Hurry, it’s time to go! Where are your socks? Where are your shoes? Do you have your coat? Have you brushed your teeth? Oh, no, I hear the bus! Bye, I love you.
Those are the frantic questions I ask my children before they head off to school in the morning. I’ve had to add the question about teeth because my boys have terrible teeth. I’d love to say good teeth habits have always been a part of my parenting routine. But, really, sometimes having the kids brush their teeth didn’t make it very high on my priority list. And my boys, unfortunately, paid the price. Now brushing their teeth has become an important part of our routine.
My fourth grader has fabulous teeth enamel. Her baby teeth are so strong, in fact, that they have a hard time leaving to make room for her adult teeth. She always brushes her teeth at night and in the morning, and without much urging from me. She likes the way her teeth feel when they are clean. We started teaching her to brush her teeth when she was a baby.
I’d set her on the countertop when she was 18 months old, and hand her a baby tooth brush. Then I’d do my hair and brush my teeth. All the while, she’d chew on her toothbrush and have a grand time. Then, I’d brush her teeth. It was a great system.
But then, we added more children.
And teeth brushing became less of a priority, unfortunately. For a few years, I was just happy to get everyone bathed, in pajamas, and in bed at a decent hour and without much contention. After a few years of this admitted neglect, there was an expensive reckoning.
Both of my boys had to have extensive dental work done to try and save some of their baby teeth. My second grader’s teeth weren’t able to be saved. He lost his front two teeth to bottle rot when he was three. My Kindergartener’s front teeth were able to be crowned and saved, but a fall killed their roots, and he lost his front two teeth earlier this year.
Their teeth were lost because, even though I knew better, I didn’t think it would happen to me. The corrective dental work and oral surgeries cost a few thousand dollars all together, and that was with fairly good dental insurance coverage.
Now, our priorities have changed. I have learned from my mistakes and have improved how I care for my children’s teeth.
My fourth grader, as I said earlier, does very well, with just a reminder to help her take care of her teeth. My second grader and Kindergartener are also now able to brush their teeth independently, with gentle reminders to do so. They know they need to sing “Happy Birthday” twice before they can be finished, and I often double check with a “breath test”. If I can’t smell the toothpaste on their breath during our evening devotional, then they have to go back and I brush their teeth. None of them like it if Mom brushes their teeth – it’s so “embarrassing”.
My preschooler is reminded to brush her teeth, and then I go back and brush her teeth after she has finished. I do this when I brush my teeth in the morning. I let her take care of her teeth at night. We have taught her to sing “Happy Birthday” twice before she can be finished brushing her teeth. We have also learned to never let any of our children go to bed or take a nap with anything to drink – except water. No milk, juice, or watered down anything. They can have cups of water and that’s all.
And we have started teaching the baby. She’s only a year old, but we have started teaching her to brush her teeth every day. We let her chew on her toothbrush while the other kids are in brushing her teeth. In the morning, I sit her on the countertop and let her chew on her toothbrush while I brush my teeth. Then I brush her teeth too. When she’s three, we’ll start using toothpaste, but for now, just using the toothbrush takes care of everything.
Out of necessity, we’ve made teeth brushing just part of our daily routine. It’s the only way to make sure our children don’t have any more expensive trips to the dentist.