Wednesday, February 3, 2010


I'm going to admit something that might appall you. When I think of it, I appall myself. Here's goes. Despite the fact that Martin is five-and-a-half years old, he has been to the dentist only once. His time with the man in a white lab coat lasted all of five minutes.

Books about childrearing advise annual trips to the dentist starting between the ages of two and three. We got Martin's diagnosis soon after he turned three. We were scheduling neurological exams and speech assessment, the dentist wasn't really on our minds.

I finally took Martin to a pediatric dentist about a year later. I had heard that this dentist was good with special needs kids. Martin and I drove about an hour and found a pleasant office full of toys, book, and even video games to play. The staff was nice. The dentist was very approachable. But Martin was still completely freaked. When his name was called, I had to sit in the dentist chair and hold Martin down on top of me. The dentist asked Martin to open his mouth. He simply looked inside and moved a toothbrush around for a bit. Then he recommended we come back in three months. We haven't returned.

On the drive home - a time punctuated with Martin's sad recitation of the events at the dentist's office - I thought about how this dentist got a reputation for being good with special needs kids. It wasn't that he had a particularly effective manner that allowed him to do what other dentists could not. Rather, he didn't freak out. He stayed calm and composed - he even invited us back - where other dentists might have said that it was time for us to leave.

I have a friend who flosses her sons' (ages 4 and 6) teeth every night. I am in awe of her. I will feel lucky if Martin doesn't have a mouth full of cavities, despite our twice daily efforts to clean his teeth. Maybe I'm appalled not because my kid has never had a real dentist visit, but that to do so would require such Herculean effort?


  1. When Marc was 8 or so, he had several cavities and the dentist encouraged us to do a much better job of brushing, flossing, etc. I finally told her with all his medical regimen, oral hygiene was just beyond what I could do. She said, "OK, you take care of his arthritis, I'll take care of his teeth." I was so grateful.

    Now Teo and Javy each have multiple filling each. I feel just as worn out as ever at the end of the day, and have been lax in supervising their brushing and flossing as well. So they've got cavities. I've got sanity. Seems like a reasonable trade-off to me.

    Oh, and by the way, by my sister's report, my four older siblings (who were only 5 years apart, oldest to youngest), only brushed their teeth once a year . . . just before their annual dental appointment. Thanks to genetics, their teeth are fine. So, I'm not so appalled by your confession. I remain in awe of all you do get done.

  2. I say keep him brushing...and when he gets older and understands things better, THEN you can worry about the dentist! He's going to loose most of those teeth anyway! Work on the day to day stuff and leave the yearly for another year! You are a GREAT mom! -Jeanine

  3. eh, nothing appalling here. Give yourself a break.

  4. Oh, I think you must be a wonderful mom. You obviously work hard and are very loving. I am sure things get trying enough that you have a hard time believing that sometimes, but I can soo relate to that. I wouldn't worry too much about the dentist, he's a little guy and he'll survive scanty dentist appts.

    -Jen Sherwood

  5. I have never flossed my girl's teeth... I have on occasion told them to. I have struggled to get them to brush their teeth more than once a day. That felt like a Herculean effort. (my 15 year old now consistently brushes at least twice daily) They are 12 & 15 and have never had a cavity. Lucky? Maybe. But lack of flossing and lack of multiple brushings a day does not guarantee cavities. MB