19 May 2022

Me & You with Jennifer Griffiths: Good dental habits start young

Me & You with Jennifer Griffiths: Good dental habits start young

Yes, I know the image wasn’t very nice, but Google ‘bottle decay in babies and toddlers’ and you will find much worse, much, much worse.

I really didn’t think this happened any more, with all the info out there about how to clean baby and toddler teeth, special-sized toothbrushes, flavoured toothpaste etc. BUT it does... I met a little boy and his mum this week, which is what sparked this article... he just had stumps of black/greyish dark stuff where his top front teeth should be - he was only three-years-old. 

I spoke to mum, she knew all about tooth decay, well she thought she did – she, obviously, didn’t!

It was my role to talk to her, help her to recognise what she should stop what she should start and highlight what she didn’t realise.

Don’t get me wrong she loved her son, was so upset that his teeth had developed like this, but she still tried to justify, to explain that it wasn’t really her fault ... 

...He likes some of my tea in his bottle, yes it has sugar in it, but it’s only a bit so it doesn’t matter.

...He likes to have his juice when he wants it, sometimes he just walks round with his bottle of juice in his mouth.

…He won’t drink water.

…I thought pure orange juice was better than cordial for him - this is his favourite juice.

…He won’t go to sleep without his bottle of milk, he’s always been like that, since he was a baby, I’ll stop the bottle when he’s about four years old - he’ll know he’s too big then.

…I thought he was too little to go to the dentist.

…It’s nice for him to have sweets, not all the time, but sweets every day is okay.

…I can’t make him clean his teeth, he screams and says no.

…He’s too little to use a cup, he just spills it, if I give him a training cup with a lid he just shakes it everywhere or throws it away and says he wants his bottle.

…He’s my baby he likes his bottle.

…His Dad hasn’t got good teeth, it runs in the family, his brothers teeth were the same.

…These teeth don’t matter anyway they are only milk teeth. 

Yes, I did have my ‘work’ cut out for me answering each of these points in a very diplomatic way, of course.

Offering advice, i.e. cleaning teeth before bed - before the cup of milk, (yes ditch the bottle - bin it, don’t buy another), avoid sugary drinks and snacks, don’t let him walk round with a drink - continually drinking sweet juice just means his teeth are continually being washed with sugar!

If he only likes fresh orange juice, add a little water, after a few days a bit more water and a little less juice and continue till it’s just coloured water (but do still call it juice!)

Of course, he could go to the dentist, even babies with just one tooth can go to the dentist.

I even went as far as to explain, that having bad decay can lead to infection and a need for antibiotics. Reminded her how painful tooth ache can be, how ugly tooth decay can look to him, to his friends, well to anyone actually and how that will make him feel about himself.   

I, of course, also suggested making teeth brushing fun, singing songs, (there are lots of cleaning teeth songs on line) using a timer (there’s even a two minute timer song!), stickers, reward chart (not for sweets) etc.

I’d really had to be quite ‘firm, tough talking’ with this mum as you can read and as I was getting ready to leave, I thought I wonder if mum will actually take on board my advice? Will she make the changes this little boy needs to have good dental health? good dental habits to last a life time (or at least a longer time now). I thought surely she will.

Then, at the door, mum turned to me and said, 'I am glad you’ve come, I will think about what you’ve said, I don’t want his sister's teeth to end up the same, but at least she doesn’t like tea, and only likes blackcurrant juice so it’s not as bad'… needless to say. I will be going back next week. 

Please, not for me but for your little one, remember dental health starts before the teeth arrive, they are there, under the gums, ready to pop out, good dental habits start early, good dental habits mean no more bottles after one year, no juice or milk to fall asleep with etc.

That is unless you want your little one to have teeth like the image and have me pop to your house for a ‘firm tough talk.’

Happy smiles. xxx

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