Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


poopin' tooth and nail.
June 1, 2006 7:06 AM   Subscribe

ToothfairyFilter: Yesterday my six year-old son swallowed his loose tooth. Now the tooth is in his digestive tract and I'm sure there is

The little guy is worried that the tooth will stay in his stomach and never come out, so he's asked dear old dad, me, if I will be willing to disect his poop in an effort to retrieve the tooth. He really wants to see the tooth again and doesn't care about what kind of shit I'll have to go through to get it.

My question for you, fellor MeFites, is how long will it take for a tooth to work its way through the digestive tract and come out the other end?

Bonus points if you can suggest the easiest and most sanitary way to explore poop, what sort of damage the digestive system will do to the tooth and how to best clean a tooth post poopage.
posted by DragonBoy to Health & Fitness (39 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Hrm. You could try explaining to him that all sorts of things that can't be digested pass through him all the time. Cherry pits, seeds, corn husks. Maybe take the chance to explain how plants have adapted themselves to their environment by using the animals around them to spread their seeds in exactly that way.

Then tell him there's a tooth tree that won't grow if you do what he's asked. And then hope he never wants to see a tooth tree.

Anyway, remember that time Maggie swallowed a quarter? Dad spent all day with her.
posted by jon_kill at 7:14 AM on June 1, 2006


I have been there. Don't Ask. Poop on newspaper, place in wire mesh strainer, use a hose to dissolve solid matter. Be careful your precious nugget doesn't get tossed out by the water.

When found, drop in a cup of bleach.

You're a good dad, I was left to do it myself.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:14 AM on June 1, 2006


No way is it worth combing through poop - assuming it survives the acid bath of his stomach (remember all those science fair projects with teeth and coke?). Tell him that the tooth fairy will understand and slip and extra buck under his pillow.
posted by aladfar at 7:16 AM on June 1, 2006


  1. Capture his next bowel movement in a bowl or bucket.
  2. Take said bucket out into the yard. Fill bucket with water and stir to dissolve poop. Large particulate matter like teeth and loose change should fall to the bottom of the bucket. Carefully pour out water.
  3. Use a strainer if your unsure of your ability to spot the tooth. If you don't find the tooth, wait for his next bowel movement.
  4. Wash hands.
  5. repeat step 4....repeatedly
  6. File this away as a story to tell when he brings home a girlfriend and you want to embarass him.

posted by cosmicbandito at 7:17 AM on June 1, 2006


Don’t mean to sound rude, but what are you thinking? Perhaps it's a good opportunity for him to learn that it's not reasonable to expect someone to go to extreme lengths such as combing threw his faeces in order to indulge him when he gets an irrational idea into his head.

Sorry I cannot be of any help with the actually combing itself though.
posted by ed\26h at 7:30 AM on June 1, 2006


Yes yes yes, all good answers but I really want to know how long I should wait for the movement to capture? The tooth was swallowed at lunch yesterday so I need to know if tonight's movement is the one or do I have another day to go?
posted by DragonBoy at 7:30 AM on June 1, 2006


It's gonna depend on what he's been eating and the individual peculiarities of his little digestive system. Capture and sift until it appears.
posted by desuetude at 7:33 AM on June 1, 2006


I vote for the scientific explanation (i.e., a tooth isn't food, so it will get pooped out). Then you distract him by saying, "The only problem is, the Tooth Fairy won't know that you lost a tooth. What should be do about that?" Then you try to guide the activity toward writing a note of apology/explanation to the Tooth Fairy to leave under the pillow in lieu of the missing tooth.

You can also explain why you don't think it's a good idea to handle poop ("because sometimes it has germs"). You can remind your son about how he's not supposed to play with dog or cat poop, then add that same thing applies to human poop, i.e., if you do get in contact with it, don't put your hands in your mouth, and make sure you wash your hands thoroughly ASAP.)

My first idea was that you should "find" the missing tooth, which of course would be a prop made of, oh, I don't know, a marble chip or something sanded down to size. But, like all of us, I have seen a sitcom or two in my time, and I know with perfect accuracy what hilarity would ensue when your son found the real tooth.
posted by La Cieca at 7:35 AM on June 1, 2006


In my son's case, it was the next day. Never mind ed\26h, you're the mother of all dads. Or would that be father? Be sure you don't miss it, these teeth are tiny (and hollowish).
posted by ouke at 7:37 AM on June 1, 2006


I your bathroom had a German shelf toilet then you would be set for all sorts of fecal examinations.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 7:38 AM on June 1, 2006


MonkeySaltedNuts: Yeah what the hell is up with those? I first encountered those in Amsterdam and decided it was because of all the diamond trading there, and that they had to be on the lookout for lost diamonds.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:57 AM on June 1, 2006


Fahrvergpüpen.
posted by fandango_matt at 8:21 AM on June 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


Assuming you change your mind about finding it (or just can't find it), why don't you plan on putting his next loose tooth in a glass of Coke and let him see what the acid does over a few days' time?
posted by kimota at 8:28 AM on June 1, 2006


no help on the poop search, but if this had happened to me, this tooth fairy would handle it differently. You see, this tooth fairy *saved* all of those teeth ... so I would just grab the last tooth that came out and pull a switch.
posted by lester at 8:32 AM on June 1, 2006


Working at a hospital, the lab goes through "poop" pretty regularly. Just wear gloves. If this is part of being a dad, jesus...

remember all those science fair projects with teeth and coke?

Not really, since you know, it's not true.
posted by justgary at 8:32 AM on June 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


Assuming you change your mind about finding it (or just can't find it), why don't you plan on putting his next loose tooth in a glass of Coke and let him see what the acid does over a few days' time?

Nothing will happen. People, do some research.
posted by justgary at 8:38 AM on June 1, 2006


Those of you disturbed by handling poop - have you never changed a diaper?

If he hasn't pooped since yesterday's lunch, his first one today will probably be the motherlode. Remember how tiny it is - what you've seen in his mouth is about it for size - there's not much of a root on baby teeth. I don't think it will be in his system long enough for any digestive juices to have an effect on it.

Good luck, DragonBoy. You'll be your son's hero for this.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:43 AM on June 1, 2006


Agree with ed\26h's outrage. This is the line no parent should cross -- if the six-year-old wants the tooth, he's the one tasked with the feces-combing, since he was the one who swallowed the tooth. Age six is good a time as any to begin teaching personal responsibility.

Sidebar education to go along with this exercise: human poop is actually a highly refined end product, compared with other mammals. For example, elephants only process 45% of what passes through, and since they eat things like entire branches off a tree, whole fruit often passes through intact (useful survival knowledge if you're ever lost in the African bush).
posted by Rash at 9:23 AM on June 1, 2006


Let your son do it. But present it as an opportunity to learn about the human digestive system, which, in fact, starts with the mouth and teeth. This is your very own "grossology" project. You can teach him about the hazards at the same time. And, obviously, you need to be present. But I wouldn't go into how disgusting it is. Maybe you've got a future gastro-enterologist (complete with $400k annual billings) on your hands. Just make sure he doesn't get anything on his. :)
posted by acoutu at 9:32 AM on June 1, 2006


justgary; please note that I didn't say overnight.
posted by kimota at 9:38 AM on June 1, 2006


This is definitely along the lines of wiping a kid's butt. There's an age where that just has to stop. No-one can speak for every parent, but I believe six is well over that line.
posted by wackybrit at 9:45 AM on June 1, 2006


Good luck, DragonBoy. You'll be your son's hero for this.

Or, you know, the reason for a lot of entitlement issues.

DragonBoy, don't do it. It will degrade you both.
posted by jon_kill at 9:45 AM on June 1, 2006


Well, I agree with people who say you shouldn't do it yourself. Build a poop catcher for your kid and some latex gloves. The stuff won't hurt him.
posted by delmoi at 10:02 AM on June 1, 2006


OK, I have to chime in and say that, when I had my wisdom teeth pulled about 15 years ago, I asked to take 'em home so I could subject them to the Coke experiment. I left one of them in a glass of Coke for maybe 18 hours. After that time, the tooth was blackened and pitted - it looked like it had been held over a fire and then sandblasted. It was nasty.

When I went back to the oral surgeon for a follow-up visit, I told him about the Coke tooth, and he said, basically, Yeah, no shit: that's phosphoric acid in that delicious beverage, and its pH is between 1 and 2.

So, anecdotally, the Coke/tooth thing worked for me. The tooth wasn't dissolved, of course, but it was a hell of a lot worse for the wear.

Or perhaps I just have have soft teeth, or something.
Anyway, happy poop-sifting!
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:06 AM on June 1, 2006


Parents go through kids poop all the time. Like when the kids swallow watch batteries or whatever - its important to make sure they pass because they can get stuck. So that's not a big deal.

I'd get him to help though. latex gloves, suit up in something disposable. Go the science route.
posted by gaspode at 10:15 AM on June 1, 2006


You could simply tell your son, "Sorry, but it's gone--maybe you won't swallow your next loose tooth and you can keep that."

I agree with those who say sifting through your son's excrement in search of a tooth is way over the line a parent should cross for his or her child. Sometimes kids need to learn if they aren't careful, things get lost or stolen. This is one of those times.

I once dropped a favorite Hot Wheels car into a lake. After I proposed numerous retrieval methods involving SCUBA gear and bathyspheres, my father said, "Sorry kiddo, it's just gone. But now you'll always know where it is."
posted by fandango_matt at 10:22 AM on June 1, 2006


I've been through a lot of disappearing baby teeth - swallowed, dropped, whatever - and we always left a note for the Tooth Fairy. She was perfectly happy with the note and indeed occasionally left another note along with regular payment. Noone ever even suggested the poop sifting route, thank all the gods and little creatures, because there is no way, unless the swallowed object was dangerous or priceless, neither of which applies here, that I would be sifting through my kids' shit. Nope, sorry. In other options, I have a friend whose Tooth Fairy is bureaucratically minded: she left a detailed questionnaire, Form T-2 Report on Missing Tooth to be filled out by the child and left the following night for payment. That thing was adorable, and years later led to great hilarity.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:26 AM on June 1, 2006


The term to google is 'bowel transit time' and IIRC the adult average is 24 hours. Depending on the subject, that average is give-or-take a factor of two.

(Remembered from my college-required health class, six and a half years ago, so take it with a grain of salt.)
posted by eritain at 10:35 AM on June 1, 2006


Followup: this link (scurrilous pop-up!) says that minimum transit is 14 hours for a fast bowel, 24 for a slow. So yeah, this morning's dump is probably your target. And FWIW, maximum transit is 36 to 48 hours, so now you know when to give up.
posted by eritain at 10:39 AM on June 1, 2006


You must let us know what happens.
posted by A189Nut at 10:46 AM on June 1, 2006


God I hated those shelf toilets when I lived in Germany. HATED. Oh the stink.
posted by intermod at 11:23 AM on June 1, 2006


So, anecdotally, the Coke/tooth thing worked for me.

I, on the other hand, once left a tooth in a bottle of coke for several months. It did positively fuck-all.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:24 AM on June 1, 2006


Wow. I've done a lot of crazy things for kids but I don't think I'd comb through poop.

And I'd think that it might just dissolve in his stomach. My little dog once swallowed a chicken drumette and we took him to the vet who said to just keep an eye on him, his stomach acid should take care of it - and that's exactly what happened.
posted by radioamy at 12:02 PM on June 1, 2006


Yeah, no shit: that's phosphoric acid in that delicious beverage, and its pH is between 1 and 2.

A ittle weaker than that I think, can't find a really good ref via google but what I did find tends to suggest a range of 2.8-3.5.
posted by biffa at 3:16 AM on June 2, 2006


I say you should palm a loonie, and "pull it from the toilet" as proof that the tooth fairy did her magic after all.

At age six, there's no way in hell I'd be combing through the poop. Kid's gotta get reasonable at some point in his life.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:10 AM on June 2, 2006


A full report...

Honestly I can't believe many of you would dismiss the idea of combing through poop as being something inconceivable for a parent to do for their child. You folks against it are either not yet parents or squeamish and employing a nanny. Since my child was a day old I've had to deal with his poop. It is less frequent now mind you, but there's been the occasional accident here and there in the past two years.

Having said that I was fully prepared for the tooth hunt if my son insisted on it. Before he went to sleep after swallowing the tooth we wrote a note to the tooth fairy explaining the tooth's location (and thanks for the form suggestion, I worked one up and left it with the dollar). The next morning he woke to find a dollar under his pillow (four times what I got) and told me that at Mommy's house he got five dollars for a tooth (he doesn't live with Mommy so I can understand the spoiling to a point, however she told me she gave him a dollar when I asked so...). I packed him off to school comfortable in the thought that he wouldn't lose the tooth until he got home.

After school I asked him a few times if he needed to go number two and each time he told me no. One of those times he asked his butt and in a Mickey Mouse like voice he pretended that his but said "No thanks, I don't need to poop right now!"

With a kid this cute, how can you not agree to go digging in his poop?

This morning the same thing, no need to poop; the talking butt did not resurface though. A friend mentioned that her daughter once swallowed a tooth and didn't poop for days because she was afraid that passing the tooth would hurt her sphincter. I hoped that wasn't the case, but after getting the dollar my son didn't seem to care one bit about the tooth.

In the morning he went to the zoo with some friends and I went to work. At one he was dropped off at my office and spent the afternoon with me there. The first thing he did was to go number two in the office bathroom (with a copy of Business Week to read). I didn't mention the tooth because it seemed to have completely slipped from his mind and while I was willing to poke around and find it at home; it wasn't the type of thing I relish doing at the office. When he came out a co-worker who knew the whole story asked my son if he found the tooth yet.

"It was in my poop. I flushed it," was all he said and the matter was done.
posted by DragonBoy at 6:00 PM on June 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


Haha, yeah, you're right - I'm not prepared to be a parent AT ALL. I can't imagine touching my own poop, nevermind someone else's. Glad to hear it all worked out, and I'm SO making my butt talk in a Mickey Mouse voice to whoever I'm with next time I have to excuse myself to the restroom, even though I'm 27. (Somehow I'll doubt it'll be as cute though.)
posted by AlisonM at 11:56 AM on June 3, 2006


(Derail...maybe the $5 was for his first tooth?)
posted by acoutu at 10:50 PM on June 3, 2006


"Form T-2 Report on Missing Tooth"


mygothlaundry, you are a genius!
posted by Marky at 3:45 PM on October 28, 2006


« Older How can I convert an existing ...   |  I am graduating next April wit... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.