There is a certain type of kid in every school—one who carries a toothbrush in his or her backpack to actually use after lunch break or one who has an innate fear of candy (especially the sticky kind). This kid might not be the most popular or the coolest one in class, but the lack of a Hollywood smile is certainly not the reason. If you recognize yourself in this description—no matter what age you are now—it’s most likely because your mom is a dentist. If you don’t recognize this kid, you may now be wondering what the big deal is.
After all, your mom had a job, too . . . just like everyone else’s mom. How is a dentist so different from a lawyer, a baker, or a pilot? And sure, the question, “Have you brushed your teeth?” springs eternal from the mouths of all mothers the world over. But it’s never in quite the same, special, tenderly-threatening tone that can only come from a dentist mom, who wears a surgical mask every day. Here’s what having a dentist for a mother is like—for the affected few to relate to and for the clueless many to finally understand.
Preschool Tooth-brushing Demo
Every child has traumas buried somewhere far beneath the layers that make up their personality. If you are the child of a dentist, yours was put there the day your dear dentist mom came to your class on dental health day. Her guest appearance obviously skyrocketed your popularity in the fragile and elitist ecosystem of your preschool class—especially since you were called upon to demonstrate proper brushing technique (no, it’s not side-to-side) and paraded around as the cavity-free ideal to live up to.
And, speaking of which, you would not dare have a cavity. To even think about breaking the news to your mom gave you chills. You, the adult, would be grounded forever or maybe even disowned! In your weaker moments, you even went so far as to concoct emergency contingency plans like going to another dentist. Except, of course, you couldn’t because that was perhaps the only thing worse than having a cavity itself. Though, if we’re being honest, a cavity wouldn’t even have the time to develop because there were, of course, the check-ups. You just can’t escape random inspections when you share a home with a dentist who also happens to be a doting parent.
Even the Prom Date
In truth, all major dental evaluations were executed so regularly that you could set your watch by them. But, then there were the smaller ones that could creep-up on you anytime, anywhere—during dinner . . . in the middle of talking about something important . . . at your cousin’s wedding. The way you knew an attack was coming was by that furrow in her brow before her hands could zero-in on your chin—at which point it was way too late, either way.
Strange as all of that most certainly was, you got used to the fact that your dentist mom checked your teeth in front of everyone. But, even that wasn’t enough. She checked other’s teeth, too! Remember when she asked your prom date if they had ever thought about getting braces? Or, all the times she dropped you off at birthday parties and warned everyone that cake is bad for their teeth? Your friends were identified, and yes, judged, by their teeth. Whatever happened to Steve with the impacted wisdom tooth or Judy with the receding gums? But, don’t act too annoyed—you have to admit that you’ve noticed yourself doing it, too. You may not be a doctor, but you must have absorbed some knowledge by osmosis, because your friend clearly has a severe overbite and should get that checked out, and by the way . . . you know a good dentist.
Teeth, Teeth, Teeth
You know beyond knowing. You have it in your bones that a brushing is not a brushing if it doesn’t last two full minutes (there are even songs about this!) and you are constantly reminded, asked, or ordered to floss. This is never going to stop, and the conflicting research on the benefits of flossing—which you sometimes feebly point out—remains most enthusiastically disregarded. And, we haven’t even mentioned the braces. You obviously had to have those long before (and even after) absolutely everyone else in your class, school, and town—or even in the world—had them.
When your mother is a dentist, it is a fact of life that your oral hygiene, though exceptional in your own estimation, is never quite up to snuff. It will never be, and yet you must keep trying. To add insult to injury, your mother’s job forces her to stand up and to be counted in the “War on Sugar.” You are painfully aware that she’s not on the right side of history on that one, but there’s really nothing to be done. She’s also not big on Halloween candy and feels no need whatsoever to distribute reward lollipops in her practice. What she is big on, however, is toothpaste, of course. Of course. You have to have two different kinds . . . one for morning, one for night.
You might also have assumed, quite foolishly, that in order to counteract the damage from a crushing lack of candy in your childhood, the gratuitous use of laughing gas would be sanctioned by your mother at her dental practice that has truly become your home away from home. But sadly, this day never came, and it’s safe to assume by now that it never will. The day that has come, however, is the one where it was decided that dental accessories are an acceptable stocking stuffer! You know . . . fun items like those little brushes you’re supposed to somehow fit between your teeth (and pretend to, for Mom’s sake), or that “adorable” box of floss with the bunnies you got the year you graduated college.
All throughout your childhood, you nursed dreams of really neglecting your teeth once you could leave the dentist-mother’s den. You had fantasies of eating a tub of ice cream and going straight to bed, without even setting foot near the sink. You even told yourself that once you moved out of the house, the rebellion would promptly start (who knows how much plaque you could amass)! But, after all the years of training, conditioning, and not-too-gentle encouragement, your dentist mom’s stern looks and voice fill your head even now, and your teeth are unfortunately in excellent working condition. So yes, having a dentist for a mother may have been tough at times—at least twice a day, in fact—but she also told you that you had the most beautiful smile in the world at the end of each check-up, which makes all of it okay, somehow. Plus, free dental, right?