Thursday, January 31, 2013

Baby's Mouth: Interview with Dr. Aarika Anderson Elter


My final year of college, I had the privilege of living with two roommates who were studying to go on to dental school.  I remember once quizzing them for some big science exam -- going through flashcards that they had made and barely being able to pronounce all the big words, let alone understanding (or caring) what it all meant.   Science was never my thing (I majored in Mass Communications... surprised?) but I am so glad it was theirs!  Aarika in particular was very passionate about teeth, even before dental school, and always got on me about flossing.  My own dentist would have been proud.

Both roommates went on to dental school and are now practicing in their home states of Washington and Nevada.  I confess that I still don't floss every day... but when I do, I think of them!

Baby's Got a Mouth Too

It just recently occurred to me that Dan and I are fully responsible for Penny's oral hygiene... and we are going to have to brush her teeth... like soon.   What else will this entail?  Should we be doing something already?  Does she need to go to the dentist yet?  Naturally, I reached out to an old friend (whose baby son, is just five months older than Penny!) for January's My Friends the Experts post to gather some info about dental care for the little ones.

But if you only have a minute, here are some key takeaways:
  • Babies should go to the dentist when their first tooth comes in or no later than their first birthday.
  • Even before teeth come in, it is good practice to wipe out a baby's mouth with a damp wash cloth after feedings.  This rids the mouth of some excess sugars and prepares baby for future mouth cleaning practices.
  • When you do start brushing baby's teeth, the knee-to-knee technique works well, but you can still expect a normal amount of chewing, wiggling and crying. 
  • Tooth decay (cavities) is influenced by both diet and hygiene, and can be inherited. 
  • Never give baby or toddlers a bottle throughout the night and avoid giving them foods or drinks with added sugar (especially juice!).  A whole food diet (no processed foods) is great for baby teeth.
  • Pacifiers and thumb/finger sucking should be discontinued around age 2 to prevent a detrimental effect on developing teeth.
  • Kids need a grownup's help to brush their teeth effectively until about age 6 or 7. 
Dental Anxiety

I don't love shots and drills and things, but I love having my teeth cleaned and I know that whatever my dentist tells me about flossing and coming in more often, etc... I probably need to hear it .  I think I'm in the minority when I say that I actually like going to the dentist. Most people dread it, so it seems.  Poor dentists!   Dr. Anderson Elter wanted to "drill home" that taking your kid to the dentist should be positive experience for parent and child.  Everyone wins if mom and dad have a positive attitude about dental visits -- so let's all try not to pass along "dental anxiety" to our kids!

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