When the health care bill was going through Congress, there was a lot of talk about children’s oral health and stories of toddlers with horrible tooth decay. Even though I am all about any improved health care options for kids, I probably had two thoughts at the time: 1) Their parents are probably feeding them pixie sticks and rinsing their teeth with Hawaiian Punch and 2) won’t they just lose those teeth anyway?
I’m sure I was quickly informed by some children’s advocacy group that this was not the reason for widespread tooth decay among small children. And I’m sure I nodded and took their word for it. But here’s what these activists should have done. They should have grabbed a small kid – any kid – and said, here, YOU try to brush their teeth. Not twice a day. Not every day for years. Just one freaking time and then tell me if you think that shit is easy.
Because it. is. not. easy to clean a small kid’s teeth. At least for me. It is a daily battle of wills that usually ends up with me getting bitten. Not because he wants to bite me (although I won’t act like that’s never happened). It’s because I’m jamming a toothbrush or washcloth in his mouth for longer than he can pretty much pay attention to anything, and the natural reflex is to bite.
But I keep trying. Because I DO NOT want to have to take him to the dentist any sooner than I have to. And this is wrong and I know it. I know you’re supposed to go when they’re one. The problem is that our dental insurance would almost quadruple to add a “family” to it, and it would be far cheaper to pay out of pocket. Not that I want to pay anything at all any sooner than I have to.
However, I want to responsible. I don’t want him to be rocking a mouth full of silver teeth before preschool. Unless it looks like this:
And this story about a 2 1/2 year old getting surgery for all his cavities scares me. (Seriously, read this story if you still think it’s only babies living on pixie sticks who are getting cavities.)
So I asked my pediatrician about it. She said it’s ok to wait to go to the dentist until two or three, but the main focus is getting any remaining food off their teeth after every meal.
And I asked my dentist about it. She said it’s ok to use a washcloth if that’s all you can get in there. But she said to definitely use some of the kids swallowable toothpaste and really focus on the molars.
Slowly, slowly, O is getting more used to the teeth brushing. Next go around, I’ll start earlier. I admit, I only half-heartedly did the whole gum brushing thing when he was little because he didn’t get his first tooth until nine months. What I didn’t realize is that it’s half about cleaning gums and half about getting them used to the teeth brushing ritual.
The health care law does improve access to dental care, especially for children, but from my read it doesn’t look like it will decrease the cost to families with employer-based insurance like ours. (Here’s a good page I found on what it does for individual and small biz plans.)
Supposedly there is money for a public education campaign. I hope some of it goes to teaching people like me who once thought that toddler tooth decay only happened to kids who lived on candy and had never seen a toothbrush.
Maybe O and I could go on the road and show parents-to-be just how important it is to start early. They probably still wouldn’t believe me. Because that’s the ignorant bliss of pre-parenthood. Or they just think kids with blinged out teeth are cute.
See, you could gone your whole life without seeing that image. You’re welcome.