26 April 2014, by Dannie Cho
When I was younger, oral hygiene didn’t quite feature strongly in the list of things I needed to take care of. Sure, I would brush my teeth the minimum of twice a day, but that was really it.
Things changed when I reached Secondary school. A visit to the school dentist became the best way to escape the twice-monthly Chinese essay-writing session. You could be gone for close to an entire hour, and the teachers would not suspect anything (how naive I was! Of course they knew I was malingering! Duh.) By the time I returned to the classroom mumbling about how I had a toothache, there was magically no time for me to complete the essay. It became homework. And teachers never remember special cases where only one person in the whole class has homework. (Another duh. Did I seriously believe that?!?)
I suppose you could say I was lying through my teeth. To my teachers, as well as to myself.
My oral problems magically disappeared once I graduated from Secondary school (with a D7 in Chinese, to my eternal shame). Never once did I visit the dentist all through my 3 years in polytechnic. Went for 2 mandatory dental visits over 2.5 years in the army, and survived another 3 years or so without even giving a thought to visiting a dentist. I had better use for my hard-earned cash, I guess.
Then I noticed a full page ad in the newspaper. Free Dental Checkup! Organised by the Singapore Dental Association, and sponsored by Colgate. And one of the dentists was in my office building! Ah well… I suppose I could take an hour off work to visit the dentist…
And so, it was then that I realised how shabbily I have treated my teeth and gums. My dentist had a little camera attached to his probe, and took pictures of all the little problems in my mouth. Cavities. Bad breath. Weak gums prone to bleeding. A cracked molar. Something about a root that was growing abnormally. Stains. I was shocked. All these girls I was chasing at that time… what did they see when I was talking to them? All these clients I met – could they even focus on what I was trying to sell?
And so, at about age 25, I finally became a loyal and regular visitor to a dentist, with no ulterior motives for hanky-panky. Which was a relief, because a few years later, I met this wonderful lady named Tan Yi Lin who stole my ‘haaah-rt’. Turns out that she also values oral hygiene, so on that basis, we decided to get married and have kids.
Fast forward a few years, and we decided to start regular dental visits for the girls while they were young. When Coco was one, and had some of her teeth out already, my dentist suggested that we bring her along for our visits. Let her see that it is okay to lie there and let someone check your teeth. Then when it was her turn, she wouldn’t be too scared.
It worked like a charm. As of now, Coco has already has 3 visits to the dentist under her belt, while Claire has had 1.
We were mentally prepared for screaming and shouting and worried about her struggling amidst all the instruments nearby, but those fears really proved unfounded.
I am really fascinated by the progression which my dentist takes the girls through, with every visit.
First visit, we hold the kid. It’s more reassuring that way. He gently probes their mouth open with his fingers to look at and feel their teeth.
Second visit, child sits in a booster seat. He again eases their mouths open to count the teeth, making sure to count out loud, so that they know what he’s doing.
Third visit, child sits in a booster seat. He gets them to open their mouths and uses his instruments to properly examine their teeth. Then he gently cleans their teeth, showing them the up-and-down actions needed.
I’m extremely proud of the girls, for lying so calmly even with a strange person poking at their mouths. I can’t wait to see the rest of the progression until they need to have their teeth cleaned!
And of course, these girls can no longer lie through their teeth to me, about not having any homework to do. Been there, done that!