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Dr. Kimi’s Helpful Hints for Strong Bodies and Teeth
May 18 2018

How on earth do I brush my infant’s or toddler’s teeth???

How on earth do I brush my infant’s or toddler’s teeth? This is a question I hear daily at my practice. What age do I need to start brushing and how do I brush my child’s teeth when I can’t even get them to sit still? Let’s focus on when to start first. I recommend starting to brush, or wipe, your baby’s mouth as soon as possible. Those first days of Motherhood are overwhelming, so Moms, please give yourself a break then, but once things are settled, begin the routine of early mouth cleaning. For an infant, I like to use a washcloth ran under warm water to wipe the milk from the gums and tongue. You can also use a finger brush. Starting in infancy helps your child have a clean mouth and healthy oral microbiome for when the teeth erupt. Most importantly it prepares your child for what is to be expected. Everyday we clean our mouth after breakfast and before bed. Place your baby in the cradle position, baby looking up at you. Give your baby googly eyes or sing a song. Place your finger with washcloth or finger brush inside their mouth. Gently wipe your finger over the gums and along the tongue. For a baby it usually takes less than 30 seconds to wipe their mouth.

6-12 months
First tooth has erupted. Once the first tooth has erupted it is important to wipe the milk off the tooth before bed. Continue to clean the same way as without teeth. Gently wiping the gums and teeth clean with warm water. Once food has been introduced to your baby, all milk can cause cavities. Breast milk without introduction of food does not cause cavities; but once mixed with food, the environment changes within the mouth, and cavities can form. Usually at this stage your baby is compliant to the gentle wiping. Continue to keep this part of the routine. Your baby should begin to recognize the stages of the bedtime routine. In our house the routine is bath, PJ’s, brush teeth, book, song, and goodnight. Once brushing is part of the routine it becomes expected.

12-18+ months
What happened to my baby? That happy compliant baby may no longer be there. When my son turned 18 months he was no longer interested in what Mommy wanted him to do. He wanted to choose what he wanted to do. This is the time when it may be necessary to entice your toddler to brush. Giving your toddler choices helps them feel autonomy. It encourages confidence and makes them want to participate. I gave my son the choice of two toothbrushes. One that lite up and one with dinosaurs on it. I gave him the choice of two flavors of toothpaste, strawberry and orange. I gave him the choice of which song he wanted to sing during brushing. I made a fool of myself singing loud and making the experience fun. Sit your toddler in your lap facing front. Have them lean their head back on your chest. Use a soft toddler size toothbrush with a smear of toothpaste, or just a touch of toothpaste (non-fluoride and natural, remember your child will swallow it and it absorbs through the mucosa of the mouth- Kiss My Face and Revitin are great brands). Really you do not need toothpaste at this age, but I find that kids usually like the flavor.

I tried to make it a routine and fun and my toddler still won’t do it!

We limit screen time in our house but when it comes to important things like brushing teeth, I make an exception. There are some great apps to encourage and distract your child for brushing. Here are a few of my favorites.

Brusheez – The Little Monsters Toothbrush Timer by Shondicon
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/brusheez-the-little-monsters-toothbrush-timer/id636357443?mt=8

Tooth Fairy Timer by Matthew Staton
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tooth-fairy-timer/id972059906?mt=8

Brush Teeth with The Wiggles by Australian Unity
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/brush-teeth-with-the-wiggles/id1113805211?mt=8

My favorite kids toothbrush also comes with an app! This is my favorite since it incorporates the Kid’s Sonicare Toothbrush.

Philips Sonicare For Kids by Philips
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/philips-sonicare-for-kids/id1002285219?mt=8

There are also great videos on YouTube to distract your child while you brush their teeth and interest them in brushing.

Or play their favorite cartoon or music video. Whatever it takes to get them to stay still for 2 minutes and brush.

And if they still aren’t having it, just remember to be consistent. Making it a habit will make it happen. If my husband puts my kids to bed now, they are always reminding him to floss their teeth (Flossing comes around 2.5 years when the second molars have erupted- more on that in a future blog). It is part of our bedtime routine and a great life habit for my kids.

Good luck Parents!

 

Remember Dr. Kimi is always available by email for questions.  DrKimi@PureSmilesSouthbay.com

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