Brush your teeth!

Among the many survival skills one needs as a parent is a feel for what battles to pick. That’s what was going through my head as I read this story about dental hygiene in kids today. This passage in particular stood out to me:

“The same things contributing to the obesity epidemic can also contribute to tooth decay,” said Dr. Gary Rozier, a dentist who teaches public health policy at the University of North Carolina.

Inadequate dental care may also play a role. Cavities in young children can form very quickly, and parents should begin bringing their children to the dentist at age 1, said Dr. Joel Berg, chairman of the University of Washington’s Department of Pediatric Dentistry.

Parents also must help their young children brush properly. “Preschoolers don’t have the dexterity to really clean their teeth,” Berg said.

Baby teeth naturally fall out as children age, but dentists say untreated decay can spread and is too dangerous to go untreated.

Rotten baby teeth are treated with fillings or — if the decay is extensive — extraction. But baby teeth fill certain spaces in the mouth, so their early removal may lead to crowding when adult teeth come in.

Preschoolers may not have the dexterity to really clean their teeth, but they do have the indomitable will to insist on doing it all by themselves anyway. I know that if I were a better daddy, I’d work through the screaming temper tantrum that would accompany my own insistence that I need to help her with this task so that I can show her how to do it right, but I’m not. I comfort myself with the thought that by not making toothbrushing excessively traumatic, I’ll someday have a more dextrous post-preschooler who is both capable and willing to brush her teeth regularly and correctly. I’ll just hope she doesn’t collect a mouthful of cavities in the meantime. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to crawl under my desk and wallow in my own inadequacy for awhile. I’ll be back in a bit.

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