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Instilling good oral hygiene habits early

Dec. 14, 2010
Two dentists have created a way for parents to instill good oral hygiene habits in their children before their teeth even erupt.
By Drs. Grace Lo and Jonathan Korn
At left: One of the doctors’ daughters who was the inspiration for Tooth TissuesBy now most of us have heard the news — early childhood dental caries is on the rise. Dental caries, which is largely preventable, remains the most prevalent chronic early childhood disease.1We are practicing dentists with two young children at home. When our first child was born, we took many “new parent” classes. Lecturers discussed the basics of baby “survival” — feeding, diapering, bathing, car seats, first aid, etc. — however, no one seemed to be discussing oral hygiene. As dentists we advise many new parents to wipe out their baby’s mouth with gauze or a washcloth.2 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that this should start just after healthy feeding habits are established. We found this to be inconvenient with our own children. It is not so easy to have a clean washcloth available in the middle of the night after a feeding. In order to achieve compliance, two things must happen: Parents must start cleaning their children’s teeth early, and it must be convenient. Tooth Tissues help your patients in both of these areas.Tooth TissuesWe developed Tooth Tissues as a convenient way for parents to clean their baby’s mouth even before teeth erupt. Tooth Tissues are disposable dental wipes meant to be used from birth up until 16 months, which is when the first molars usually erupt. Packaged in a resealable pouch, they are flavorless and have the added benefit of xylitol. Starting preventive habits from birth establishes a healthy routine, which in turn decreases the bacteria in the oral cavity allowing the teeth to erupt into a healthy oral environment. By getting children used to oral stimulation, they will also be able to transition to tooth brushing more easily. Of course the ultimate goal is to decrease early childhood dental cavities.Parent education begins before baby’s first visitSo what happens when a patient comes into one of our general practice dental offices with a baby or is pregnant? The first thing we discuss is nighttime feedings. We make sure parents know not to put their baby to sleep with a bottle without wiping out the mouth, as some of the milk will stay in the mouth. The second thing we discuss is that a parent can pass along bacteria to the child, which may lead to tooth decay. Avoid sharing spoons or using saliva to wipe a dropped pacifier. The final thing we talk about with new and expectant parents who come to our practice is the importance of wiping out their baby’s mouth from the time healthy feeding habits are established. We reinforce the information we give to new parents with a sample of Tooth Tissues in the same way we give samples of toothbrushes, floss, toothpaste, and other hygiene aides. Using gauze or a washcloth is also truly wonderful, and parents who already perform this task are doing better than most! Tooth Tissues are a great, convenient, and effective way to get this accomplished. Finally, we remind parents to bring their child to visit us around age 1.
Dr. Grace Lo received her dental degree from the University of Toronto, completed advanced education in general dentistry at the University of Connecticut, and maintains a private practice in Rocky Hill, Conn. She is a member of the Academy of General Dentistry, Connecticut State Dental Association, and American Dental Association. Dr. Jonathan Korn received his dental degree from the University of Pittsburgh, completed advanced education in general dentistry residency and fellowship at the University of Connecticut, and actively practices dentistry in Newington, Conn. Dr. Korn was recognized by his peers as one of the top dentists in Hartford County. He maintains membership in the American Dental Association, Academy of General Dentistry, and Connecticut State Dental Association. Both Drs. Korn and Lo keep very busy raising their two daughters and are the creators of the award-winning Tooth Tissues. Contact them at [email protected].Photo of authors copyright Grynn and BarrettReferences 1. Oral Health Preventing Cavities, Gum Disease, Tooth Loss and Oral Cancers: At a Glace 2010. Centers for Disease Control and Prevenion. Feb. 10, 2010. A Healthy Mouth For Your Baby. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. July 2008.