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Mama Drama: Mama Mama Dental Drama!

Dear Mama Drama:

I have always hated going to the dentist and had lots of cavities and other problems growing up. I don’t want my kids to have the same fear and avoidance of dental care that I do. How can I help them have a positive experience with dental care and develop good brushing habits?

~ Traumatized Mama

(photo credit)

Dear Traumatized:

Our own childhood experiences can lead us to avoid things with our children or to make them different than we experienced. You can make things different for your kids by being proactive.

Set a good example by brushing and flossing regularly in front of your kids. Show them that dental hygiene is an important and integral part of your personal health care. Research shows that a parent’s dental health can have a significant impact on children’s dental health through the sharing of cavity creating bacteria (or not with good dental hygiene) and by the example set.

Take your kids to the dentist early to help allay any fears and get them used to the office. Toddler office visits usually include exploring the office, brushing with the hygienist, and practicing opening up wide while the dentist counts their teeth and looks quickly for any early cavities. Starting with a pediatric dentist helps to keep it playful and developmentally appropriate.

Supervise their brushing or do it together. Create a systematic way to make sure all their teeth get brushed and work on their technique following your dentist’s recommendations. Use songs or rhymes to help them remember. Once they are old enough to brush more independently, continue to check periodically to make sure they are doing a good job.

Teach them the benefits and consequences related to oral hygiene. Talk about avoiding cavities by brushing and flossing regularly and moderating intake of sugary liquids and sticky sweet foods. Let them know that teeth with cavities and infected gums can be painful. Preventing them through regular brushing and flossing is an easy way to avoid that pain.

Take care of your own teeth and go to the dentist regularly. If you are going to the dentist twice a year for check ups and talking with your kids about it, they will be more willing to go. Since you feel traumatized from your childhood experiences, this may be a challenge. Interview dentists and find one you feel you can trust and who is compassionate about your feelings and experiences.

February is National Dental Health Month, so get brushing!

Share you dental hygiene challenges and successes!

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential. Read more of Lisa’s parenting perspective at her Laughing Yoga Mama blog.

How To: Care for your toothbrush

Brushing (and flossing) is the best way to protect your teeth and gums — but not if your toothbrush is in bad shape. “Toothbrush bristles that are worn or frayed from use cannot effectively remove plaque, which is critical to maintaining healthy teeth and gums,” says Sebastiana Springmann, a dentist in Williamsburg, Va. Some advice:

Don’t cover up brushes between uses. Allow them to air-dry instead. Bacteria and other organisms will grow faster on bristles kept in a closed, damp environment.

Rinse them thoroughly. After each use, hold brushes under

The Baby Dentist’s Tips for Healthy Teeth & When (and How) to Start Flossing

Both as a dentist and as a mother, I hear people say, “We just have bad teeth. Our whole family does.” My name is Dr. Liz, the Baby Dentist, and I have good news for you!

The first piece of good news is that not everyone has to get cavities. Even if your family members have had bad teeth in the past, you can change that for your children. It’s likely that your baby was born with healthy teeth, most babies are. As soon as those first teeth come in, it’s time to start taking good care of them. Unhealthy teeth come from not taking good care of teeth as soon as they first come in, and from bad hygiene habits or diet at home.

The next bit of good news is that cavities are caused by germs (bacteria). Why is that good news? Because it means they are almost 100% preventable. Tooth decay is caused by germs in the mouth that we can clean off when we brush in the morning and again at night. So, there you have it; no more mystery.

By making some simple changes in your home habits, your baby can grow up to have healthy, beautiful teeth!

* Begin brushing twice a day with a toothbrush and a small smear of fluoridated toothpaste as soon as the first tooth erupts.
* Daily flossing starts when baby’s teeth are touching. Pre-threaded flossers are great for this.
* Do not share spoons, forks, or cups. This goes back to where cavities come from. When you share utensils of any kind, you are passing germs from your mouth to your baby’s.
* Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle or cup with milk, juice or any other beverages, only water is OK.
*Only put water in a sippy cup. Milk or a little bit of juice is ok at mealtimes, but if your child carries a sippy cup around outside of mealtime, make sure it only contains water.
* Don’t dip pacifiers in honey or sugar or clean them with your mouth.
* Your child should start seeing a dentist when the first tooth comes in or by age 1.

Remember that as your child is growing and learning, important tasks like brushing and flossing need to be done by you or another adult in the house until about the age of 8.

Of course, we also want to see you at the dentist office early and often and I have more good news on how this will only help you and your family. If you make these little changes at home, and see the dentist regularly when things in your child’s mouth are good, your child may grow up loving to brush their teeth and loving to come to the dentist. Wouldn’t that be great? Of course, prevention is much less expensive than restorative care which
can make a big difference for your family.

As a mom and a dentist, I could tell you any number of stories about the young children that I see with cavities and how much they hurt, but not today. Today is all about good news. If you get into healthy habits at home, you can keep your dental visits short and sweet and your child’s smile healthy and beautiful.


Tips on Flossing

1. You don’t need to begin flossing until your child’s teeth are touching.

2. Pre-threaded flossers are your friend. Try something like these

3. Make it part of the bedtime routine. While sitting, let your child rest their head in your lap while you use a pre-threaded flosser.

Remember that flossing is just one part of overall good oral habits including: twice daily brushing, limiting juice to 4oz per day, putting only water in the sippy cup, not sharing utensils or cleaning pacifiers with your own mouth, and getting your little one to the dentist by age 1.

For more info go to and read the entire Mommy DDS article on infant dental care.

Dr. Elizabeth Shick is a Pediatric Dentist at Children’s Hospital and Assistant Professor for the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine.

At dino dentist, kids focus on fossils

When Dr. Andre Gillespie decided to open his own dental practice, he wanted to create an atmosphere that wouldn’t intimidate his patients — kids who range in age from infants to 20-year-olds.

He mentioned the idea of a themed office to his 16-year-old son, Khalil, who suggested dinosaurs.

“I said, ‘OK, everyone likes dinosaurs,’ ” Gillespie said.

So Gillespie’s newly opened practice, Li’l Teeth Dentistry in Aurora, has the aura of Jurassic Park, with stone gates and rock finishes.

The concrete floor is imprinted with T.rex and raptor footprints, leading children to various areas of the office. X-rays are taken inside a giant, partially excavated dinosaur egg, and the murals are accurate portrayals of dinosaurs and prehistoric foliage.

“When the kids leave here, I don’t want them to talk about going to the dentist,” said Gillespie. “I want them to talk about the cool dinosaur or fossil on the wall. If you can have positive distractions, it’s a very good experience and they’ll want to come back.”

Themed dentist offices aren’t unusual, said Molly Perira, associate executive director of the Colorado Dental Association. There’s an office in Wheat Ridge with a