Teeth Brushing: A Fate Worse Than Death


Have you ever tried to wrestle a greased up, rabid, badger to the ground? No? Me either, but I have tried to brush a toddler’s teeth, so I can imagine what it would be like. I’m guessing easy by comparison.

Luckily, Anders has reached an age at which he can be reasoned with and when he’s not in the mood for reasoning, slight untruths are just as effective. On the days he is reluctant I just remind him that if he doesn’t brush he’ll get a wicked case of stink mouth and sugar bugs will come to live in his teeth. What do sugar bugs eat you may ask? Simple. They eat human tongue. Where do they go the bathroom? Your mouth.

Anders brushes his teeth twice a day now, but Danica, his 2-year-old sister, she takes off screaming at the first glimpse of me brandishing a tube of toothpaste. Occasionally I can coax her from whatever small space she has hidden in by offering her fruit snacks, but since that is counterproductive to the aim of brushing, on most days I am reduced to brute force.

This morning, fresh out of fruit snacks for bribery and caffeine for the energy to engage in hand to hand combat, I decided to let it slide. “Fine,” I told her. “You want to walk around with gross teeth? You go right ahead.” That’s when Anders started to scream. “NO!!! I don’t want Dani to get stink mouth!” Then there were real tears followed by “Please don’t let the sugar bugs eat her tongue, mom! Please! Brush her teeth!”

Then there was sobbing and more tears and such genuine, innocent concern for his sister’s well-being. I was left with no choice but to hold Danica down, force her mouth open and brush her teeth while Anders stood over us yelling “Dani, let mom brush your teeth!! Do you want the sugar bugs to eat your tongue and poop in your mouth?!”

Those little white lies? Sometimes they backfire.