"What have you been feeding your child?"
These words - dripping with judgment - were uttered by my child's first dentist. My daughter was four years old and it was her first dental checkup. At the time, the prevailing wisdom from parenting books, magazines and even my family physician was that this was the right age for a child's first visit to the dentist. Turns out the prevailing wisdom was wrong.
At the tender age of four, my little one already had four cavities. They were shallow and easy to treat, but I will never forget the hot flush of shame I felt when the dentist asked me that question. The truth is, I wasn't feeding her lots of candy or sticky treats and I was actually quite good at brushing her teeth twice a day, although I freely admit there were times I used no toothpaste at all and if she was sick or upset, I would skip the tooth-brushing routine. The good news for my family is that although my oldest daughter had a brush with tooth decay early on, we managed to turn the tables. It's not an easy thing to do though and we struggled for a few years before we had our first cavity-free checkup. When it happened, I nearly cried. Looking back now (as she has all her adult teeth and prepares to get braces), I can hardly believe it's the same little girl who provoked that awful question from the dentist so many years ago.
My dentist gave me several suggestions for helping prevent decay and instilling healthy hygiene habits in our kids:
- Babies should visit the dentist before their first birthday.
- Let your kids pick out their toothbrush and paste. With so many kid friendly designs and flavours out there, it gets them excited about brushing time.
- Cut back on snacking - surprisingly, it's not the amount of sugar in a snack that influences decay so much as the frequency of snacking.
- Don't let your child brush his/her own teeth until about age 7 or 8 (maybe even later depending on the child).
- Use a cavity fighting mouthwash starting at 6 years old. It is such an easy way to get the hard to reach areas, making sure your kids' mouths are virtually 100 per cent clean!
It's funny, the story of my daughter and her teeth. Maybe it's because we did struggle so much in the early years, but once she started to lose those baby teeth, she really didn't want to let them go. In fact, when she lost her first tooth, she refused to put it under her pillow because she didn't want the Tooth Fairy to take it! She held on to it for two days, getting more and more worried, before I finally relented and told her she could write a note to include with her tooth, politely asking the Tooth Fairy to please let her keep her tooth, which she still loved, but please still leave the money. Being the generous sprite she is, the Tooth Fairy agreed (but thankfully, only once, for that special first tooth). To this very day, some six years later, my daughter still has that tooth in a little plastic tooth box in amongst her most precious keepsakes. I shudder whenever I see it.
Do you have any cute tooth stories to share? Remember that when you comment on this post you'll be entered into the LISTERINE® SMART MOUTH KIDS contest for a chance to win the final $1,000 prize! Share your stories below for your chance to win.
Submission to the Contest Weekly Blog Comment Period closes at 8:59 am, on Monday, September 3, 2012.