Since starting my practice I’ve always given advice to patients about caring for children’s teeth. I liked to think it was common sense stuff that most parents would know:
1. No going to bed with a bottle
2. No juice in a bottle before bed
3. Clean the teeth with a cloth or a small tooth brush
4. Make sure to take care of your own teeth – cavities are a transmittable disease
5. See your dentist or a pediatric dentist by the first birthday or when the first teeth come in
6. Clean teeth after consuming fermentable carbohydrates (e.g. cookies, soft drinks, candy, bread)
In my mind the points above made for sound advice. Hindsight tells me I didn’t understand the difficulty in following through with this advice. Patients with kids rarely asked me how to go about following this advice – I never asked myself, either. It didn’t cross my mind that any of these points were or weren’t practical.
Until I had my own kid.
Kids Change Things
Most people will tell you that becoming a parent changes your perspective on things in life. In my case, a big change came in how I give advice to patients. My daughter didn’t cut her teeth until a little past what’s considered the average age range (an admittedly wide range), so dental care wasn’t an immediate concern. When her first teeth did arrive, I started trying to impose my “tried and true” advice on myself and my wife. On paper everything made sense, but going about it was a different story.
Changing The Bedtime Routine
Babies do a lot of sleeping, and most little ones, whether bottle or breast fed, quickly learn to associate food with sleep. When teeth aren’t in the picture this isn’t an issue, but when they do come in parents should work to break the association.
I admit this is the hard part. At some point you should change the bedtime routine to introduce brushing teeth; it’s distinctly possible that your child won’t like this. The nightly routine in my house includes constantly improvised variations of brushing teeth, drinking water and reading books.
Whatever helps get those teeth brushed is what we should do. Creativity is key!
A Few Tips On Baby Teeth
When your child is teething, keep a few wet cloths in the freezer for them to bite on. Yes, the fancy toys are useful, but they take a long time to freeze. Wet cloths aren’t elegant, but they’re a cheap, easy way to help you get through the teething process.
2. Cleaning Teeth
If you’re only dealing with the front teeth a bit of cheese cloth or a small brush will do the job. Remember that bacteria are not always visible (plaque is almost the same colour as the teeth), so make sure there there is no film on the teeth.
You may be surprised that I’m suggesting flossing, but if your little one’s teeth are in contact with each other, flossing is just as important as brushing. Many of the cavities that form do so in between the teeth. Most youngsters have space between their teeth, but keep an eye out and be sure sure to floss should that space start closing.
Modelling Good Dental Habits For Children
This may be the most important point I can make, and I wouldn’t have been able to do so before becoming a father. Children tend to mirror our actions without us noticing. If you don’t brush and floss, you shouldn’t expect your kids to do it, either. In my experience, words (versus actions) have minimal influence on kids. If they see you do it they are more likely to accept good dental habits as part of their daily activities.
We’d love to have your youngster in for their first checkup when it’s time. Please get in touch with us to book an appointment– we’d love to meet them!