Theme and Tone of Oh! I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth by Pam Ayres

The poem, ‘Oh, I Wish I’dLooked After Me Teeth’ is the most famous poem of Pam Ayres. It was voted as one of the top ten poems of the BBC poll called the‘Nation’s 100 Favourite Comic Poems’.

Theme of the Poem Oh! I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth

Regret- regret is one of the main themes of this poem. The poet constantly regrets not taking care of her teeth while she had the chance. Now her teeth are in a precarious position with numerous cavities that need to be filled artificially. There also seems to be some decay in the caps of teeth, which had to be replaced, as well as within the teeth. She also regrets abusing her teeth with endless sweet treats and not brushing properly to remove the traces of the candies.

Guilt- this is another major theme in the poem. The poet expresses guilt over not listening to her mother’s warnings that teeth are like friends and thus, must be taken care of. She also expresses guilt over laughing at her mother’s dentures and the way they foamed in the waters when she cleaned them. Her guilt catches up to her when she sits in the dentist’s chair. As she sits there she feels that given the way things were going, she might also need dentures.

Health and Hygiene- dental health and hygiene is a theme employed in the poem. The poet tries to warn children through this poem of the ills of not taking proper care of their health, especially teeth. Alongwith health, she also instructs on hygiene and its importance. She insists on good brushing routines, especially if one can’t stay away from candies and sweets.

Carelessness of youth- Throughout the poem, the poet regrets her childhood carelessness and neglect. It is indicated in the poem that young people usually don’t obey adults or at the least are nonchalant about their instructions. This is a popular and universal theme. The poet says how she too was callous about her mother’s words and about brushing thinking that her teeth were fine. This is typical of the nonchalant attitude of pre-adolescents and adolescents.

Tone of the Poem: The tone of the poem is regretful and guilty. These two emotions not only dominate the tone of the poem but also are two major themes of the poem.

Conclusion: Ultimately, the poem is a cautionary tale for children and adolescents to inculcate in them the value of dental hygiene and the importance of certain rules. The poem is written in a light, comic way to avoid being preachy while it imparts a moral message.


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