From the "Conversations with Sandra Dodd" section of the old Unschooling . com site (The links above and below this go to the internet archives. The original site was abandoned and reclaimed by unrelated others—don't trust it.)
Here are archived links from early 2005.
By eam on Thursday, July 1, 2004 - 10:31 am:
I'm new to these boards, and relatively new to unschooling. We are trying to live it, not just have it be a school option, and at times it scares me to death!! :) I can't find anything on teeth brushing - not to say it isn't there, but I can't find it. :) I am trying very hard to be a feeling, compassionate, attached, mindful parent, but I have a 3yo dd who is not only very sensitive (still breastfeeding 4-5+ hours per day) but has a complete mind of her own!!!! I love it, but it completely wears me out at times. She has decided that she does not want to brush her teeth. I am letting her choose, but I am letting "no sweet snacks" be the consequence for her decision. And the whole thing is driving me nuts!! All of it - not just worry over her teeth, which we consider to be a serious health issue, but worry over the importance I'm giving to sugar. I just am at a loss. Sandra, anyone, please help!By jennyb. on Thursday, July 1, 2004 - 10:43 am:
Hi, I'm pretty new also, but I have a four year old who is seriously independent and she went through the no brushing teeth thing too. I found it helpful to let her pick out her own toothpaste, she's in love with Little Bear. Here's a thought (and I may be stepping on some toes) but it is a health issue and I agree that it could be turning "sugar snacks" into an issue, so while I don't advocate dragging her to the sink why not insist that she do it? Ihope I haven't broken a major unschooling law here.By Nadine Bonnett on Thursday, July 1, 2004 - 11:07 am:
I have 4 kids-17, 13, 5 and 3. I've been through the "I don't wanna brush my teeth" thing a few hundred times over the years too.By Sandra Dodd (Sandradodd) on Thursday, July 1, 2004 - 11:34 am:
In speaking to dentists (I meet a lot of health care professionals through my work)I've asked questions about how harmful it can be to not brush for periods of time.
Basically, they've said that it probably won't hurt them to go for a while without brushing. Toothbrush and toothpaste manufacturers don't want to tell you that of course! Different kids teeth will react differently to having gunk on them for longer periods of time-some will form cavities, some will be just fine for years on end.
So, what have I done when they refused in the past? With the 2-3 age period I've tried new toothbrushes and toothpaste (as noted in the post above). An electric toothbrush is cool! A new "princess" one had my 3 yr old dd brushing her teeth at least once an hour when it was new. If that doesn't work, try wiping their teeth with a damp facecloth like when they were a baby.
With older kids, let natural consequences happen. If their friends don't want to be around them cause their breath stinks, or their teeth start to hurt cause they get cavities...well, I bet that they begin to brush their teeth on their own after that.
As my kids get older, they want to brush their teeth, because they don't like the feeling.By Bugsmom on Thursday, July 1, 2004 - 12:00 pm:
When they were very little I would brush and sing the days of the week to the tune of Yankee Doodle, and that seemed fun.
New toothbrushes help sometimes. New paper cups in the bathroom. Sometimes nothing helps. But I personally think that a cavity is not as bad for a child as feeling he has a really mean mom. Some parents will wake up a sleeping child and force them to brush teeth. I'm SURE sleeping is more important than a single toothbrushing, and if a kid is naturally asleep, he can brush his teeth next time he's naturally awake.
Slice them up and leave them easily accessible.
Those are natural tooth-cleaning things.
Someone wrote here something about cheese as a nighttime snack as a better thing "on the teeth"? Anyone remember that?
(Not American "cheese" I'm guessing but a more natural cheese like cheddar or mozarella or? If someone knows what that was, what cheeses are any good that kids like?)
I don't know what the whole truth is about dental stuff, but I do know that nobody else knows either. That's not to say I know as much as anyone, I don't. But I DO know that there are lots of mainstream dentists who are making statements that are not true, and filling "cavities" that weren't needing filling (soft spots that could harden up).
AND I know that rinsing (even with salt water, if kids hate all mouthwashes) can be helpful because it's bacterial stuff and some can take a hike (or a spit/flow) out of there.
AND I know that with things like gum disease, diet and sleep and vitamins and other health-restorative things can be helpful.
Kirby and Holly had soft baby teeth. Marty didn't. They had problems Marty didn't have. The dentists said I should wean them, and I ignored the dentists. But their adult teeth all seem pretty good!
What has helped DS was those battery powered ones that you can get in a 3 pack for $5 or $10 at Sam's. They have a spin brush AND a regular brush on them so that if it gets anywhere near his mouth, something happens.By Mary Lewis (Mlewis) on Thursday, July 1, 2004 - 12:03 pm:
Also, sometimes he'd brush my teeth first then I'd do his or we'd try to brush each other's teeth at the same time (that can get silly doing mirror image things).
Also, those new ones they are advertising that you put on your finger to "brush anytime anywhere" might help. I've been thinking about them for DS since the toothbrush gags him if it gets all the way to the back teeth. But he doesn't have that problem with his own fingers. I'm hesitating though because the "minty fresh" flavors are too much for his tastebuds.
DS just turned 6 and he is starting to connect not brushing before bed with the nasty taste in his mouth when he wakes up.
Also, suggesting that a child brush their teeth is not at all the same as inviting them to brush their teeth with you while you do yours. If I were to say "Elina, you really should brush your teeth"....yeah....right.LOL But if I say "I'm gonna brush my teeth now, you wanna come?" she's right there. She still likes me to brush for her, and then when I'm done she takes the brush and does her tongue, and the insides of her cheeks (don't know where she got that...I don't do it myself..it's just her thing.) We use the little battery operated rotary brushes and we like them.By Janet on Thursday, July 1, 2004 - 12:06 pm:
Aiden brushes regularly with no outside input. Connor doesn't, but he's becoming more aware of other person's reactions and a "hey, it might be a good idea to brush your teeth before we go" is appreciated by him, as he isn't to where he thinks of it automatically. I recognize that it mostly lies with parenting in our case, in that when Aiden was little we brushed together but when Connor was in those habit-making years I was working and those habits didn't get as established. But he's ok, and he'll come to habits in his own way. Even though he's 13, I'm trying to make teeth-brushing more of a 'social event' for him also, so it's somewhere he wants to be. Just as important at 13 as it is at 2 for so many things!
I agree with the fun toothbrushes and paste that tastes like bubble gum.By Nadine Bonnett on Thursday, July 1, 2004 - 01:15 pm:
My 5.5 year old has a toothbrush that lights up...it blinks for the amount of time you should brush your top teeth, and you make it blink again for the bottom teeth. Could brush your teeth in the dark like fireflies, LOL.
Anytime you try to 'make' a 3 yr old do something, they dig in their heels. We've had fun making games of it, too. Who can brush their teeth first? etc.
Warning to Parents:By Sandra Dodd (Sandradodd) on Thursday, July 1, 2004 - 01:51 pm:
Do NOT run out of your own toothpaste. If you do, do not, I repeat NOT, use the bubble gum flavored type. No matter how good your 5 year old tells you that it tastes, you will hate it. I can still taste it months later.
And your 13 year old will laugh her face off at you for a loooong time (she waited until we went to the store to buy more adult stuff).
Sometimes I get sick of the taste of any toothpaste, and so I use baking soda and salt and it kinds of resets me.By Ren Allen (Ren) on Thursday, July 1, 2004 - 02:02 pm:
When Kirby was little there was some baby toothpaste at Walgreen's that was strawberry and something (apple/strawberry, I think) flavored and it was really good, and mild, but I quit finding it after a while.
And I like Pearl Drops, but it's hard to find too. I found some for sale online, but the shipping made it very expensive.
I have some Peelu toothpaste which tastes nasty during, but not after. Peelu is a tree in India, and people use twigs from the tree to clean their teeth, and they have good teeth. So ignoring ALL genetic and dietary and cultural evidence, some geniuses make Peelu toothpaste and sell it (and some people like me have bought some), but the more I think about it, the more I think maybe if we used a twig from an apple tree, or even a pine needle, and then threw it away, and if people in India got a toothbrush and used it day after day, maybe (maybe/maybe not) we would have better teeth and they would be worse.
It would not surprise me to learn, years from now, that cavities were made much worse by something. Dirty toothbrushes, water than came out of plastic pipes, electric alarm clocks, homogenized mik---I have NO idea, but it will be something common, and something once considered "good."
Just looking at the history of medicine or common belief about what's great for you and what will kill you shows that.
Cigarette ads in the 50's and even 60's talked about cigarettes being soothing for the throat.
When my boys haven't brushed for a couple days, and their teeth are nasty, they'll ask for baking soda. I've actually used that in place of dental cleanings for myself, for several years now. I've also found the battery operated toothbrushes seem to help my reluctant brushers. Letting them pick their own brushes, toothpaste, mouthwash seems to be really helpful too.By Nadine Bonnett on Thursday, July 1, 2004 - 02:22 pm:
Same with bathing. If Jared can pick his own fun bath stuff, he's likely to wash more than once every two weeks!:) Ren
My ds (5) hasn't wanted to have a bath at all for the last 3 weeks or so. My solution? Sprinklers! lots and lots of water play has him cleaner than a bath could possible have him. And, oh, the joy!By Krystal C (Peacefulmama) on Thursday, July 1, 2004 - 02:35 pm:
We did those stick-on fingertip toothbrushes when my son was 2-3, but he's the kid who loved the taste of certs at age 2 (which makes my eyes water even now!), so he didn't mind the mint at all. Also, Tom's of Mine makes mouthwashes, if you can find 'em, and they are VERY mild compared to other brands. Maybe they'd try that?? And, I know you can buy this ionic toothbrush online called a soladey-2--it needs no toothpaste, and it lasts virtually forever. You buy replacement heads every six months or so, and brush w/water. It's like $80 though--a desperate measure but maybe perfect?? HTH and good luck!! Krystal--who's got two happy but often-dirty-toothed children...sigh... ;)By Bugsmom on Thursday, July 1, 2004 - 02:47 pm:
I wish water play would get DS clean - he'd be shiny squeaky clean if it did. But, with a mostly-dirt back yard and a very water-crazed Lab, water play ends up more dirty than even just straight dirt. What I often do if DS is really grubby is offer to wash him - usually the end of my bed and just the parts he wants washed. I'll get a comfortably warm/cool washcloth and wash his feet, legs, hands, arms while he watches a movie or just relaxes. He usually manages at least his face on occasion because the PBJ residue attracts dog hair to his face and he dislikes that. He really needs a haircut - in summer DH and DS get their hair really short so it's easier to keep clean (just run over it a bit with a wet washcloth) and it's easier to see and remove "hitchhikers".By Lori on Thursday, July 1, 2004 - 03:47 pm:
we always played this game with my daughter called "girls only toothbrushing party" where I would shout that very loudly and run to the bathroom with my dd, and close the door and lock it before dad could get in. Then he would knock and pretend to be a woman named "Rhona" that would try to join the party. Somehow we got our teeth brushed just in time. Very silly.Lori By Cathy in CA (Cathy) on Thursday, July 1, 2004 - 06:08 pm:
This has turned into "kids only toothbrushing party" For the most part, I don't sweat the toothbrushing thing. I will say "let's brush teeth before we go read" (we all pile onto the bed while my dh reads to us at night) and most times it happens, but if it doesn't, no biggy.
I do notice that my 4 yo has some major morning breath though. I thought that didn't really start happening until later.
bugsmom, I hear you about the mud, the hose and the dog....
My daughter spent about a year rarely brushing. She did, however, clean her teeth a couple times a day using her shirt (which was probably more germ-free than a toothbrush) and fingernails (also very clean). She has never had a cavity, aside from one when she was about 3. I wish I had gotten a 2nd opinion on that one. She eventually decided to go back to toothbrushes (because, yes, her shirts got kind of icky), and brushes daily with no prompting from anyone. She used to like Tom’s of Maine Strawberry flavor toothpaste, but now she likes mild minty flavors. She liked a power toothbrush for a while, but decided a regular brush got her teeth clean faster.By eam on Friday, July 2, 2004 - 09:12 am:
***I am letting her choose, but I am letting "no sweet snacks" be the consequence for her decision. ***
It depends on the sweet. Some sugary foods will wash off easily with a drink of water. Some healthy starchy foods will set up like glue and convert to sugar slowly on the teeth and gums. Would you also establish a “no potato, no bread, no beans” rule? (And you are making a rule, not letting something be a consequence.) And would you exempt breastfeeding from being a “sweet snack” or not?
I think the best ideas are what people have suggested, helping make toothbrushing (or other forms of tooth cleaning) a pleasant, happy event, a sociable time if desired, never a power struggle or cause for stress.
Wow - thanks for all the thoughtful, creative, sweet responses. Some of your ideas are fabulous and I'm going to try them!!! I do have to say that I started my period yesterday and I'm feeling much better about it all!! I was definitely lost in a "fear" moment - thanks for the pick-me-up! My hormones are definitely driving me crazy - I'm an older mom (43 years young) who is still nursing and in peri-menopause ... and I have noticed that hormones make some things much harder for me - like when my strong-willed, darling 3 year old daughter won't brush!!By eam on Friday, July 2, 2004 - 09:18 am:
I really appreciate the response regarding sugar-I'd only done that for one night, and it didn't work at all - the poor darling just wanted her sweet snack even more. But I was lost in the "I am such a wimp and always back down from what I've said" thing. Of course, when what you mandate isn't so good, backing down IS a good thing :).
And we've honestly tried every single creative thing I can imagine - we have numerous toothbrushes, who have conversations,(dd has been incredibly verbal since about 18 mo.), they play with each other, they whine about who will get to brush dd's teeth, sometimes we use 2-4 toothbrushes at dd's request (what a trick that is ) etc. We have many different versions of the Natural Dentist toothpaste (trying to avoid fluoride) - but I'm going to try some of the others that you all have suggested. I think a change is definitely in order. We play dentist, we race to see who can get done the fastest, etc. We use a timer, that has worked great - when it goes off, we brush. We use an egg timer so we can stop brushing when the sand runs out. And most of the time, SOMETHING works. Honestly, I just get worn out with the creative thing at times, although it usually works eventually.
So finally yesterday, at the suggestion of someone on my local e-mail loop, I asked dd what was wrong and why she was not wanting to brush. She told me very clearly that she did not want me telling her when to brush, that she wanted to be in charge of the brushing, instead of me. She didn't mind being reminded, but she didn't want me TELLING her. (And, of course, she brushed within a few minutes - in the car, because "we've NEVER done THAT before!!") Wow, what a beautiful thing - she basically was just asking for respect and trust, which I obviously don't have regarding the teeth brushing issue! 6 of her baby teeth came in with cavities (genetic) and I did the whole fight with the dentist regarding my nursing, did a ton of research, found many different wonderful natural products to help (without fluoride) and have valiantly won the struggle to get her healthy teeth back. Trust me, getting cavities fixed in a baby is a horrible experience!! And I can't imagine getting a toddler's teeth fixed being any better, and I have been desperately wanting to avoid more cavities (no fear there), so I am DILIGENT in her teeth brushing (we even floss and scrape when it is fun for her). So she is asking me to trust. Yeah! What a great lesson for me!! So that is where we are today.
Part of my problem is that dd is so verbal and has such amazing comprehension at 3 1/2 that I get lost in how old she really is - is she a baby, or is she all grown up? Pieces of both, of course, but TODDLER is a really difficult line to walk at times between guidance, and control. I really don't want to be controlling, but sometimes I fall over the line into that.
Sorry this is so long — thanks so much for all the support. Unschooling and mindful parenting have helped me find my way past the muck, and allowed me to fall into the joy of parenting. It isn't easy, but being MOMMY is the best thing I've ever done. :):):)
Oh yes, Sandra - I did talk to a dentist who told me that hard cheese will re-mineralize the teeth. He said one of the best things you can do for soft teeth is leave hard cheese on your teeth! Almost every night dd will have a snack of hard cheese before bed - after brushing! Her teeth are SO much better now!By Sandra Dodd (Sandradodd) on Friday, July 2, 2004 - 09:38 am:
And Lori - thanks for the "girls only teeth brushing party" idea - that sounds like fun and will definitely work with dd! :)
-=-I have noticed that hormones make some things much harder for me - like when my strong-willed, darling 3 year old daughter won't brush!! -=-By kimg on Friday, July 2, 2004 - 10:05 am:
That wasn't the hormones making things harder. It was the belief that brushing was more important than you being calm or your daughter brushing her teeth.
Peace and calm are really good things all in and of themselves. Enjoyment/JOY is better for health than all the "health rules" in the world.
"6 of her baby teeth came in with cavities (genetic) and I did the whole fight with the dentist regarding my nursing, did a ton of research, found many different wonderful natural products to help (without fluoride) and have valiantly won the struggle to get her healthy teeth back."By Joy Karim on Saturday, July 3, 2004 - 12:39 am:
If you don't mind me asking, what did you do? My son has enamel and cavity problems on his front teeth and he's been getting flouride brushed on at the dentist every 3 months. I was trying to find something to help at home, but really haven't found much help on the net. I don't want to put him through a dental procedure, but I don't want it to get worse and have him in pain or affect his permanent teeth when they come in. (he's 2, so his teeth will be like this for a while yet)
thanks for your help!
**Peelu is a tree in India, and people use twigs from the tree to clean their teeth, and they have good teeth.**By Sandra Dodd (Sandradodd) on Saturday, July 3, 2004 - 10:26 am:
I remember growing up in the tropics and periodically my mom would send one of us kids to pick some twigs off a black sage bush to clean our teeth. That definitely came from our Indian ancestors. A couple of times we ground up pieces of coal and brushed with that. Nasty stuff but it sure made our teeth white! I'm clueless as to where that practice came from. We used a toothbrush the rest of the time and all of us kids had our fair share of cavities. Maybe if we had used a sage twig regularly, who knows...
-=- A couple of times we ground up pieces of coal and brushed with that. Nasty stuff but it sure made our teeth white!-=-By Mary Lewis (Mlewis) on Saturday, July 3, 2004 - 11:53 am:
My mom's dad used to chew tar to clean his teeth. He had a block of tar a little bigger than a cubic foot, and he'd cut off a little piece with his pocket knife and chew it.
I thought it was pretty gross at the time. The block sat out in the yard, in West Texas, and the outside was all dusty, but he'd trim off the dirty part.
Man, Sandra. Leave us dangling....how were his teeth!!! LOL MLewisBy sandradodd on Saturday, July 3, 2004 - 04:01 pm:
Well...By Cathy in CA (Cathy) on Saturday, July 3, 2004 - 04:33 pm:
He dipped snuff.
That's kind of nasty.
And he was old.
But he HAD teeth, even when he was old.
One of my favorite gross memories is being 19 or so and my boyfriend from India visiting my relatives in Texas with me. We were at granny and papaw's, watching TV in one of those living rooms where the wall paper, upholstery, doilies and linoleum are all floral print in different combos of rose/orange/green/tan and it makes you woozy.
Papaw was being particularly polite because he had company, and he would lift his little antique one-pound rusting coffee can up toward his mouth before he would spit and then he'd put it back on the floor past his chair.
I'd been familiar with that can and its other incarnations since I was little. I wasn't even noticing.
Dev nudged me, and I leaned over for him to whisper, "What is your grandfather drinking out of that can?"
My mom told me she and the neighbor kids chewed tar when she was a kid - Great Depression days. That’s what they had instead of gum. She’s in her 80s now and has really good teeth and gums.By sandradodd on Saturday, July 3, 2004 - 06:34 pm:
-=-My mom told me she and the neighbor kids chewed tar when she was a kid - Great Depression days. That’s what they had instead of gum. -=-By eam on Sunday, July 4, 2004 - 07:23 am:
I'm glad to hear my Papaw wasn't the only one. He did chew it like gum, but he said it was good for his teeth. Maybe so!
***If you don't mind me asking, what did you do? My son has enamel and cavity problems on his front teeth and he's been getting flouride brushed on at the dentist every 3 months. I was trying to find something to help at home, but really haven't found much help on the net. I don't want to put him through a dental procedure, but I don't want it to get worse and have him in pain or affect his permanent teeth when they come in. (he's 2, so his teeth will be like this for a while yet)***By kimg on Sunday, July 4, 2004 - 09:00 am:
Kim~ I'd be glad to share with you what I've found so far. When all the cavities happened and I was told to wean her, especially at night, I did as much research as I could. I took a big pile of my research in to my dentist, who graciously took it, but I almost guarantee she didn't read it!! Who knows ... maybe she will one day. :)
As I mentioned earlier, I talked to a natural dentist who suggested eating hard cheese - something in there really helps the teeth. Whenever dd wants a snack before bed, we give her cheese - she has gotten so that is all she asks for, besides milk. He also recommended a toothpaste from Young's Essential Oils, called Extra Strength Dentarome. It has a lot of clove in it, and is very spicy, so when dd wants it (she calls it the "spicy toothpaste"), we use just a teeny, tiny bit with her other toothpaste. If you use too much, it could burn. For regular toothpaste we have been using the Natural Dentist brand - they have a kids' bubblegum, which is good - not icky tasting - pretty mild. They also have an adult mint that we all like. We also use a natural mouth rinse, cherry flavored, from Natural Dentist that dd really likes - we call it "swish & spit" because when we started this, I had to teach her not to swallow! When she won't brush, she will usually at least rinse with this - she gets a big kick out of it. We also use EVERY day, a homeopathic called Calcarea Phosphorica - just follow the directions. That is supposed to help with bones, teeth, etc. Also, I read that alfalfa is really good for teeth - and since she was too young for a supplement, and she was (is) still nursing, I take an alfalfa supplement and hope she gets some in my breastmilk. I also put alfalfa in bread that we make, etc. After all the reading I've done, I'm pretty against fluoride, but I figure she gets a little bit in the small amount of unfiltered water that she drinks (we use a filter for most of our drinking water, but don't push the issue if we happen to be out somewhere, or she wants a drink from the tap). So far, her teeth seem 100% better. I have still noticed some white spots (I guess this is a sign of early enamel problems that could turn into decay), but none of her teeth have developed the holes that she had before. She still will not let the dentist look back in her mouth and we don't push it. We just show up, say hello to the dentist, and leave. Thank goodness the dentist is supportive of this, and last time didn't even charge us. She does let me look in her mouth, and I haven't seen any decay, so I think what we're doing is working - her teeth were so bad earlier, and I feel pretty good about our program. It works even better, of course, when we brush! If I think of anything else, I'll let you know. Good luck with your son's teeth!!
Also, just as an FYI, in case most of you are like us, and on a very tight budget, I get most of my supplements and toothpaste, etc., from [there was a typo, but even fixing the typo...]. They are a fabulous internet company and you can get your vitamins, health items, etc. at an incredible discount. [2020 note from Sandra: The company she meant to link is still in existence, but the ratings and reviews are very low these days.]
I'm taking everything to heart that everyone has shared, and we are letting the teethbrushing be what she needs it to be. We still talk about it, and we have suggested some new, creative stuff that has worked a little bit. We have completely let go of the sugar issue (still a hard one for me - my brain and my heart get the concept, but my fear is still there - time and meditation is helping to heal that :).
Thanks again to everyone!
Thank you eam for sharing! I appreciate your help :)By Blaise on Friday, July 9, 2004 - 11:59 am:
I just ran across this and wanted to say please do some research on flouride! It's very deadly. My daughter is a junior in 4-H and came in second place in Health in the state of GA on the subject of the dangers of Flouride. You can do a google search on it...
Kids have died in the dentist chair from flouride overdose!
From an Diagnosis and treatment of acute fluoride toxicity", where I went to check (in 2020) for details, rather than leave the note above as the closing comment on this page. This was one long paragraph in the ADA journal article, but I've broken it up for ease of reading here.|
Most fatalities associated with fluoride toxicity have resulted from industrial accidents or accidental substitution of fluoride compounds for household cooking ingredients.It's a 1985 article, but I had assumed that it wasn't from normal use of small amounts, and reading there, I think I'm right.