Friends of ours have asked me about everything from pacifiers to sippy cups when it comes to their little one’s growing smile.I wanted to use this opportunity to communicate some general guidelines on these matters. The ADA’s mouthhealthy.org website is a great resource for parents with questions and concerns.
As soon as you see a tooth in your child’s mouth, you should start building good brushing habits.Brushing in the morning when your child wakes up and at night as the last thing they do before bedtime is a vital habit to establish. The ADA is recommending that it is okay to use a minimal amount of children’s fluoride toothpaste on the toothbrush (the facts are airtight: the right amount of fluoride is good for you and your teeth). However, be aware of fluorosis that can result from ingesting too much fluoride. There are non-fluoridated toothpastes for infants and toddlers, but these should not be used once your child learns how to spit.
Switching to a fluoridated toothpaste before their adult teeth are in the mouth is key to making sure your little one’s smile is healthy.Sippy cups are a normal part of transitioning your little one from their bottle to a big-kid cup. The key to facilitating this transition is eliminating the need for your child to suck on a nozzle or valve to drink. Unfortunately, that means those no spill cups aren’t always the best way to move your child away from their bottle habit. Choosing a cup with a spout on it that is easy to hold and won’t easily tip is a better option.3 When it comes to pacifiers, it’s an easier habit to break than thumb/finger sucking. Prolonged, aggressive use of a pacifier (or a thumb sucking habit) can negatively affect your child’s smile. It’s best to start breaking the habit early (around three years). Save the pacifier only for naps and bed time.4
Milk during bed time is a huge no-no.“Nursing bottle caries” is a condition characterized by cavities throughout the mouth because the child is exposed to a constant sugar source as they sleep and bacteria thrive in that environment. The cavities and tooth loss that result from this can have life-long implications. In short, no milk after brushing your child’s teeth at bed time.
Another big no-no: juice.The American Academy of Pediatrics says as much in their 2017 statement. From a dental standpoint, the amount of sugar in a juice-heavy diet puts children at a high-risk to develop cavities.
Timing is everything. Check out the ADA’s chart on general expectations on when your child’s teeth may come in.
The teething process can be quite uncomfortable for your child and the ADA recommends gentle massages on your little one’s gums with your (clean) finger1. There are rubber and hard plastic teethers that the ADA seems to be on board with. Due to potential choking hazards, it’s best to use a teether that is one solid piece. For this reason, teething jewelry that is made of smaller parts may not be a good idea.
Something else the ADA advises against is teething soothers that have any heavy metals in them (as there have been reports of lead poisoning in one product’s case1) or the homeopathic teething tablets (because some of them contain belladonna—a toxic substance). Finally, I discourage the use of any topical anesthetizing agent to soothe your little one’s teething pain; it can be life threatening. In short, teething is unfortunately a natural process and there is a narrow scope of practices you can employ to soothe your little one.It never hurts to call your dentist to get some advice on the issue and always (ALWAYS) talk to your pediatrician before using any conventional over-the-counter, homeopathic, herbal, or basically any treatment to address your child’s ailing conditions.