Last weekend, another mom, with a 6 month baby boy who had just started solid foods, asked me what I did about dental care for the minions. I shrugged, told her about the cloth on the teeth and may as well have said, "Nuthin, be a bad mom". As someone with problem teeth herself, I don`t know why I haven`t been more vigilant. I have a tooth brush that is often used as a toy for the bathtub that Molly loves to rub on her gums*. Babies get 20 first teeth, often called milk teeth, but habits begin early, so I guess it`s time to get started. I feel a little better knowing that children under 3 have a very low risk for tooth decay.
Image courtesy of mmfeno on Creative Commons.
What do the experts recommend surrounding baby/ toddler teeth cleaning:
- Use a cloth or clean gauze to clean their gums....recommended 2 times a day
- Health Canada recommends just using water until your children are 3, if your doctor/dentist thinks your child is at high risk for decay use a small amount of toothpaste, the size of a grain of rice
- Brush with small circular movements with a small headed toothbrush
Why don't you let children swallow toothpaste?
Because too much fluoride can cause vomiting or diarrhea.**
How do I get them to stay still?
All of the on line recommendations I found mentioned cradling their heads, or laying them down and wrapping your arm around their head. Basically no one will admit it, but it sounds like if they won't sit still you should put them in a headlock and go to town on their teeth - don't worry odds are they'll be screaming so their mouths will be open. Others suggested turning it into a game. Bath time seems to be a prime spot to do this because they're trapped. Another suggestion is pretending to brush toys teeth first and then insisting that it`s your child`s turn, or brushing your own teeth and then theirs. Theme tooth brushes may work or pretending to tickle their teeth, while chanting, "I'm going to get you!"
When Should I take them to the dentist?
The Canadian Dentist Association recommends taking them at around a year or 6 months after they first get teeth. I think most of this is to avoid the dreaded fear of the dentist, ensuring that their first experiences are not for fillings. When my brother was 6 or 7, maybe older, he had a complete meltdown at the dentist. It ended in biting and kicking. He later had to go to the "baby dentist", where he was held down by two assistants like a serial killer, and my parents had to pay exorbitant non-insurable premiums while he watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the ceiling and sat in a waiting room with children half his age. It was not one of his finer moments. My mother was furious every time she had to take my brother to the "baby dentist". My children have been to the dentist with me once already, but just to hang out and visit while I got my teeth cleaned. They loved it there. I`d recommend talking to your dentist about their policies and recommendations surrounding your children, especially since they know your family teeth health history and will keep that in mind.
When can they start brushing their own teeth?
On line I found recommendations that you brush your children's teeth for them until they are at least 7. Here is an interesting link about success rates on brushing based on age: http://www.oralanswers.com/2011/03/age-kids-brush-own-teeth/ Like anything it depends on the kid.*** How old will they be when you teach them to lie to their hygienist about whether or not they floss?
*And smack her brother with, sometimes simultaneously.
**The next time I feel nauseous or have an upset stomach I'm going to tell people it was because I ate a tube of toothpaste.
***So Jack will be 35.