Sometimes parenting involves disgusting decisions, like how to remove snot off the toothpaste cap. Beck Vass shares the trials and tribulations of her baby's first dental visit and the realities of parental guilt.
We've just had our baby's first dental appointment. Even though he has only two teeth.
I don't mind this stuff, usually.
Our boy, 15 months, had no teeth when the appointment was made and I had asked if there was any point going but they said it would get us in the system.
I assumed I was already in the system, hence their phone call, however… as is the case with Plunket and all these things us parents just seem to go along with, I went and filled out a form I was sure I had filled out at some earlier stage.
I'm not sure if I was just feeling extra sensitive that day or if it was the dental nurse's manner but I found her tone to be quite patronising.
The way she worded things was sort of casual but sort of like she was trying to catch me out.
"And you're not giving him juice or fizzy, anything like that… just water and milk?"
"What about muesli bars?"
I was asked about dummies, which sounded from the joyful tone when I said no, as if they destroy teeth.
Just the 200ml of full-sugar Coke, each night, but only in his bottle as he goes to sleep. (Sarcasm, obviously).
The last time I went to the dentist with the kids I was told not to give them raisins or any dried fruit. I understand why. Things that are sugary and chewy get stuck in their perfect little teeth and can start eroding away at their tooth enamel.
But gee… I would guess most toddlers eat raisins and the odd dried apricot.
I wanted to say, "Hey lady, he's the third kid! He eats what he finds on the floor half the time."
Sometimes I forget he needs his teeth cleaned because he only just got them.
I did the same with the first two kids. They get forgotten about a bit until it's all in your routine but we're getting there.
The evenings can get crazy and while the older two kids (7 and 5) clean their teeth without fail every night, sometimes the baby falls asleep and we haven't done his teeth yet.
I didn't dare mention this.
I mentioned that he liked to wander around with the toothpaste tube in his mouth.
This was a big no. Something about their little bodies being unable to process excess fluoride, which is why some people don't like it.
Give them fluoride but not too much.
Too bad I've been battling since forever to make sure the other two spit their toothpaste out. They're kids, sometimes they swallow it.
Now I have to worry about fluoride poisoning too.
I cringed thinking how many times I caught our first child trying to eat toothpaste as a toddler.
The dental nurse said something about hygiene with the baby's mouth being on the tube of toothpaste.
I tried not to laugh-cry as my mind flashed back to an hour earlier when I had rinsed the baby's snot – yes snot – off our toothpaste cap. It was disgusting but sometimes parenting involves disgusting decisions.
Wash some snot off something, or throw it in the bin and go without clean teeth?
I gave up on "hygiene" worries after I watched our toddler suck on the baby's bottle and then give it back to our week-old baby. We're all still alive.
I can't help but wonder how useful these appointments are.
Of course, I will keep going. Who knows what dental issues may pop up in the future?
But are the parents who do give their kids sugary drinks all day even making it to the dental nurse in the first place? Do they care about the advice being given?
Or is it just parents like me showing up and "playing the game" who are being made to feel bad on top of all the other parental guilt they face?