Pam Ayres was born on 14th March 1947 at Berkshire, England. She is an English poet, songwriter, comedian, radio and television presenter.
In “Oh, I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth”, the poet Pam Ayres expresses her anguish over her decayed teeth and cavities. She regrets over the fact that she kept on eating both hard and soft sweets of all kinds. She says that she never noticed the decay while she brushed her teeth yet the conclusion was decayed teeth. The poem is in a form of warning to children who eat too many sweets.
Read more about the poem, the poet and annotations
Summary of Oh I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth
The poem begins with a regret from the poet who wishes that she had cared for her teeth when she had been eating too many toffees, sweet sticky food and gobstoppers. She wishes that she had taken care of her teeth and had spotted the perils under it while brushing. She also wishes that she had more tooth than filling and she had bought something harmless with her money apart from the sweets.
When the poet thinks of the lollies, candies, tiny sweets, peanuts her conscience is punched due to repentance. She feels sorry for herself that she did not give up eating those sweets although she brushed regularly and checked for decays. Because of the sweets, she has to now undergo injections, drills and fillings which are very painful and terrifying.
The narrator shows her teeth to her mother. Her mother tells her that having a tooth is equal to having a friend. The narrator did not take her mother’s advice. She never had enough time and she never took care of her teeth or her toothbrush.
The narrator tells that she showed the toothpaste to her teeth. She brushed them up and down and checked them carefully and found out that she was able to eat and bite.
The narrator regrets thinking if she had known before that by eating so many sweets and ignoring her teeth, she was making a way for cavities, caps and decay and causing the use of injections, drills and fillings, she would have thrown away all the sweets.
Pam Ayres had to go to the dentist for drilling, fillings etc. She sat in the dentist’s chair in distress while the doctor did her drilling into her mouth. She can hear the drilling sound while the dentist works on her molars. He says that he would have to carry out two amalgams in them.
The narrator finally ends her poem by saying that she had once laughed at her mother’s false teeth as they were foamed for cleaning. But is it now the time for her to wear the same and wishes very much she had taken care after her teeth. Follow this link for a more detailed line by line summary
Gobstoppers- a large, hard sweet
shillin’- shilling, currency
Sherbet dabs- tiny sweets
Peanut brittle- easily breakable peanut
conscience- soul, consciousness
pricked- pierce, punch
pokin’ and fussin’- checking carefully
whine- high pitched sound
molars- teeth at the back of the jaw
amalgam- filling made of mercury and silver
Critical Analysis of Oh! I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth
Theme and Tone of Oh! I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth
Explain the following phrases briefly:
1. “I showed them the toothpaste alright”
The poet did not brush her teeth but showed the toothpaste to her teeth. It is ironical that she brushed her teeth casually with a view to deceive herself that she had brushed them. There was no effect of this kind of brushing and therefore, she developed decay and cavities.
2. “But now comes the reckoning.”
The poet once laughed at her mother’s false teeth. But now she has to pay for making fun of laughing in the form of tooth decay.
3. “If you got a tooth, you got a friend”
These words are spoken by the poet’s mother. It means that when a new tooth is formed, it becomes our friend. Earlier, the mouth was ‘friendless’ without teeth. Now it is not so. Also the tooth is like a friend as it helps in chewing and savoring.
4.On the basis of your understanding of the poem, answer the following questions by choosing the right option:
1. The title ‘Oh I wish I’d looked after me teeth’ expresses:
a. regret b. humour c. longing d. pleasure
2. The conscience of the speaker pricks her as she has:
a. been careless b. been ignorant c. been fun-loving d. been rude
3. The speaker says that she has paved the way for cavities and decay by:
a. eating the wrong food and not brushing
b. not listening to her mother
c. laughing at her mother’s teeth
d. not listening to the dentist
4. The tone of the narrator is one of:
a. joy b. nostalgia c. regret d. sorrow
Answers: 1. a, 2. a, 3.a, 4.c
5. What is Pam Ayres’ view on dental hygiene? What message does she convey to children through her poem, “Oh, I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth?”
Suggested Reading: Summary of Oh! I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth in Hindi
Through her poem, “Oh, I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth”, Pam Ayres tell us that we must take proper care of our dental hygiene. We should not eat too many sweets and too much sweet lead to cavities. Consequently, we have to go through dental pain which is terrible while getting our teeth filled up.
The whole poem expresses this idea in a humorous way. It advises children against too much ‘lolly licking and toffee chewing.’ The message that ‘teeth once gone can never be gained’ is conveyed through this poem and is explained convincingly by the mention of ‘false teeth’ used by the poet’s mother.