Naïve advice | When parents used to ask about brushing their children’s teeth, I would show them how to brush in a circular motion with a soft toothbrush and demonstrate different techniques to help educate and take care of their child’s oral hygiene. But when I had a child of my own, I realized just how hard it is to actually brush your child’s teeth.
I’ve saved teeth that appeared hopeless, replaced every tooth in a mouth, and extracted teeth that had roots longer than my fingers, but the hardest thing I do on a daily basis is brush my son’s teeth.
Max is 14 months old now, and has 8 beautiful white baby teeth. He won’t let me brush any of them! It’s a two-person job and in our household, those two people happen to be dentists. I can only imagine how difficult it is for parents who don’t have the benefit of 8 years of dental school.
A New Approach | Amber and I figured out that the most important things are to be patient, be flexible, and work at it everyday. Just like our patients who struggle to floss or wear their night guard, the best thing you can do is get your child into the habit of taking care of their teeth. Let them hold the toothbrush. Show them how to do it and give them the chance to try. Make it a game. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but just do it.
Lately we have been placing our finger in the back of Max’s mouth, where he doesn’t have teeth, so we can keep his mouth open while we brush the eight teeth in the front. That’s our technique right now, but we’ll see what happens when there’s nowhere to put that finger. I am confident that as Max grows older, brushing his teeth won’t be such a struggle and we’ll be able to teach him about those mean sugar bugs on his teeth!
Just Make it Happen | Cavities can start forming on teeth as soon as they erupt and therefore taking proper care of them is important. Do your best to brush their teeth. If they will not let you, wipe them with a wet gauze or washcloth. Try not to send your child to bed with a bottle and avoid sugary drinks, including juice. Fruit juice is very acidic and high in sugar and can harm those little teeth. Water and milk only.
As a Dentist and a parent, I understand both the importance and the challenge of developing good teeth brushing habits with a child. What I’ve learned in dentistry is that you have to adapt and nothing is ever as easy as it seems…especially brushing your 14 month olds teeth!