By Liesl Clark
“Please don’t have him eat candy for a day.”
What? I was standing in a dentist’s office, and these were the first words out of the dental assistant’s mouth after my child had some ‘routine’ protective sealant put on his molars. No candy for a day? How about a month or 6? We don’t do candy all that regularly, so to hear her put the limit at 24 hours felt like a license, to my child, for everyday candy in the house, perhaps even a piece or 2 every 4-6 hours. Thank goodness that happy gas was still in effect, for he had a look of mirth on his face while he questioned me about it.
But what I want to know is this: Why is a dental office for children the purveyor of so much cheap plastic crap? This trip to the dentist was truly enlightening for us all — and has served to alter our trust in dental-care in general. I can give you 4 reasons why.
Let me start from the beginning of the visit.
1) That little bin with the plastic junk in it was an early highlight, as our children both chose the same toy so they wouldn’t be jealous over the other’s better choice. Their choice x 2? A squeezable caterpillar that off-gases more toxic fumes than a shower curtain.
2) Both children complained at how sick they felt from the sweetness of the stuff they use to clean their teeth.
3) Quite disturbing for me was the amount of plastic we left with, each child carrying a little bag filled with free stuff. Here’s the short list of their freebies x 2:
— A new sample-size tube of Colgate toothpaste.
— A single-use plastic applicator flosser packaged in a plastic bag.
— A new plastic toothbrush complete with plastic packaging.
— A plastic baggy filled with those cool pink pills that show you how well you’re brushing.
— A plastic bag to hold all the plastic crap.
— A carton of dental floss (okay this one’s an acceptable freebie in my book as there are no plastic-free alternatives that I know of, yet.)
Well, the kids’ teeth got high marks for cavity-prevention from the dentist, yet I didn’t dare tell him we use bamboo toothbrushes and make our own toothpaste mostly in an effort to reduce our plastic footprint. How is a family to keep up their standards of low-impact sustainable dental care after a visit like that? And we have to do this every 6 months?
On the drive home, as we sniffed our new PVC caterpillar toys now flung in the back of the car, I started wondering if my child truly needed those protective molar sealants in the first place? The molars looked good on the X-rays. “It’s optional, but we highly recommend it,” were the words of encouragement.
4) I looked up the sealant as soon as we got home to see what it was made of and, surprise of all surprises, it’s a plastic resin akin to those found in baby bottles, complete with the same endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as BPA and pthalates. What have we done?!
Now that I’m well-versed in the the debate over whether dental sealants are safe for kids, I’m kicking myself for not having had a clue. I, the mom who has spent the past 3 years divesting our home and bodies from plastics, opted to seal them into my child’s mouth. Anyone know if sealants can be unsealed without the use of toxic chemicals? Likely not.
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