Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How To Avoid Drilling Into Your Baby's Mouth

No drills in this mouth, please

"No, you don't have to brush all your teeth, just the ones you want to keep."  My dentist has an embroidered pillow that says that in his office.  I giggle whenever I see that because it's so dentisty. But it sounds like some people actually need to pick up some knowledge from that pillow.

The article Preschoolers in Surgery for a Mouthful of Cavities, which appeared on A1 of The New York Times yesterday, scared the toothpaste out of me.  It says that that many toddlers, nationwide and at every income level, are getting dental surgery to deal with 10, 12, or even 16 cavities in their mouths of 20 baby teeth.  How and why is this a widespread problem?  Why are 18 month olds getting anesthesia to get cavity-filled teeth extracted or filled? It's scary because it's so preventable.  Hello.  Brush your kid's teeth.

I'm thankful for this article because it scared me straight.  I will get better about brushing my baby's teeth!

Click to continue reading about baby cavities.

There are so many things to be sad, annoyed and concerned about in this article.  I'll use bolded quotes with my peeved armchair commentary from the piece to illustrate...

Brushing teeth twice a day used to be nonnegotiable, she said, but not anymore. “Some parents say: ‘He doesn’t want his teeth brushed. We’ll wait until he’s more emotionally mature.’ 
The people who don't like to inconvenience their kids in the short run don't ever seem to think about the long run.  It's weird.

‘No one told us when to go to the dentist, when we should start using fluoride toothpaste’
 Um, what happened to common sense and personal responsibility?  I didn't know when to start either, but I've asked the question to my pediatrician.  When you have a mouth full of teeth, it's probably time to use toothpaste.  Does that need to be told?  Were those parents waiting for the magic day when their children's teeth suddenly became prone to cavities and gum disease?

“I had a lot on my mind, and brushing his teeth was an extra thing I didn’t think about at night" 
What's extra?  Are baths extra?

Dentists offer a number of reasons so many preschoolers suffer from such extensive dental decay. Though they are not necessarily new, they have combined to create a growing problem: endless snacking and juice or other sweet drinks at bedtime...
Juice in bed?  Gross.  Juice in general is such a scam anyway.  People think it's good for kids because it has fruit in it, but it's just sugar.

And because some toddlers dislike tooth-brushing, some parents do not enforce it. “Let’s say a child is 1 ½, and the child screams when they get their teeth cleaned,” said Dr. Jed Best, a pediatric dentist in Manhattan. “Some parents say, ‘I don’t want my little darling to be traumatized.’ 
I don't get parenting where it's about pleasing the child or negotiating with the child.  In this kind of household, does the child know best in all situations?

Dental decay often starts with a dull ache that may be mistaken for teething. That is why parents do not realize their child’s teeth are infected until they break or the pain becomes so acute that the child cannot sleep.
If your kid's teeth are breaking, that's a bad sign.  But your pediatrician might not have told you that, so how would you know?

Hannah Schwartz of Brooklyn refused general anesthesia for her 3 ½-year-old daughter, Alice. By then, one of Alice’s eight cavities had already been treated in a dentist’s office using a papoose board to immobilize her from head to ankle with straps. Her daughter screamed, “Take it off me!” for the 20-minute procedure, said Ms. Schwartz, a nursing student. 

Rob and I have been aiming to brush Greyson's two teeth and gums twice a day just to get him used to it, but we only end up doing that once a week, at most.  After reading this article, I'm determined to brush Greyson's teeth daily.  We decided to incorporate teeth brushing into the daily routine by doing it with the first diaper change in the morning and right after the bath at night.  I'm hoping that having a designated teeth brushing time will help remind me to do it more.

It must be sort of like training a dog.  When my dog was a puppy, the vet asked me to get her used to being inspected everywhere (pulling up the ears, checking out the gums, spreading out the paws, etc.), so that she'd be used to it and not freak out at the vet's office.  It worked.  If you start brushing the teeth when your baby is young and malleable, it seems like they wouldn't fight it as much as toddlers.  I don't have a toddler yet, so I don't know, but that makes sense to me.  Which reminds me...the next good habit challenge I have is hand washing!


  1. I worked as a dental assistant in a pediatric practice all through college, and it is shocking how prevalent this is! We had an OR day every other friday where we filled and capped almost every tooth in a kids mouth. The biggest culprit is not juice and snacks but the breastmilk and formula that kids are given when they go to sleep. There is SO much sugar in these and most people don't realize it. We wipe Sydney gums and teeth with a cloth before putting her down each night. At first she wasn't a fan, but now it is part of the routine, and I think it will help when she gets older and we do "real" toothbrushing.

    1. OK, so the article wasn't just hyping up some random statistics...scary!! And it's the breastmilk and formula?? That's good to know. Jeez. OK, I'm going to wipe Greyson's gums, too, after that last feed before he goes down at night. Thanks, Anne!