Thursday, May 18, 2006

Our first visit to the pediatric dentist

A few months ago, I saw a public service announcement that babies need to visit the dentist by their 1-year birthday ... or once they have teeth.

Shortly after seeing this public service announcement, I was talking with a neighbor and was shocked to hear that they'd just forked out $2,000 on a bridge for their 3-year old daughter. The trauma of the procedure was terrible for the little girl. The trauma for their daughter and wallop to their checkbook was terrible for the parents. I spoke with our pediatrician at the babies’ 16-month checkup and when he echoed the recommendation to see a pediatric dentist as soon as your child has teeth, I was convinced.

For the most part, we're pretty good about dental hygiene. This came about quite by accident. Our kids are notoriously difficult on the changing table. In an effort to stem babies from flipping over and crawling off the table in the middle of a particularly messy diaper... I started handing them a toothbrush with a splat of toddler toothpaste. I was intrigued that this would keep them occupied for the entire diaper change, and that I'd usually have to pry it out of their hands because they were so content chewing on it.

The romance with the *manual* toothbrush lasted only a few weeks. It got to the point where I'd hand them the toothbrush, they'd suck off the toothpaste and then fling the toothbrush over their head. "Thanks for the treat. I'm going to roll over HERE now ... C-YA..."

Yet, whenever the kids were within earshot and I was brushing my teeth ... with an electric toothbrush ... they'd come running from wherever they were in the house, and stand looking at me with mouths wide open. A little light bulb went off. "I wonder ... if they make electric toothbrushes for kids?"

Of course they do!

Sesame Street wouldn't pass up an opportunity to market their logo, would they? Come to think of it ... it's only appropriate that the cast of Sesame Street is all over our babies toothbrushes. They are all over our Pampers, too. Now at diaper changes ... we are surrounded by the cast and crew that resides at 123 Sesame Street. Big Bird, Grover, Elmo, Cookie Monster, Bert, Ernie, and that yellow critter with the necklace and ponytails. Who is that? She definitely wasn't around in 1975. But I digress.

The babies love their GUM electric toothbrushes. We've been using them for the past several months and thus far, I don't see the romance ending anytime soon. We hand the babies their toothbrushes at diaper changes ... and also, make an effort for them to brush their teeth every night before bed. What I really like about these toothbrushes, is that they do a better job cleaning the teeth than a regular old toothbrush. Even if they are just chewing on it, the bristles are rotating and scrubbing their teeth and gums.

And nose. And ears. And hair. And wall.

Considering the babies scream like blue-bloody murder whenever I take the toothbrush away and try and clean them ... I felt confident that these electric toothbrushes were doing a good enough job, on their own.

I will admit I was a bit confused what was going to be accomplished by taking our kids - with no more 24 teeth across the three of them - to this appointment. But when I called to schedule the visit, they told me that the pediatric dentist will review our brushing habits, family history, do an examination to verify that the teeth are "erupting properly" and perform a quick cleaning. I just laughed. "You're going to try and clean my babies teeth! Are you kidding??"

Going in to this, they told me that our dentist really has a "way" with children. So, I expected that they'd have the baby recline in a tiny dentist chair and let them watch Teletubbies through a headset while they did the exam, kind of like the treatment I receive when I go to the dentist.

Not surprisingly, I was mistaken.

When we went to the appointment yesterday, I held a baby on my lap and sat knee-to-knee with the dentist. Then I leaned the baby back on to her lap, and held their arms down. I was wondering how she was going to get their mouth open, but I didn't wonder long. During the course of screaming, she had full access to count all of their teeth, check on those teeth that are *erupting*, evaluate whether there were any cavities, do an assessment of plaque build-up (or lack of on 2 of the kids ... I was surprised at the amount of plaque on William's teeth), scale, floss and do a fluoride treatment.

Despite the kids less-than-positive reaction to the dentist, I'm very glad that we went and highly recommend it.

Here are a few important things that we learned.

1) Saliva production decreases significantly at night. Because saliva is the mechanism that flushes out our mouth and "cleanses" our teeth during the day ... it's very important to brush your teeth at night before bedtime.

2) The enamel on a baby's teeth is very, very thin. Not nearly as "thick" as the enamel on an adult's teeth. Which is why it is so important to avoid processed sugars. If you give juice, dilute it. Don't feed candy, fruit roll-up type snacks (which stick to their teeth and can speed decay), or sugary gum. Apparently, snails, earthworms and crayons are not hard on teeth enamel. Whew. What a relief.

3) After you eat processed sugar ... it remains in your mouth for 15 minutes after the food/beverage is consumed. As an example ... let's say you sip on a soft drink over the course of an hour. Each time you take a sip ... you reset the clock. Take a sip ... 15 minutes of decay. Take another sip, another 15 minutes of decay.

4) It's OK for the kids to hold their toothbrushes during diaper changes - - but we (Charlie or I) need to get a hold off that toothbrush and do a thorough brushing once a day. Preferably at night, immediately before bed.

5) Fluoride treatment doesn't start until kids are 3 years old. Until then, they get sufficient fluoride in regular tap water.

6) The NUMBER ONE injury to teeth and mouths in infants/toddlers/young children ... come from falling on a coffee table. The dentist told us that she receives at least two calls a month for an emergency consultation with a child that smacked their mouth on a coffee table. With that tid-bit of information, we got rid of our coffee table. It was causing too many problems, anyway. "William, no climbing on the table. Elizabeth, no climbing on the table. Carolyn, no climbing on the table."

Two minutes later ... "William, no climbing on the table. Elizabeth, no climbing on the table. Carolyn, no climbing on the table."

Two minutes later ... "William, no climbing on the table. Elizabeth, no climbing on the table. Carolyn, no climbing on the table."

Two minutes later... "William, no climbing on the table. Elizabeth, no climbing on the table. Carolyn, no climbing on the table."

Get the picture? I could go on ...

7) The vitamin with iron supplement we'd been giving our babies since they've come home from the hospital, has stained their pearly whites. We've noticed, but haven't been overly concerned, with a brownish hue that was slowly developing on their teeth. Although this staining doesn't compromise the integrity of their teeth, we spoke with our pediatrician who suggested we start using a standard non-iron containing vitamin.

8) The information I posted about in Operation Bottle Wean sums up the reasons why bottle usage should be discontinued by 18-months, and this was confirmed by the pediatric dentist. When she queried me on our bottle usage, I was extremely proud to say that we've had the babies completely off their bottles since they were 18-months old, to the DAY. I wanted to hide under the table though, when I informed her that the only way we could get them to drink milk now was with a dash of Hershey's syrup.

9) Baby teeth ARE important. If a child loses their baby teeth prematurely, it can mess up the jaw. Baby teeth allow the natural growth and development of the mouth.

We will be going back to visit the pediatric dentist in six months for another assessment and cleaning. I haven't yet added the babies on our insurance plan for dental coverage. As such, we paid $25.00/per baby for the exam. Not too bad considering the edumikation we acquired ... and squeaky clean teeth for all three kids.

From the dentist office – Charlie headed back to work and I brought the troops home where they promptly went down for a 3-hour nap. THREE HOUR NAP. It could be that they are fighting off a bug – or it could be that we need to go to the dentist everyday. I’m not sure which…?

When they woke up from their nap, I took them for a 3.5-mile walk around our neighborhood. Charlie came home from the office while we were out, and hopped on his bike to come meet us. As we were walking (he was riding), one of our neighbors pulled up along side us, rolled down her window and yelled “You have GOT to be kidding me. You mean to tell me that SHE is pushing a carriage with two babies – with one more on her BACK … and YOU are RIDING a bike?! OH MISTER.”

That comment ... coupled with the entire Mother’s Day I spent on the couch with a sick baby, is what earned me a FULL day of shopping, today.

By. My. Self.

The highs and lows of that experience will be the subject of my next posting.


  1. I appreciate the edumikation as well! Who knew?? Of course, Imri has NO teeth yet, but I will keep this as reference material. Dr Wonderful told me to wipe his teeth with wet guaze after giving iron btw (if he had teeth).
    I wanna hear about the shopping :) You most definitely deserve a long fun day!

  2. I've been a mother for 13 years and obviously haven't learned enough! I wish any of the pediatric dentists we have had over the years had so freely given out helpful information. And, I guess I should get the no iron vitamins, too. I haven't noticed any staining- perhaps because she inevitably drinks a cup of tub water after?

    Congratulations on the shopping trip! Please share more!

  3. Jenna-
    Thanks for your Dental Fun Facts! That is pretty enlightening! I guess we're gonna have to stop giving Shayna cotton candy and coke right before bed... LOL! Hope everyone is feeling better! Go Sox!

  4. As always you had me laughing! I just love reading your blog and only wish I could add half the zest to my own that you have in yours!

    It looks like the dentist visit went very well and those are some very good tips that will come in handy very shortly! Alyssa hasn't even popped out one tooth yet, but I believe it is in her very near future.

    As for the comment by the lady... too funny! I hope you enjoy your day of shopping- by yourself.

  5. SH!T. Now I've got to worry about this.

    Problem #1) Brushing before bed- yeah right. A while back I tried changing our bedtime routine to breast, teeth then bed, but sleep started going out the window. So I reverted back to teeth, breast, bed and Mattea goes right to sleep when I put her in bed.

    Problem #2) Mattea hates having me brush her teeth. Sure she's happy playing with the toothbrush, but never even gets the bristles on her teeth. I am definitely going to get an electric toothbrush.

    Problem #3) Toothpaste. I guess I should start using toothpaste now too.

    Problem #4) I've got to call my pediatrician and inquire about vitamins. Mattea has not even had one vitamin in her 13 months of life.

    I guess there are two things I AM doing with her: 1) flossing her teeth and 2) staying away from sugar.

    What would I do without this post?

    The pictures at the dentist office are great. Now we all know what to expect. I love the one of Carolyn in the sink with her brush.

    Thanks again for the post,

  6. dude! go sox! (i have tickets to the sox/yanks game on monday.. yay me!)

    anywho.. thanks for this great info.. i now know why i had 4 cavities by the time i was 4 years old (my mom used to dip my paci's in honey and i had bottles with kool aid.. ahhh.. the 70's). i've already cut and pasted this into a file for when i need it!

  7. Thank you for sharing this. I really need to get on the ball with my 12 month old's teeth brushing. I really like the idea of giving them a brush while changing their diapers. I think I am going to try that.

  8. That was a very educational blog about the dentist--I was not diligent with y'all for teeth brushing. I have to turn in my Mothers badge.
    Hope you had fun shopping.

  9. Great info!!!
    Hey chica, you are looking very thin (but quite lovely) in that pic! Must be all the weight you lost when you were sick. :(
    Glad the kiddos teeth are doing well though. I think I'll go buy an electric baby toothbrush!

  10. Wow! Some interesting dentistry facts!

    Hey...which backpack do you use? I am looking to get my husband one and am looking for recommendations!

    I am always impressed when you walk all three kids...but the 3.5 miles had me cowering in shame.

    Amanda (ajdub)

  11. Thank you for the dentist information! Very enlightening.

  12. Enjoyed your pediatric dentist story! Good laughs.

  13. Fun post!

    I'll add that some areas don't have fluoride in the tap water. In those areas, kids often do get fluoride in their vitamins as soon as they start vitamin supplements.

  14. VERY informative! the four-year old son of a friend has four cavities - and his parents were advised by his dentist that their son will need to be 'put under' to treat the cavities! SCARY! i found your blog when i googled 'toddler electric toothbrush'. thanks! kristin

  15. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  16. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  17. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  18. A pediatric dentist is a professional who has studied basic dentistry and then went on to study children's dentistry in order to specialize in children's oral and dental healthcare.

    pediatric dentist