Parenting: Look at those chompers!

July 30, 2010

For a while I had haphazardly washed his gums with a wet piece of gauze as we went into bath time. At first, he was okay with it. Now I get a violent headshake as he whirls around to find a new toy in the tub. I want to be careful as he slides around the tub. I also don't want to end up with him biting down on my finger (his dad got quite a surprise in the middle of a party when a soft nuzzle into his shoulder turned in a surprise bite attack).

So what to do?

A site called gives the many reasons you can't back down on dental health: Decay of baby teeth can cause orthodontic problems as his adult teeth grow in. Healthy teeth are important to helping your child speak clearly. He needs healthy teeth to eat table food. And nice looking teeth are important for a child's self-esteem.

When to start? For this, it's important to consult with your pediatrician on when to start brushing, since sources vary from recommending it start near birth to with the emergence of teeth. And the ADA suggests you make a trip to the dentist within six months of the baby showing teeth.

So there are the whys. What about the hows? What do I do with an increasingly willful child?

All the info makes one thing clear: A parent can't back down. If a kid sees tears or tantrums get you to back off, that's what you'll get every time it is time to brush teeth.

Another website,, has thoughts on how to get going. It suggests you should pick a regular time, preferably as part of a routine and in a place the child enjoys. Consult with your doctor or dentist on whether you should use a wet washcloth or piece of gauze or a toothbrush.

For very young children, just water is enough. As the child gets older, you'll incorporate toothpaste made just for children. Try to make it fun, announcing, "We're going to brush our teeth!" Open your mouth wide and he may mimic you. If he bites down, gently say no and insist you have to count and clean his teeth. Maybe your excited counting ("One…Two…Three!") will make him get into it. Make the first few brushes quick, with the goal of getting to a through, circular motion on each tooth.

But what if you have a little monster who goes right into tantrum? eHow leaves it to you to follow your parenting style, but reinforces you must be firm. If you can't get the child to go along in a seat, you may have to move to a mat, where you can corral him with one arm and part of your body and brush with the other. Again, try to be loving and calm, try singing a song or tell a story, even as you emphasize this must be done.

And finally a reminder: Do not let your baby go to sleep with a bottle of milk or juice. This can lead to tooth decay. Indeed, try to finish a meal with a little water as well as brushing.

Hopefully in due time your kid will be open to brushing morning and evening. From three to six, they should take on the brushing on their own with your supervision, from then moving on to being a solo act.

Hang in there Mom and Dad!

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