by Frances Edstrom

Happy New Year!

Among today’s letters to the editor is one about dental health. The writer, Dr. Michael Flynn, who is president of the Minnesota Dental Association, says that he has seen the bad effects that “lack of regular dental care can have on the overall health and well-being of so many people.”

As a Baby Boomer, I am amazed at how many of the dental maladies of older generations have all but been eliminated. It used to be that by the time people got to my age, they had dentures. Not so much any more. There were antibiotics given back in the forties and fifties that affected the color of teeth, but they aren’t used on children anymore, so today kids have beautiful, white teeth. There is now fluoride in our drinking water, and in our toothpaste to promote dental health. Dental braces, which were only for rich kids in the olden days, are found much more in the general population now. It’s no wonder that kids look so much more attractive than they used to. Good dental care and good acne medicine have just about made adolescence bearable!

When we were kids, our dentist’s office was about an hour away, in the town where my dad had grown up. He probably had gone to high school with the guy. We seemed very often to have cavities. Only my brother, who had a natural ability for throwing accurate punches, got out of having novocaine. He got to have gas, which I think was more expensive. I can’t say for sure if it is true that if we were good, the dentist’s nurse would give us a lollipop. I remember it that way, but it could just have been that my dad claimed that we got lollipops from the dentist for the purpose of ensuring repeat business from the Bowler kids. Dad was a great believer in fluoride toothpaste when it came out, and sweetened our Kool-Aid with saccharine tablets. We much preferred to drink milk, as a consequence!

When my own kids were little, they visited the dentist and were faithful brushers. They might have one or two fillings at the most, while the inside of my mouth looks like a minefield was set off. I took Cassidy, a pre-schooler, to see Doc Cross, whose office was down Second Street from ours, for teeth cleaning. After one appointment, I had to bring her back to my office for a while. Everyone said hello, but she kept her mouth shut tight, not being her usual smiling self. I finally took her aside and asked if she had a problem. She shook her head no. “Then why aren’t you talking?” I asked. She parted her lips just enough to say, “I don’t want to get my teeth dirty!”

I put toothbrushes in my grandchildren’s Christmas stockings, so that they would be sure to have them when they stayed at my house. Included was a small tube of toothpaste.

Andie said she loved her toothbrush, and opened it up. “I’m going to brush my teeth right now!” she proclaimed. After a while, she came back into the room and said to her father, “Daddy, smell my teeth!”

I’ve read in the news that during the recession, many folks gave up trips to the dentist unless it was absolutely necessary…or they were in lots of pain. Now that things are easing up in the economy…we hope…it’s time to go back to the dentist. Good dental health enhances your overall health at all ages, and increases your chances of a more comfortable old age. (Something that seems to be getting closer and closer to some of us!)

I hope to see you all smiling brightly during 2013!


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