DEAR ABBY: I’m a dental hygienist. It’s an excellent career, and I’ve been practicing for nine years.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why so many people get into my chair and tell me they haven’t brushed their teeth all day. Even worse, they’ll say, “I just ate a roast beef sandwich, so you might find some chunks in there.” It’s disgusting.

Abby, how can I let people know they should brush their teeth before visiting a dental office? – GROSSED OUT IN GROSSE POINT

People already know they should have brushed their teeth before visiting you. Make it a practice to ask your patients when they arrive whether they have “had a chance” to brush their teeth. If the answer is no, smile, hand them a toothbrush and toothpaste, and tell them to go do it. At first, they may be taken aback, but it won’t take them long to get used to the new drill.

DEAR ABBY: My husband started working the graveyard shift two months ago. It has been a hard transition for us, but even harder for our 11-year-old son, “Ryan.”

For the past couple of weeks, Ryan has been overly concerned about someone breaking into our third-floor apartment while we’re asleep. I’ve tried my best to reassure Ryan, but he keeps having nightmares about someone breaking into our place – or my parents’ apartment – and harming or killing us. He wakes up screaming and crying.

Do you have any suggestions about how I can make him feel more secure? – SLEEPLESS IN NEW WESTMINSTER

It would be helpful to know what triggered your son’s insecurity. Is he watching too much television? Is he playing violent video games? Has something happened at school or afterward that he is not telling you? Talk to your son. If the problem persists, take him to his pediatrician for evaluation – and a referral to a psychologist, if necessary.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 47-year-old woman with a new (unplanned) baby. Despite my husband’s initial reservations, we both consider her a welcome addition to our lives.

We also have three older children, 25, 21 and 18. My doctor says I need time to adjust to all the recent changes in my life, but I believe there’s a bigger problem.

Ever since the baby arrived, I have been overwhelmed with fear about aging. This is completely out of character. Some days, I can’t even leave the house. I find myself pushing my husband away and neglecting the needs of the rest of my family. The only one getting the best of me is the baby.

My husband thinks I’m trying to do too much, that I should stop breast-feeding, get help around the house and “snap out of it.”

My inability to communicate and be intimate with him is causing problems between us, and they are affecting the rest of our family. My husband has always been my best friend, but he can’t understand how I feel these days.

I don’t know how to climb out of this hole or what to do. Help! – TRYING TO DO TOO MUCH

Tell your doctor exactly what you have told me. You may be suffering from postpartum depression caused by hormone changes following childbirth. Please don’t wait. Do it now.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in “What Every Teen Should Know.” To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447.

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