“Brush, brush, brush your teeth
Brush them every day
Up, down, all around
Brush decay away.“
This song played obnoxiously from my little brother’s vibrating Mickey Mouse toothbrush for what feels like a significant portion of my childhood. I thought I would never want to hear that song again, until I found myself singing it to encourage my toddler to brush his teeth. “I want to eat the cay away,” he says at the end, looking up at me with his big blue eyes with a toothbrush hanging uselessly from his mouth. It’s too hard to explain to a 2-year-old what “decay” is, so instead I told him he had to brush the food off. Now he recounts each night which foods he is brushing off. “Mommy, we have to brush the noodles off. And the cheese crackers. And the chocolate milk.” Yes, his diet is carbohydrate-heavy these days, which is another reason why there is an extra emphasis on oral hygiene.
Despite telling my patients that they should start seeing a dentist at age one, N just had his first visit at 30-months. I couldn’t imagine how my wild little guy would sit in a dental chair and have his teeth examined, but I finally decided we had to brave this procedure. What better time to tackle this than with a 2-week-old infant (good planning, mommy!), but fortunately the dentist and his office were amazing. Everything catered to a child’s imagination and interests, including a giant orange truck that N spotted in the waiting room and wouldn’t let out of his sight for the remainder of the visit. No matter how wonderful the office though, once the dentist tried to examine N’s teeth, it went exactly how I anticipated: screaming, crying, pleading. The good thing about all of that though is that N had to have his mouth opened to create such commotion, thus allowing the dentist to accomplish what he needed to do.
Since our dental visit, N talks nightly about cleaning his teeth for Dr. George and how he wants his teeth to be “shiny clean” when we see Dr. George again in the Spring. I hope that my patients leave our preventative health visits with half the enthusiasm that N has from his lessons in dental care.
I have been thinking a lot lately about the dentist– not only because I need to schedule my own appointment (mommy always comes second)– because my grandmother always gave us a toothbrush in our Christmas stocking and so the association has been made that it is time to get new toothbrushes for everyone. As a child, I thought it was an odd gift, but as an adult I appreciate the lesson that my grandmother was trying to teach and I’m thinking N may get a toothbrush in his stocking this year. My grandmother was the first person to teach me to turn the water off while brushing, so as to “save it for the future.” It seems that when it comes to oral hygiene, my grandmother’s lesson was to practice good behaviors now that will pay off later. So as N and I “eat the cay away” each night, I not only sing the silly song from my childhood but reiterate the lessons of my grandmother and look forward to a cavity-free future.