Do I use fluoride toothpaste? Do I need to bring them in for their first check up at 6, 12 or 18 months? Do I need to floss my 8 month olds teeth?
The answer to all of the above with vary from dentist to dentist. It really comes down to parental preference.
We began wiping Dean's gums as only a few days old. Once a day, usually first thing in the morning, I would use a soft, wet cloth and wipe his gums. He didn't seem to care, so long as I let him gnaw on me.
When his first tooth came through, at 5 months, we used a finger toothbrush along with a little bit of fluoride free toothpaste (basically just flavouring that was sugar free) and we'd brush his tiny new tooth and the gums, along with the top of his gums, twice a day.
Then came the biting. When he was about 12 months old, when he had about 10 teeth, he began biting us when we brushed his teeth. And it hurt! Even with the silicone finger toothbrush on, he would leave marks on my fingers. I knew it was time to move onto a regular toothbrush, which I find a bit harder to be sure to get all the teeth on every surface. But it saved me from losing fingers, so it was needed!
He has taken over the morning brushing, which is really just him wiggling his toothbrush along with his head, while sucking the water off it. He enjoys the independence and to be honest, if we had to brush both times, it likely would get skipped over in the morning rush of trying to get out the door for daycare and work. So he typically does this while we brush our own teeth.
The evening brushing can be a bit of a challenge sometimes. He runs to the bathroom, full of excitement, when I tell him it's time to brush his teeth. But then I don't have over the toothbrush and there's struggling and whines. After a few weeks of following the same routine, it works better now. We always tell him that it's our turn first and then he gets a turn. It seems to curb some of the fussing. Also, last weekend, we picked up some kids soap that was marked down to $0.50 and has a picture of Elmo on the front. He LOVES using his "Elmo Soap" after brushing his teeth (which makes trying to get him to give up his toothbrush after five minutes of brushing his own teeth, so much easier!)
We arrived at the dentist for my cleaning and his check-up. Daddy came along with us and Dean sat on his lap while I went first. I have to admit, I don't like peoples hands in my mouth and I really hate the feeling and sound of the scraper on my teeth, but I had to man-up with Dean watching. He was very interested in seeing what was going on. He barely wiggled around and was very quiet - which if you have ever met my kid, you'd know that rarely even happens when he's sleeping, let alone awake!
He sat on my lap towards the end of my appointment, in the big chair. He wasn't at all nervous about all the tools or big machines around him. Even when a kid down the hall started screaming and crying, Dean didn't flinch (meanwhile, I was holding my breath and waiting for a meltdown) Our dentist had Dean sit on my lap while he did the check on him. I leaned him back on to me and they put the big light in front of him to look at his teeth. The dentist had to do some convincing but Dean finally opened up and let the dentist take a peek in. The whole time the dentists fingers were in his mouth (all, like, 45 seconds) I was hoping that Dean wouldn't take this chance to bite him. But the dentist managed to keep all ten of his fingers! He gave Dean a toothbrush and had us show how we brush his teeth and let Dean show how he brushes too.
We'll be back there in six months for Dean to have another check up, this time with a bit more involved. The dentist said that by three years old, they like to be able to do a thorough cleaning and check, but until then they are happy just getting Dean used to the office, the staff and the idea of having his teeth checked.
I know some kids that have had some major dentist anxiety. And I am desperately hoping to avoid that with Dean so that it's a happy experience for him. I want him to be proud of his healthy, happy smile and to want to show it off at the dentist twice a year - and preferably not have any more visits than just the cleaning twice a year!
And of course, no dentist appointment is complete without a peek through the treasure bin to pick a toy for being a good boy. He flirted his way into getting two toys to bring home... Dean really knows how to work his charm!