The other day M came home and told me that one of his classmates told him that his breath smelled”like crap.” To disprove his point, he proceeded to blow a big breath in my face. Eww! Disgusting…but not surprising. Dental hygiene, or any kind of hygiene is not M’s strong suit. Cleanliness – that’s just crazy.
It’s not that M’s not regularly reminded to brush his teeth or wash his hands before he eats supper or after he goes to the bathroom. He simply chooses not to do it. Since he doesn’t like to get his hands wet, I’ve put bottles of disinfectant spray at every sink in the house. ‘His grandmother, a former public health nurse, has enumerated all the nasty germs and microbes that live on his hands and told M he needs to wash his hands through two choruses of “Happy Birthday” to kill off said bugs. He may have hearing like a bat, but when it comes to general hygiene, he’s a deaf as a post.
Despite daily reminders, M probably brushes his teeth every few days. The rest of the time, he waves the toothbrush around his mouth for a few seconds. He only uses toothpaste under duress. So it’s no big surprise that his breath is smelly. or that someone other than his parents finally noticed. Frankly, I’m surprised no one’s commented before.
As for bathing…he’s an 11-year-old boy. He’s still at the stage where he’s convinced that taking a bath more than once a week is a torture technique invited by evil parents. Less often is definitely his preference. He does put on clean clothes every day (including underpants and socks), so on the surface, he’s clean. I am enough of a mom to insist that he not leave the house with a dirty face. He probably wipes his face (with his sleeve of course), more out of fear of having one of his classmates notice and point it out. Eleven year olds are not known for their tact – if they’ll tell you your breath stinks, they’ll certainly point out you’ve got crud on your face. Usually loudly and in front of others.
Having grown up with 2 younger brothers, I know that a day will come when I’ll have a hard time prying M out of the shower. So I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about his general hygiene. His teeth, however, are another matter. bad breath is one thing, but cavities and long-term dental issues are another. Given that our drinking water is floridated, it’s highly unlikely that M’s teeth will fall out. But I don’t want to spend big bucks on getting M’s cavities filled, just because he’s too lazy to brush regularly?
So what’s a concerned parent to do? After weeks of nagging and worse-case scenario building (yes, all your teeth could fall out), all to no avail, I called out the big guns – Dr.M, the family dentist.
Dr. M is a tiny woman with a big smile. She’s perpetually cheerful, even when she’s poking around your mouth and seeing first hand that you aren’t flossing on a regular basis. She’s also very chatty, which is a bit awkward when your mouth is wide open and you’re drooling on a little white bib. But she’s very gentle and takes great pains to explain what she’s doing. Which makes her a good match for M, who always has plenty of questions. M’s dad took him to his recent dental appointment and he said he could hear the two of them chatting away.
M didn’t really want to talk about what Dr. M said to him about his teeth. He did grudgingly admit that she told him he needed to brush and floss every day. He didn’t seem too enthused about the prospect, but we came up with an incentive program. His after school program is planning a trip to a local indoor fun gym in a couple of weeks and M’s keen to have a little extra pocket change, so he can play games in the arcade. If he brushes 2x a day and flosses at least once, between now and the field trip, he can earn up to $1 per day. Hopefully, this will be enough time for him to get in the habit of proper brushing.
Hey, hope springs eternal.
Now I wonder who I can call about getting M to wash his hands regularly?