standard baby toothbrush and one silicone Baby Buddy — and one washcloth, all done while I hold him in my left arm and wrestle him with my right (this is rather nicely bulking up my left bicep, though. Asymmetrical toning FTW!)

First, I attempt to brush with the standard toothbrush. This involves me trying to move the brush over his teeth while he tries to suck on it, examine it with his tongue, or pull it out of his mouth to wave it at the cat.

Once I feel that I’ve brushed as well as I’m going to with that brush (or I just get frustrated and give up) I move on the the Baby Buddy brush. This thing works just as advertised — he chews on it and I pretend that I know for certain that it’s cleaning his teeth.

After I’ve let him chew on it for a minute or so, I wet a bit of the washcloth and try to wipe his teeth and gums with it. He HATES this. Every time, I feel like I am mouth-raping him. He doesn’t cry, but he pulls his head away and clamps his jaws shut and generally gives me a look that says, “This is why you’d better be saving to send me to therapy once I can talk.” He also bites me. Ouch.

Finally, we’re done. I feel good that I’m doing everything in my power to teach him good brushing habits, and he feels good that it’s over.

So, I found this article about toddler tooth decay. I smugly prepared to be reassured that I am doing everything right, that other parents are screwing up horribly, and that my son is destined for something far greater than toothless redneck-dom.

The article talks about parents who never brush their kids’ teeth at all, who feed them sugary snacks and fill their bottles with purple “juice” and let them eat lots of Skittles. Go me! I don’t feed my child anything with added sugar! I am a good mommy! My smug increased.

Then I got to the insert box labelled “More Information”. Some of the things listed there appalled me: People actually dip their child’s pacifier in SUGAR? What? WHO DOES THAT? My kid was never into pacifiers, and I never tried to bribe him into it, I just accepted that he didn’t like them. “I do not do blindingly stupid things to make my baby be quiet,” I thought smugly.

But what really got to me, what shocked the hell out of me, was the one thing on the page the really made me feel inadequate. They want me to FLOSS my BABY’s TEETH. Um, what? How?! How am I supposed to floss an unwilling child’s teeth? Especially since I will have to be pinning him down with one hand (and probably at least one knee), thus leaving me with one hand leftover, and that one necessary to pry his jaws apart? This makes my mouth-raping of him with the washcloth look like (please excuse the pun) child’s play.

This is an impossible thing, and shows that, as well-intentioned as the American Dental Association certainly is, it has also done something seemingly impossible — it has managed to stick it’s collective head up it’s own collective ass.

So I think I’ve learned a lesson. I should put away my smug when reading parenting advice columns and remember that, based on current scientific research, NOBODY IS CAPABLE OF RAISING A HEALTHY CHILD.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go dissolve some pixie sticks into my son’s sippy cup. Might as well get an early start.

*That’s a lesson I really didn’t learn until my twenties. Sigh. I was an asshole.

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