This may seem like a strange topic for a Tightwad Tuesday blog. But I'm in the thick of pediatric dental heck, and our tab just keeps getting bigger and bigger. I've learned a lot in the last couple of years, and I would like to share what I've learned with you. Avoiding cavities will make everyone happier, healthier, and just a little bit wealthier! Seriously, the money is so minor compared to all the other benefits of good oral care, but it does make a difference, so it is definitely an appropriate Tightwad Tuesday topic!
Teeth Brushing: This is so important! And it has been my biggest problem from day one. You need to start brushing their teeth the moment they get their first tooth or when their diet includes foods other than breastmilk, whichever comes later. There is much evidence showing that breastmilk does not cause cavities. However, breastmilk + food on the teeth does = cavities. So what you can do is ensure there is no residue of food on the teeth when your child will be nursing, especially if your child is accustomed to nursing to sleep.
Brushing your child's teeth can be very difficult. I struggled with this for a long time. Until my sister taught me the best way to brush a child's teeth. I had been doing it wrong for so long! I learned a little too late for Lacy and Rose (they both have pretty bad damage), but with my next baby I will for sure be brushing her teeth well as soon as she needs it! This tooth brushing method is not for the young babies so much as it is for the toddlers. What you do is you pin their arms down under your legs. Your thighs help to keep the head from turning. You may have some leg flailing going on that you'll have to take care of-- use either your legs to pin their legs down or your free hand. There will be a lot of screaming-- even at almost 2.5, Rose still screams, though she willingly gets into the tooth brush position every single night. Occasionally she will allow us to brush her teeth without pinning her down. I try it that way first every time, but if she won't cooperate we go with the tried and true pinning method. I know it sounds cruel and a bit anti-AP to some people, but there are a few things that I personally put my foot down on, and having clean teeth is one of them. It is much, much worse to go through many of the experiences we have gone through correcting the dental problems than to pin your child down for 1 minute to brush teeth several times a day. I have blogged several times about our dental woes.
My kids already went to bed, so I had to have Dave take a picture of me demonstrating the toothbrush hold on Lacy's bear, Cinnamon, for this blog.
See how Cinnamon's arms aren't visible? They are secured under my legs. If I have to, I can maneuver my knees and calves around to keep flailing legs from becoming a problem-- Rose has escaped more than once using the strength of her legs to maneuver out of my hold. My soft, coushiny thighs cradle Cinnamon's head so I can easily brush his teeth. This is not at all painful for the child, but it is essential for healthy teeth to get them brushed at least 2-3 times a day. Brushing teeth may not be the answer for everyone's dental issues, but it certainly is the best defense. You don't really even need to use tooth paste-- our dentist friend from church told us about how he once brushed his teeth with Mountain Dew. Hmmm. Okay.
Some people are so lucky to have good genes and even constant junk food with zero oral health care results in perfect teeth, but we have bad genetics on our side, so even our careful diets resulted in massive tooth decay. And tooth decay is costly. We have excellent dental insurance, but it doesn't cover the cost of the drug cocktail that Lacy receives before her dental appointment-- that runs us $80 a pop. Rose's teeth were much more expensive: $200 out of pocket expenses for the surgery center, $80 for the anesthesiologist, plus additional costs for what our insurance didn't cover. I still owe the dental office about $200 and will be paying another $80 tomorrow.
Aaaand on to tomorrow: I already mentioned that we will need to pay the dental office $80 for Lacy's happy drink cocktail (Evil Dental actually worked on Rose's teeth without any medication, but this dental office is so much better and would never consider doing something so horrible-- I was so scared for Rose's oral health that I actually allowed them to do that. Bad mom!). She is getting a crown on one of her front teeth. She previously had a filling, but in her eagerness to lose a tooth, she popped that filling right off the tooth. Her permanent tooth will not come in until she is about 8, so the best bet is to crown it if at all possible. It also appears that she has a few minor cavities that need to be repaired, so the dentist will repair those at the same time. He will also polish up the yellowing from the fillings on her front teeth so her pearly whites will actually be white again. Our insurance covers nearly 100% on all these things, so very few out of pocket expenses. But very few does not mean zero, which should be everyone's aim. Not only will proper oral care minimize the cost for you, but it will also improve overall health.
Oral care is very important for children and adults alike. Don't neglect your own teeth! Brush your teeth after meals and floss once daily. Eat less sugar and lots of fruits and vegetables. Take care of your teeth and you'll have them a long, long time.