Dental Dismay

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Alright. I’m just going to say it.


If your kid has cavities that doesn’t make you a bad parent.


Whew, I need to hear that! Repeatedly.


Last summer we took Uno and Dos to the dentist and discovered they had cavities. I felt like the world’s worst mom and cut juice, most fruit snacks, and Gatorade from their diets.


Earlier this spring I took them back. They had cavities again. I found myself explaining the diet changes, the twice-a-day brushings, and the purchase of floss sticks with animal heads to the dentist in a guilty attempt to beg for forgiveness.


You know what he said?


“My dad is a dentist. I’ve never had a cavity,” he told me. “My brother? He doesn’t have a tooth in his head without a filling. It just happens.”


I love my dentist. (He still charged for a fluoride treatment and gave me a stern talking to that kids should have help brushing until they are eight-years-old.)


Just this week, on two different occasions, I’ve had people shamefacedly admit they – or their children – have cavities. It’s our dubious disgrace.


It’s almost like they’re confessing an addiction to crack cocaine, gambling, or glitter. They are humbled, ashamed. Desperate to change and hopeful for a complete lack of relapse.


I’m no better. About a year ago I had to get a crown on a molar. To this day I feel like my lack of flossing created that problem and I feel guilty that I didn’t do better.


Our “ice breaker” question at Bible Study was “how often do you floss?” and I cringed. I was actually embarrassed to answer the question in public.


But, really? It’s teeth, folks! There are 32 opportunities for disaster in each of our adult noggins. The average adult is testing those 32 teeth for about 60 years.


The teeth will fail. That is a logical assessment of usage. Throw some dicey genetics in there for “chalky” teeth (like I have) or a predisposition to decay and you’re done for whether you floss thrice daily, brush for six minutes at a time, or do a hula dance outside your dental office during the full moon.


But tooth decay is not moral failure.


I know the British think Americans are weird because we put such stock in our teeth. I know Anne Hathaway’s career was launched because a movie director asked his dentist what child had the most beautiful teeth in his practice and then cast her for The Princess Diaries. I know the mouthwash I just bought includes a teeth-whitening agent. (Purple Listerine. It felt like my mouth was on fire and I actually cried three tears in pain.)


But… they’re teeth. A cavity does not make you a bad parent. Or horrible person.


Flossing is not mentioned in the 10 Commandments, despite what your dental hygienist leads you to believe.


And that’s all I have to say about that.


Do you carry dental guilt? How often do you floss?



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