Dental care is my biggest dust bunny as a parent. Feeding the kids healthy food? That, I pay close attention to. Church? Every Sunday! Finding great local Montessori programs? Yes, we've done that. But caring for the teeth that bite into all those homemade, low-sugar muffins...not nearly so much. Our kids were born in Italy where things were very relaxed in the dental department but that's not really a good excuse. The older kids, ages 4 ½ and 3, do brush their teeth every day, but can I admit that it's only once?
And here's where it gets even worse. We haven't really made it a habit to brush the little guy's teeth at all. At 19 months, George's toothbrush is more of a play toy. So you can imagine my horror when I read the new post on The New York Times Well blog and saw this:
"Parents should use a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste to brush baby teeth twice daily as soon as they erupt, instead of waiting until children are older, according to new guidelines by the American Dental Association."
Gulp. So okay, we needed to get this going sooner. Nothing like new parenting recommendations to make you feel like a totally lousy/head-in-the-clouds/rather-be-watching-Downton-Abbey mom. And boy did we get this one wrong: A. Apparently I was supposed to be brushing those baby teeth every day all along. B. And not just once! Wrestling your toddler at the sink needs to happen twice, every single day. And C. Now it turns out that even the A+ tooth parents had it wrong because everyone needed to be slathering those buds with fluoride from Day 1.
At least the second part of the news made me feel better. If we get the whole brushing thing on track, we're just in the nick of time for the rest.
"That advice overturns the A.D.A.'s decades-old recommendation to start using a pea-size amount at 24 months. Once children are 3 to 6 years old, then the amount should be increased to a pea-size dollop, the updated guidelines say."
Point taken. Start real routine for tooth brushing tonight. Add toothpaste in June. Got it and thanks, "dental group".
But it's funny to be back in the States where studies like this are so routine. Every time I read one, an internal battle immediately erupts between the peppy part of me who says, "Oh, okay! We'll do that." And the part who slumps a little in my chair, managing nothing more than a heavy sigh. Like parenting itself, the parenting advice seems to shift all the time, a moving target none of us are ever sure we're ever going to hit. And how crucial is it that we get everything right anyway? Sometimes in parenting, I think Horseshoes Rules apply because you simply can't focus on everything so some of it's gotta just be close enough. To be honest, that's been my approach to these tiny teeth that will fall out soon anyway.
Then a friend of ours recently told us about the first time she took her now four-year-old to the dentist and came home with a follow up appointment for a root canal. Too much juice was allegedly the culprit. And cue internal panic… "Well, my kids don't really drink juice but then again...who knows?" This is actually the only first-time-at-the-dentist story I've heard so far at American playgrounds, and I deeply hope it's an anomaly.
But just to be sure, I'm signing all three rascals up for a trip to the dentist immediately. After all, horseshoes might not be my game.
-By Charity Curley Mathews