“Awwww!!! This is not what they told me!  This is not the easy part!”

“Yeh, the tooth is very brittle.  We’ll have to take it out in pieces.”  The dentist uses his massive hulk forearm to twist and pull with a pair of pliers.  The assistant consoles me saying, “Just breathe through your nose.”

“I know they’re just trying to keep me from getting nervous but…. Awwwww!….. grrrrr, not fun!”

The assistant asks, “Are you okay?”

I give a thumbs up.  It’s a lie.

Dentists. I’ve had some good ones but their happy and professional demeanor haven’t stopped me from dreading each and every visit.  I rarely hear good news about my teeth.  Partly my own fault because I could do better to take care of my teeth (which is why I’m getting one extracted today.)

I didn’t grow up with the best tooth brushing routines.  Although my parents encouraged health, there was only so much my parents could provide with a limited budget.  I didn’t have regular dental check-ups during my childhood and teen years.  In fact, I think my first dental visit was late high school or early college.  And, you guessed it, I had many dental problems.

For example, I found out that I have too many teeth.  How is that possible?  Too many?  Furthermore, since I have too many teeth, there is a bunch of crowding.  “Move out of the way!” bellows my molar.  “Ruff! Ruff! I was here first,” barks my canine.  And I bet my extra teeth are screaming “Ahhhh!  We’re not suppose to be here!”

I’ve taken a lot of steps to take care of me teeth.  Extracting all my wisdom teeth, a couple of root canals, and deep cleanings just to name a few.  I’ve drastically limited my intake of sodas and carbonated drinks, only having one on special occasions.  Then of course, all of the special toothpastes and oral rinses.  I take responsibility of my dental health but, I admit, I think about how much of these problems could have been prevented.

Moral of the Story: Don’t wait!  Take preventative measures when it comes to your child’s health.

I’ve had preschool students begin losing their baby teeth around three year’s old.  I don’t know what the cause is, but that’s a little early.  There have been a lot of children that have come in with cavities or decaying teeth.  When they smile, their mouths are caked with food and stains.  There are children that come in with mouths decked in silver teeth.  Like I said, I don’t know all of the causes, but I know some are attributed to non-existent tooth-brushing routines at home.

Now, it would be easy to blame the parents for their children’s health.  They are ultimately responsible for their child’s well-being.  But this is not about blaming.  This is not about neglect.  This is about not knowing.  Teachers can tell the difference between parental neglect and parents not knowing or being aware of what to do.  And, being a teacher – I believe – extends to teaching new parents.  I share with new parents the importance of dental hygiene and then direct them to services that are either free or provided by the school.  I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of a program that has a dentist come to the school and do pro-bono work.  The best thing a teacher can do is help and inform parents.  I’m sure if my parents were aware of affordable dental services, they would have taken advantage of them (like they did for all of my necessary vaccinations, health screenings and any time I had a major illness).

My students brush their teeth after every meal: twice a day.  It’s a little hectic taking 16 children at a time to brush their teeth.  To make sure they brush long enough, we teach them to sing “Happy Birthday”  to themselves before finishing.  We also have colorful toothbrushes with the children’s names on them.  Finally, we have a tooth paste dispenser with a dinosaur on it.  We try to make the process as fun as possible because tooth brushing can be boring the children.  I’ve seen many a mirrors decorated with toothpaste foam.

During circle time, I’ve said to students, “Boys and girls, do you know why I’m talking funny today?  Well, that’s because I went to the dentist.  The dentist tells me what I should do to take care for my teeth.  They also fixed some of my teeth.  They want me to have a beautiful smile.”

Might be a couple of years before I have that “beautiful” smile, or at least that’s what I tell myself in my head.  Grrr…. one appointment at a time.


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