Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Baby Gear: Infant & Toddler Dental Hygiene

I like to think that I've spent more than my fair share of time in the dreaded dentist chair and I still don't have perfect teeth to show for it; partly because of genetics and partly because of my horrible weakness for sweetness!! So I have always promised myself I would try my best to make sure my kids developed the right dental hygiene from an early stage!

My daughter was less than a week old when we took her for her first ever trip to the pediatrician's office. Among a whole list of advice that we were bombarded with, her pediatrician emphasized the need to clean her mouth on a daily basis even at that early stage. She recommended using a dampened soft muslin cloth wrapped around my finger to gentle clean her gums, tongue and entire mouth. At the time I had just started using the Aden & Anais muslin swaddle blankets and was so in love with how soft they were, so I decided to cut up one of the new blankets and use it as the doctor directed.

As she got a little older I found that using the cloth wasn't as effective as I would like; she mainly wanted to chomp on my finger and wouldn't really let me clean her mouth at all. I started to notice that most baby stores sold some sort of gum and mouth cleanser gel for infants and although I didn't think those were necessary for a young infant, I was especially drawn to the finger brushes that were included with the gum cleansers. I was unreasonably excited by this discovery and I tried to find a finger brush for sale on its own  but couldn't find any at a reasonable price, so I went ahead and bought the Earth's Best Strawberry Banana toothpaste

As you can see from the image above, this toothpaste comes with a "free" gum brush that fits over your finger for easy control to clean a young baby's mouth. Both the paste and brush are advertised as being safe to use for babies who are 6 months and older.  At the time when I bought it my daughter wasn't quite 6 months old yet so my plan was to use the gum brush on it own with water, and hold the toothpaste to the side til she was older and actually had some real teeth to clean.  Imagine my surprise when I opened up the box at home and realized there was no way on earth that I would get the brush to fit into her mouth. It was huge! It is made out of a thick silicone type of material with bristles on one side. and ridges on the other side.  The photo I took below shows a side by side comparison of the Earth's Best finger brush on my index finger and a kiddie toothbrush for  toddlers aged 2-4.  I can't say it enough times, the finger brush is ridiculously huge!

I'm not sure what kind of babies they tried this on but that gum brush is way too large for  a baby's mouth!  It did not fit in my daughters mouth not even when she was 6 months old. Even by the time she was nearly a year old, this particular gum brush was still quite chunky for her mouth!

I threw this into my reject pile temporarily and went back to the drawing board. I decided to try the smaller finger brush that is included in the Infant Tooth & Gum Cleanser by Nuk (Gerber)  I was hesitant to try it because up until that point I had experienced nothing but disappointment from Gerber products, but I thought it was cheap enough to give it a try.

The finger brush was actually perfect!!  It wasn't thick and gigantic like the Earth's Best brand, instead it was soft and flexible and the perfect size for a baby's mouth! Finally something from Gerber I could rave about! I  didn't use the toothpaste that came with it, I just put the brush on my finger, ran it under some water and used it to clean/massage her mouth, tongue and gums. I could definitely see that her tongue looked cleaner after I used it and because she was teething she loved me cleaning her mouth daily!

Once my daughter started eating solid foods and then started sprouting teeth I began using the toothpaste by Earth's Best with the blue finger brush from Gerber twice a day. She totally loved the taste of the Earth's Best toothpaste so we were both pretty happy with it in the beginning. However I started getting frustrated with it for several reasons. Firstly because it had such a gooey and runny consistency that it got really messy to use after a while. Most brands of infant/toddler toothpaste are a clear soft gel, but this particular brand is especially gooey.  In addition even though I was using just a little bit each time, I was still running through tubes of it pretty fast, as each tube contains only 1.6oz. Each time I bought a new one I was forced to get another "free" over sized finger brush that I didn't want!  I also found it hard to find this particular brand in most stores anyway. In fact the only store I have consistently been able to find this toothpaste is at Baby's R Us. And if you know anything about me you will know that is my absolute  least favorite place to shop in the entire world!

I shopped around for another healthy alternative to the the Earth's Best brand, and decided to try the Babyganics Say Aahh Strawberry Toothpaste I had tried their body lotion and sunscreen with great results so  I decided to give it a try.

Firstly I love love love that this comes in a 4oz tube, so I don't have to run out and buy a new tube of toothpaste every five minutes! Secondly it has all the great features that had initially attracted me to the Earth's Best brand but at a better price! The one thing that initially concerned me about this brand is that they don't state a specific age that their products are geared towards. The only reference to age on the packaging is on the outer box which says the gel is great for whether you have just one tooth or a lot of teeth. I must say I wasn't  impressed with the vagueness and I'm simply not the mom that has time for cutesy ways of getting around liability! Dear Kevin & Keith can you please put an actual age recommendation on the package so busy moms like myself can use your product without losing out peace of mind! 

Once my daughter turned a year old, I decided to switch her to a regular toothbrush, much like the finger brushes, most early stage toothbrushes are sold as a combo pack with a training toothpaste. So once again I was forced to buy a toothpaste full of chemicals that I didn't want,  just so I could get the toothbrush!!  I bought the Colgate  0-2 year toothbrush and paste starter kit. I gotta say I was excited about it! My little baby was going to use a real toothbrush! Especially since it had felt like an eternity just waiting for her to finally sprout some teeth!

Whilst I was really excited about this transition, my daughter was not pleased at all! She did not like the toothbrush one bit and wouldn't open her mouth for it , not even for a second. So for a while I had no other choice but to continue using the finger brush. I tried every trick in the book, but she would not open her mouth!  This was until I discovered the YouTube video of Elmo, Bruno Mars, Nicole Kidman, and several other celeb guests singing about brushing their teeth.

She has been a big Elmo fan almost from birth so I knew it would be worth a try! Sure enough after letting her watch the video a few times she couldn't get enough of brushing her teeth! Now I find myself randomly humming this whilst I'm brushing my teeth too!

We quickly made it part of her daily routine, to brush once in the morning and once at night before bed. I still was worried about her teeth developing correctly because of the whole debate about fluoride Whilst many pediatricians recommend fluoride supplements for toddlers, there are many dentists that advise that toddlers do not need any fluoride and that too much fluoride can cause just as much issues as not enough fluoride.  Some moms I knew were going out of their way to buy water with added fluoride, whilst others were avoiding drinking their tap water because it had too much!
I didn't want to make the wrong decision but I also didn't feel comfortable giving my daughter the fluoride supplements that her pediatrician recommended. This was my reasoning; if fluoride is so important for toddlers why is it that all the toddler toothpastes are boasting"fluoride free"? I contacted my local water department to find out how much fluoride we have in our tape water and was told, our town was proud to have no fluoride in the tap water. Confusing right? Because some towns are equally proud to have added fluoride in their tap water! I decided the best thing was to call in the experts, I asked her pediatrician for  recommendation for a pediatric dentist and I booked an appointment. I thought that they were the best people who could look at my daughters teeth and tell us if they were being cleaned properly and if we needed to change anything in our routine

My husband took her to their appointment and told me that it went well for the most part! She received a very generous goodie bag full of fun things for her to play with as well as few samples for us to try out. Best of all we got the peace of mind we wanted. The pediatric dentist confirmed that we should continue with our twice a day brushing sessions, and  that she would be find without the fluoride until she was a little older!

Once she turned two years old, we switched over to the next set of toothbrushes for ages 2-4 and also started buying Fun flossers by Dentek because she sometimes gets food stuck in her teeth. I actually have to hide the pack from her because she is a little too excited by it, I believe the fruit flavor of the floss makes her think its some kind of a treat! The great thing about the Dentek kiddie floss is that because of the shape of the handle, she is able to use it herself!


  1. I really enjoyed this post! I've had the same battle with the Earth's best gum brushes and have a ton that sit in a reject pile too. I am going to try out the babyganics toothpaste you recommended. I also like the fact that it comes in a much bigger size because those Earth's best ones cost an arm and a leg and don't last very long...we haven't made the first trip to the dentist yet but that's a great idea. Ditto on the fluoride debate by the way!

    1. Thanks TrendyMummy! I am glad I'm not the only one that faced those issues!! Let me know how it goes after the first visit to the dentist :)

  2. I like how your posts give the good and bad of whatever adventure In mommyhood that you are currently on

  3. Taking care of their teeth. Liked that accessory that you can put on your finger and brush their teeth.