An unexpected challenge

Updated: Sep 28, 2019

There is no doubt, having a baby is one of the most beautiful experiences in a woman and man's life.

But ask any new parents (or just observe them) and you will see that the first few years of a babies life are incredibly difficult to navigate. Suddenly the challenges of pregnancy seem like a dream because this gorgeous little thing, that you wouldn't swap for quids, becomes the entire centre of your Universe. And what a big and demanding centre it can be!

The attention that all babies require, the tears and upset that must be comforted, and the need to be fed and changed all take centre stage of your existence. Then there are the normal and endless demands of life that do not stop just because a baby has arrived. Add the financial pressures of modern life that often press us to go back to work earlier than we might choose, and chronic sleep deprivation (a recognised torture method!) to the mix and you have the perfect set up for parents to neglect themselves.

This self-neglect creates the problems that I see too often in my daily dental practice. Most often new mums, but also new dads, come in to see me and they have active tooth decay and gum disease, sometimes for the first time in their life. And then there are the people who are too overwhelmed and busy to make time to come back to the dentist until their child is 5 years old! I wish I was joking, but I am not!

The hardest part for the dentist is supporting people to get their self-care back on track.

Try to tell an exhausted person who has a 'to do' list with no end in sight, and a crying baby that they need to brush and floss more often. . .

. . .oh, and eat less sugar.

If I had a dollar for every scathing look and 'you don't understand' rebuttal I have received from a new parent after offering them the 'self-care' conversation, I would be able to retire.

But this is what I know as a dentist:

  • If you neglect yourself, you will probably get tooth decay and/or gum problems. Both are expensive and time consuming to treat - as well as unnecessary. Prevention is actually very simple.

  • Bad habits are so much easier to develop than good ones. We all know this. It takes one cigarette to get hooked and 10 years to quit. Falling into a poor oral health routine is really hard to recover from. Do what you can to stay on track - it is worth the effort to keep going rather than fall into the gruelling stop-start approach.

  • Your oral health sets up the future oral health of your child. Whatever bacteria you have in your mouth, they will receive from you when you share food, utensils or wipe their mouth with a handkerchief moistened with your saliva. The healthier your bacteria, the better your child is set up for the future.

  • You are showing your child that caring for yourself is trivial/ unimportant/ without value. They might be little but they really do pick up the 'vibes' we give off. Is that really the message you want them to receive?

  • Children do what you do. They do not so willingly do what you say. Show them an adult who cares about their dental health and they are more likely to be inspired and follow suit. 

  • Talk honestly to your dentist. Most of us do get it and can help you find ways to keep self-care simple

The key is not to drop the bundle on yourself even when things feel insurmountably hard.

You are worth looking after at every stage in your life.

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