Keeping up with Dr. Jones / by Susie Lubell

Today I brought my son for the first time to see the dentist. He turned 3 on Saturday and I figured it was time. We brush his teeth twice a day but who knows if we're actually making a difference with those little toddler toothbrushes that completely splay at even the slightest bit of pressure. That, combined with the fact that our son basically chews on the thing and sucks off all of the toothpaste when it's his turn to brush, makes me question if we're making a lick of difference in his overall dental hygiene.

But it turns out that the brushing (and the related tantrums) were not for naught. No cavaties and kudos from Dr. Jones for a fine set of choppers. Thank god. The last thing I needed was the guilt of having not adequately brushed. Just getting him to brush in the first place was a struggle. I consulted the Berkeley Parents Network (they usually show up when I do a search, though the advice tends to be a little too earth mother for me) and everyone talked about making it a good experience and using dolls and singing songs yadda yadda yadda. An excerpt:

"Try the Raffi song, Brush Your Teeth, and have her brush as you sing along with Raffi. My 14-month old daughter loves it. We start singing, ''When you wake up in the morning, it's quarter to 1, you want to have a little fun, you brush your teeth,ch-ch-ch- chchchcchc...'' and my little daughter grins and looks for her toothbrush. She'll even ask to brush her teeth at random times of the day by putting her finger to her mouth and going ''ch-ch- ch-ch...''. Not sure if this will work with your baby if they already hate toothbrushing but it's worth a try. G'luck. Mom of 14-month old who loves to brush"

Spare me, "Mom of 14-month old who loves to brush". My kid sees right through your little schtick. They were all like that. Use puppets. Sing a song about teeth. Let him do it himself until he's comfortable. Read books about brushing teeth. We tried everything and it always ended in a lot of screaming and very little brushing. Then I saw this one. This guy had a kid like mine. His post was anonymous, fearing the wrath of social services and the crazed Berkeley parents still nursing their four year olds.

"This is how you can brush the teeth of a non-cooperating toddler: Wet the brush and stick it and the tube of paste into your shirt pocket. (You're going to need both hands for a few seconds.) Lay the toddler on the floor (preferably carpeted). Sit on the floor above their head, placing your knees over the toddlers shoulders/ upper arms. Your feet should be along side the child's body. This effectively pins their arms and prevents them from undesired interference. Now imobilize their head between your thighs by gently squeezing. Now you have both hands free to load the paste onto the brush, and one hand available to open lips (which will be sqeezed tightly closed by the child). I found it effective to slide my finger into the corner of the mouth and follow that with the brush. Brush as gently as possible considering the lip resistance. Let them up to rinse.

During all of this maintain a calm manner and in a gentle voice let them know over and over that brushing is not optional- tomorrow we can do it the easy way, or the hard way - the choice is theirs.
-from a dad wishing to remain relatively annonymous"


Now THAT'S the way to do it. It's the pin and pry method. It worked for us. None of this good ship lollipop crap. Now my son's a great brusher. And we really only had to pin once or twice.

But back to the dentist. I was feeling all proud of my son for opening his mouth and saying ah and ee and having his teeth polished and proud of me for brushing at least enough to keep his teeth healthy. Then Dr. Jones asks if we floss. Are you KIDDING me? I barely remember to floss my own teeth and now you want me to floss my three-year-olds teeth? I mean there is a limit to the extra layers of complexity that I'm willing to build into my morning and evening rituals. Soon my daughter will have teeth. Will I have to floss hers too? Sure, when she only has two teeth it will just be the one swipe between, but before long she'll have all twenty teeth and then we'll all have to wake up at 6am in order to floss everybody in time to leave the house by 8:30. Just once I wish someone would give me some advice that might save me some time. Oh you shouldn't read to your kid at night. It's bad for them. Think of all the extra time you could put toward flossing if you didn't have to read "Goodnight Moon" 400 times every night.