By Downtown Dad
There was a time not too long ago that my 1-year-old son loved to bite.
Get anything within a few inches of his face, and he’d take a chomp: apples, crackers, building blocks, toy cars, my arm…. He always seemed hungry — and everything looked good.
Then, one time when I was holding him, he started gnawing on my shoulder with his gums as usual. But this time, I felt a sharp pain and noticed that he left two teeth marks in my skin. His two front teeth were coming in!
We had suspected they were coming because some telltale signs were there: excessive drooling, ear rubbing and touching his gums with his fingers.
You would think the first thing to flash through my mind would be a vision of sharing fun tooth fairy moments. Instead, all I could think about was how this marked the beginning of years of trips to the dentist and dental bills. I envisioned my smiling dentist, a drill in one hand and money signs in his eyes.
Teething can be a tough time for a baby. For some, the painful growth of the teeth cutting through the gums for the first time can cause drooling, irritability, difficulty eating and sleeping, a slight cough because of all the extra saliva, and even a low-grade fever.
There are lots of remedies for teething, including chewing on something soft and cold like a chew toy, frozen wet washcloth or a piece of frozen fruit in a mesh feeding bag to avoid choking. The cold and pressure provide relief from the pain, and the fruit provides nutrition. This has worked great with Louie, especially because he loves fruit.
We also purchased some topical pain reliever made especially for babies. Luckily, we didn’t have to use it.
Past generations would have rubbed a little whiskey on the baby’s gums to relieve pain and help the baby sleep. Doctors now advise against this, as alcohol can damage a baby’s health, even in small doses.
We also started gently brushing Louie’s teeth after meals when we read that tooth decay in baby teeth can affect the health of permanent teeth. We also figured it would be good to get Louie used to regular brushing early on.
And hey, anything I can do to prevent expensive dental bills in the future is a good thing. One step I’ve already taken is adding Louie to our dental insurance plan.
I was surprised to learn from a news story how few Americans have dental insurance coverage. According to the Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health in America, published in 2000, for every child under 18 years old without medical insurance, there are at least two children without dental insurance.
Oral hygiene is one of the toughest challenges for kids. As a small child, brushing my teeth was about as fun as going to sleep early or taking out the trash. My parents timed me to make sure I spent at least two minutes brushing every night, but I would fake it and really only spend about 10 seconds. Add that to a childhood love of chocolate bars and donuts, and the predictable result was a handful (or mouth full) of cavities by the time I was a teenager. Good times.
Here are some tips for taking care of your baby’s teeth from Ready. Set. Grow!’s newest Family Guide Smile Bright and Eat Right:
- From birth, use a clean, soft cloth or infant toothbrush to clean your baby’s gums.
- Make your child’s first dental visit right after the first tooth comes in (usually around six months).
- Be sure to “model” good teeth care to your toddlers and preschoolers by brushing your own teeth, twice a day for two minutes, while he or she watches.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry has a lot of information and answers about caring for your child’s teeth and gums. Find some by clicking here.
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. There are some past blog entries below to help you make the best oral health care choices for your kids.