Hello Franjos Kitchen Community! My name is Jess, I am a parenting blogger, and today with the help of Dentist Dr Erica Tam, I want to share tips on creating a good oral care routine for your little one.
From being pregnant to becoming a mum, the trials and tribulations for mothers seem to never end. While we’re pregnant, we worry about the little human we’re carrying. From the moment we hold that little bundle of joy in our arms, we are perpetually worrying about their nutrition, breastfeeding and bottle feeding, the slightest sneeze or fever, are they warm enough, when will they crawl or walk, and wait for it…yes the infamous first tooth, when to start caring for their little pearlers and what will be the best products for your toddler.
When I had my little boy, Milo, I didn’t have a natural oral care solution in my life and how I wish I had because it would have undoubtedly saved me many headaches, wondering what was in my toothpaste and if it was safe, as little one’s love to eat their toothpaste, don’t they? Since then, I have become a passionate advocate for Grin Natural - a fantastic New Zealand brand focusing on using natural, pure, eco-friendly ingredients in their oral care products, founded by a mother who couldn’t find a safe and effective oral care solution for her own child.
What I have realised over the years is that as mums, we all ask the same questions and have the same concerns when it comes to the health and wellbeing of our kids. So, I have compiled some essential tips which I hope you will find helpful when it comes to the next big journey in your little one’s life, and that’s taking care of their teeth and gums.
I was a breastfeeding mum, and I breastfed Milo well into toddlerhood. While I was pregnant, I did extensive research, and I fully appreciated the benefits of breastfeeding and the bond it created between Milo and I. However, when I first started breastfeeding like most mums’, I wasn’t thinking about my baby’s oral care routine or tooth decay. Not at first, at least! Between diaper changes, paediatrician visits, and trying to just get through the day in one piece, unfortunately, I saw oral care as separate from everything else. After speaking to other mums and our family dentist, I realised it was just as important to look after Milo’s gums and impending baby teeth if I wanted to set him up for an even healthier life down the line. Dr Erica Tam says that “even though a baby may not have teeth, you still need to take care of their mouth.” She recommends that you clean your infant’s gums with a warm damp washcloth after each feeding.
I had to educate myself for the day when I would have to transition him from breastmilk to eventually a bottle or feeding cup. Dr Erica Tam suggests that a baby should be transitioned to a straw cup or cup by age two because the prolonged use of a baby bottle can most certainly affect your child’s jaws and tooth alignment.
I found that educating myself and getting into these types of routines early on would be good not just for Milo but also for me. Once it becomes part of your mum's routine and daily family life, it’s much easier to fit in and work on, than adopt a new habit later.
Believe it or not, caring for your newborn’s mouth starts well before they even have any teeth. Teething is generally a good indication that your little one is ready for the oral care journey. Milo began to teethe early on, and boy oh boy, did my little guy struggle with sore gums. I found that this was the perfect time to get into the oral care routine. Even a simple practice of using a washcloth wrapped around your finger or, better yet a Grin Baby Silicone finger brush will do the trick to soothe those itchy, sore gums. This seems like an easy enough act. However, the benefit is that you will already be preparing your little one to tolerate tooth brushing once that first baby tooth starts to come through. You will be well on your way to preparing yourself and your little one for an easier oral care journey—both mentally and emotionally.
Surprisingly enough, getting yourself and your little one ready for a healthy oral care routine is easier than you think. Choosing the best oral care products is probably your first step. Personally, I wanted something that the entire family could use that was natural and safe, palm-oil free and not tested on animals. Grin Natural ticked all these boxes and was created for mums by a mum.
The first part of your journey is preparing bubs for brushing. A finger brush is a great place to start as it has been designed to not only massage your little one’s sore, sensitive gums but also gently cleans their teeth. Dr Erica Tam also recommends starting with fluoride-free toothpaste and then moving to fluoride toothpaste at age one.
The next big thing is brushing and flossing. Dr. Tam recommends that you use a small toothbrush head to reach the back teeth and that the bristles are soft. The one thing that a lot of mums ask about is flossing and how soon you should start your little one on this. Believe it or not, yes you can and should floss even from a young age. Dr. Tam recognizes that flossing a 12 month’s old teeth for instance, can be quite a challenge and she recommends that you lie your child down (kind of like when you’re at the dentist) so it’s easier to see. A floss pick can also be easier than trying to floss with the string - Grin Natural has biodegradable kids floss picks, ensuring plaque removal from in between those pearlers.
The entire oral care journey comes with its ups and downs, which is why I’ve realised that I get the best results when it’s a family activity. By doing so, you will remove the possible push-back or whining you may get from “but why do I need to brush my teeth twice a day. I just brushed it this morning”. Or “I’m too tired now,” especially as your little one gets older. To get around this, Dr Erica Tam recommends the following:
- Let your child brush first then you can “help finish”
- Read books about brushing and why it’s important
- Have a mirror that’s eye level for them to see what’s going on
- Have your child brush their doll’s teeth, or sing a special tooth brushing song!
- Do a role-play dentist - just as you would as a doctor. Then when it comes around to actual brushing time, your little one is more familiar with it.
It is also super important for your little ones to see their parents/caretakers embracing a good routine. Children especially love when they can use a product that their parents are also using because it makes them feel included.
Like most little ones, I found that Milo would become quickly bored of brushing his teeth, so I had to constantly up my oral care game plan. I realised that it wasn’t just about the actual brushing and flossing but also about preparing him mentally before he even entered the bathroom. A good kid’s oral care book can help with this.
Another great idea is to introduce fun songs into your oral care routine from an early age. It’s a great way for the whole family to become involved and your little one will love learning about brushing, oral care and flossing from their favourite TV or YouTube characters.
I hope these tips can help in some small way to make your oral care journey easier and more fun. It is tough being a mum, that’s for sure. Even as Milo continues to grow there are new things I must learn as a mum day by day to give him the best possible start to life. But it does help when you have a good community of mums around you that you can seek advice from.
About the Author
Jess Mason, Grin Natural’s Parenting Expert. Jess is a mum who loves to empower and guide other mums to live their healthiest, happiest lives and leans on her own experience and learnings as a mum to her little boy Milo, to provide helpful advice, and tips.