Parenting and oral hygiene

Sometimes, while doing the most mundane things, an entire series of events—starting at the mundane thing and ending somewhere else—pops into my head. Like this one.

As a kid, I never learned how to floss.

Probably my dentist Dr. Silver taught me, along with some dollops of shame about my general oral hygiene habits. He told me I’d never have a boyfriend with gums like that. 

I had no problem attracting boyfriends. I guess they had different priorities.

At home, I had a toothbrush, toothpaste, and mouthwash. Red ACT. Cinnamon? The brand where you squeezed the mouthwash into the top section until you had the right portion. 

No floss.

My dad had floss. I found it when looking for something else in their medicine cabinet.

I don’t remember witnessing my dad’s oral care habits. Nor do I remember him going to the dentist, either for checkups or for issues. This doesn’t mean he didn’t go—just that it wasn’t on my radar.

My mom had all sorts of issues and took us to the same dentist she went to. Dr. Silver got to witness generational poor oral hygiene habits.

Why this interests me now—beyond a desire to have those habits come more easily—is how that dynamic played out within and between my parents.

Maybe, like everything else, they fought about it. I overheard a lot of arguments but certainly not all of them, so it’s possible I just missed them arguing about the kids flossing.

Maybe it was simply mom’s job because she was the mom and she was in charge of child-rearing. In that same vein, maybe he had no idea we didn’t floss. He made enough mentions through my adolescence of being aware of what was in our bathroom trash that this possibility seems unlikely.

There were a lot of skills that he mocked me for not having in parts of life where I was neither taught nor given the leniency to experience and learn. Maybe this was one of those skills that he thought was somehow magically implanted. I wonder what the timeline is on those lessons and skills. Does the Knowledge Fairy just dump them in your head one night and you wake up enlightened? Do you know that you know new things? So many questions.

Maybe he assumed that flossing was “something everyone does” because he did it and (presumably) his parents did it and, like the magical lessons I was supposed to know without learning, I would be part of “everyone” … later?

Surely he knew that my mom didn’t floss, which eliminates the “everyone does it” argument?

Maybe whether or not we flossed wasn’t important to him one way or the other.

I wonder a lot of random things.

What sorts of things did your parents assume you’d learn without anyone teaching it? (I’m sure most aspects of sex are on most people’s lists.) What sorts of things do you assume your kids are going to pick up without being taught?

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