You’ve just brought your new bundle of joy(s) home and already feel overwhelmed with the new learning curve that was just thrown at you. Now your baby is starting to sprout some chompers and you are so ready to begin solids from the breastfeeding and/or formula ordeal you just went through the last 6-9 months. But what you don’t realize is that you might have already setup the groundwork for some bad bacteria to creep up into those white pearls, without even knowing it.
I remember bringing my first child home from the hospital. It was wonderful and terrifying all at the same time. At this point in our parenting life, I would have never thought that I would be unintentionally hurting my child’s teeth from the get-go. I was more concerned about keeping her alive than swabbing the gum line. Well, according to almost all dentists and doctors everywhere. I should have been at least wiping those little pink lines down 2 times a day. Of course, I didn’t quite realize that until after about month 4-5 when we figured out the whole breastfeeding/formula fiasco. Oh, and did you know that sharing your spit with your kiddo can also lead to them developing oral problems earlier than expected as well? Yeah, I didn’t know that either. Utter parenting fail on my part.
Being one of those paranoid parents I did take my child to see the dentist around 10 months old as she started getting A LOT of her teeth in at this point, which I was told was a good idea. The great news is she didn’t have any cavities, the bad news is that she hated getting her teeth x-rayed. So really hard to spot any problems since this fear of the GIANT teeth camera still haunts her to this day. But before I get into the horror of what my little one and I went through recently, I will first start with what I did to help and not help her oral health.
Birth to One:
Well, as stated earlier, I did start really cleaning those gum lines very well around 4-5 months. When I did see, or more like feel from her biting me, her first teeth cutting through I did use a small finger tooth brush to help keep them clean. Now looking back though, when she started eating solids, I did test the temperature of the food by tasting it with her spoon and then feeding her which is now considered a no-no. I do not have horrible teeth but they are not perfect and I do have a couple of filled cavities but to think that I might have jump started this decay process does not leave me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. I did start brushing her teeth twice a day when she started getting them in but I also did make the mistake of letting her have a bottle of formula before bed from around 10 months to about two years old. Most likely a mistake on my end but at that point I would rather have had a satisfied tummy for an all night sleep than a midnight feed as my kiddo had a high metabolism. A big to do is to have your child see a dentist by age 1 so that they can get a good head start on oral hygiene.
Oh, and as for teething issues. I first used Orajel daytime for my daughter, a rice grain amount, but she drooled a lot with that so I then found another Orajel that worked out a lot better. It was called Orajel Naturals which had day and night time packages that worked wonders and were recommended for ages 6 months and up. A win-win in my opinion, plus she didn’t really drool as much. However those were removed from production. Apparently they had belladonna in its ingredients which can be considered poisonous in large uneven quantities, but there was no evidence of this homeopathic ingredient causing such issues in children. However, all homeopathic gels or tablets were removed.
Since those were removed when I had my second child, I decided to use the Orajel day and night packages for her. Those seemed to work out great for her and she didn’t drool with them like my first daughter did. However I started noticing that these were not being restocked in the medicine section again. So of course I researched and low and behold they were recalled also. Apparently the benzocaine in these tubes was causing severe symptoms in children which were signs of methemoglobinemia (say that three times fast). These are some scary symptoms and I can see why they would be recalled but my little one was definitely having some benefit from these and so I bought out all the ones I could find still on the shelves. Needless to say I became quite the little hoarder of Orajel.
Now, before thinking I’m a monster for still giving my second daughter these recalled over-the-counter gels, let me fill you in on the details. First off, I did read the label and did see that these gels are recommended for children 2 years old and up. Secondly, I looked up how long these had been out and they had been on the shelves for around 10 years thus I though they might be a great option. (I did read the labels and checked this information before trying with my first child also.) Thirdly, I had tried wet napkins, frozen or cold teethers in all shapes and sizes, regular teethers in all shapes and sizes, and even let her try to chew on my fingers until they had indents in them. She was just getting to many teeth in to fast for all of these options to keep up and my fingers were definitely in need of a break. Thus ring in the Orajel. I tried a rice grain amount first, like I did with my first daughter, to see if she would have any reaction as the warning label had stated, and to my surprise she had the best reaction, relaxation. She was calm, played, stopped fussing, and even enjoyed food again. So from here on out I was a believer and thus when I heard that they were being recalled I bought them all up. This is not the case for every parent so trust your instincts. If you don’t feel this will work or is safe enough for your child then don’t do it. If you’ve tried everything else and nothing is working then that is up to you. There are now other several safe options out there for teething that are benzocaine and belladonna free and great for 3-4 months and up.
Two to Three:
Now back to oral health. At this time frame the dentists recommend dropping pacifiers, slowing the sippy cup roll, and if they need a night bottle to make it just water. They also recommend a 1 minute brush with fluoride toothpaste and a daily floss between those tightly packed teeth. I will be the first one to say that I am not the best at flossing my own teeth. So thus, I was not the best at flossing my daughters teeth. So of course I didn’t exactly follow all the advice to a tee as I still gave my first child a night time bottle of formula before bed up until around 18 months plus and then switched to water. I never let her sleep with it but I did give it to her to help her sleep. It’s really up to you but just beware of the consequences later on. Fortunately for my second child, she has a snack before her bath and it’s a book and bed. Her metabolism isn’t as high and she eats three square meals and two snacks, unlike the six mini-meals her sister has to this day, thus she’s not as hungry before bed.
It’s around this time that dentists start to see an influx of cavities in children. It’s really hard to tell if children this age have them as they do not sit very well for x-rays but if they are bad enough, they can be seen with the naked “dentist” eye. That being said, I would probably never see one but I know they sure can. We were lucky in that we avoided the “dentist” eye cavity inspection during this time frame. Always a good bill of oral health, barring no x-ray involvement.
Four to Five and so on…
Cue the epic parental failure music for that not-all-advice-following was about to come back and literally attack me. I go in expecting the usual oral checkup only to hear the words I have been dreading since going to a dentist. My daughter has a cavity. From his “dentist” eye, he can see a cavity forming on one of my daughters molars. I of course can’t see squat except a regular tooth but the dentist points to this little bit of white gunk at the bottom of the tooth that I think is just from not really cleaning this morning but that is actually signs of tooth decay. So the recommendation is to clean out the cavity and fill, which in laymen’s terms is drill and fill. This is all shocking to me as I’ve never heard of filling baby teeth unless they are REALLY bad, and even then my next thought is that they would just pull them since they are baby teeth. Boy was I wrong!
If you don’t have dental insurance, this is no small expense. Heck, even if you do have dental insurance it is still somewhat costly as they not only have to sedate your child first but then they have to use laughing gas as well. I’ll admit, we have basic dental insurance because in my thought process I did not see a procedure like this coming up until the distant future where we might be looking at braces and such. Thus with our basic dental insurance, we still had to shell out close to $350 that was not covered. I am darn thankful we at least carry some form of dental insurance now or we’d be looking at closer to a grand.
Anyway, I am sent home with detailed paperwork on procedure and food restrictions along with a strict timeline of the appointment. It felt like I was preparing my daughter and I for battle. Little did I know that this would come to fruition. We arrive at the dentist office at the designated time and she is given a sedative and laughing gas. Now granted, we are going off of what the “dentist” eye has gleaned regarding the one cavity. The big test is coming up where they are now able to get x-rays of her teeth. After the x-rays the dentist comes back and informs me that she not only has one molar but two molars infected, oh and the decay is on opposite sides of the teeth so the normal drill and fill is out of the question at this point. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a crown since the cavities are on opposite sides of the teeth. There went my original $200 quote, now I’m at $350. She’s already sedated and on laughing gas so at this point we might as well go ahead and get it done.
I was unprepared already for how my daughter would have handled the filling procedure but I was completely ill-equipped to handle stainless steel crowns being cemented to my daughters teeth AFTER the drilling of the cavities. The first tooth being drilled was uncomfortable but doable. The placement of the crown was unbearable. It. Was. Torture. When placing the crown in she was a beast. I ended up having to hold her down to place the crown, drill the next tooth, and then place the second crown. She was a mess, I was a mess. We both were crying and in pain. Her physically and me emotionally because I felt like I was purposely torturing my child. I asked the dentist if this was normal and they all stated that this was and that she was actually a good patient considering others. I don’t know how anyone could imagine that experience being good but I NEVER want to have to put her through that again. I don’t know if I could even handle doing that to her again, or even my other daughter. I was assured that she wouldn’t remember any of this as she was highly sedated and on laughing gas, but I remember and it haunts me sometimes.
I am not putting this out there to scare you but to warn you of what might happen. We brushed twice a day, every day, using fluoride toothpaste. We flossed at least once or twice a week and she still developed cavities on two molars, in one year. She’s not a big sweets eater but she does love her juice water and her crackers. Still, it was unnerving to have to go through all that. I pray she doesn’t remember that experience and that if she does she doesn’t hate me for it in the future. For now she is happy with her “shiny” teeth and her eating and speaking habits seemed to have improved overnight, so I am happy that she is happy and content. Needless to say that I am now thoroughly brushing twice or sometimes three times a day with fluoride toothpaste and that I floss her teeth everyday with fluoride floss. I even upped our 18 month old to 2-one minute brush session, non-fluoride toothpaste yet, and am getting to the point where I will be flossing her soon as all of her teeth are almost in, just to be safe. This is just our families current dental dilemma but I am sure there will be more in the future.
For now, all I can say is it doesn’t hurt to be diligent in your child’s oral care now or it just might cost you both monetarily, emotionally, and physically in the future. Oh, and definitely get some dental insurance. We are upping ours soon so that in case we have to go through something like this in the future, Lord willing we don’t, we won’t have a large surprise like we did this go around. You should know that even if you are an active cleaner of your child’s teeth, they still might receive cavities. Maybe it’s just genetics, who knows.
Hope this has helped shed some light on the nightmare of oral health and how to prevent it.
Until next time…