Tools for the tots

Feb. 1, 2006
Parents often become excited when their child’s first tooth erupts. They gently rub the gums and delight in the small speck of white.

Parents often become excited when their child’s first tooth erupts. They gently rub the gums and delight in the small speck of white. Parents should turn to dental professionals for recommendations regarding the best tools and methods for caring for the tot’s new smile. However, for some parents, selecting the first dental tools means breaking out the gift set they received at a baby shower. Though convenient, this kit often lacks the professional instruction necessary to start that small smile on the correct home-care path.

Hygienists should discuss preventive home-care measures with parents, which should then be incorporated into the baby’s daily routine. Hygienists and parents should discuss the need for altering or introducing fluoride. Hygienists should find out what kind of water parents use to mix formula. Some nursery water has fluoride added, so the infant may not need fluoride supplements. Breastfed babies will likely need fluoride supplementation so the fluoride concentration, which should be .25 mg from birth to two years, will be optimal for developing teeth. Fluoride ions in breast milk are low, regardless of the mother’s consumption of fluoride.

Dental offices could provide a home test as a service to patients, especially new parents, to evaluate the home water supply. Omnii Products offers a kit for home water analysis of fluoride levels. FluoriCheck, which is doctor-dispensed or can be ordered online, determines fluoride levels to accurately monitor water before determining prescription needs. A FluoriCheck kit has easy-to-follow instructions and a vial for water collection. The vial is returned for analysis in a prepaid-postage box, and results don’t take long.

Early brushing in infants develops good dental home-care habits with lifelong benefits. Reducing early childhood caries is always a goal. Xylitol, a natural sweetener, has been shown to starve active mouth bacteria which thrive and cause caries.

A dental towelette called Spiffies is perfect for wiping primary teeth to palate. Spiffies are saturated with grape-flavored xylitol and come in convenient packets. These wipes are similar to diaper wipes, except they smell sweet. The towelette should be wrapped around the parent’s finger and wiped over teeth and gums to remove lingering milk and leave xylitol on the gums to decrease the risk of decay. These wipes are excellent for on-the-go use and can even be chilled to provide relief for teething tots. Regular use of xylitol and daily hygiene habits provide a baby with multiple benefits.

As teeth start to erupt, parents become aware of the need for bacterial plaque removal to maintain the infant’s oral health. Before the end of the first year, most babies begin sporting deciduous incisors. But before the incisors erupt, the tot’s ridge may be massaged with a gum stimulator. This helps during teething. Laclede Professional offers a baby-soft toothbrush and gum massager for infants and toddlers. The Infa-Dent brush should be placed on the parent’s clean fingertip and gently rubbed on babies’ gums and erupting teeth. Because the brush fits snugly and safely on the finger, it is easy to remove plaque and gives parents an increased sensitive touch. For parents with large fingers, the brush, which is made of silicone, can be placed in hot water and stretched for a better fit. The finger brush is kinder than a child’s standard toothbrush bristle and features tiny, rubbery filaments that will not bruise tender tissues. Also, the finger brush can be cleaned in the dishwasher or sterilized after use. Ideally, the Infa-Dent brush should be paired with First Teeth Natural Enzyme Baby Toothpaste to help balance the baby’s oral environment. The natural apple and banana flavor will remind infants of their favorite baby food, and the paste may be safely swallowed as well.

Plaque on babies’ teeth can leave a film of odorous bacteria which can be easily removed with safe brushing techniques. Brushing with bristles can be gently introduced with a Safety Toothbrush, offered by One Step Ahead. With an oblong handle, the brush resembles a typical teething ring. The easy grip, wide, rounded edge allows a toddler to chew on the handle and stimulate gum tissue without fear of choking or inserting too deeply. Three compact rows of end-round soft bristles located on the smaller side of the handle can be placed on partially erupted teeth to perform plaque removal.

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