For many parents of young kids, getting them to brush their teeth sometimes takes a little creativity -- even for the pros like Dr. Helen Mo and her husband, who are both dentists in the Bay Area and parents to their 1-year-old daughter, Olivia.
“We were so excited when the teeth finally poked through at eight months,” Mo told “GMA.” “But then we regretted it instantly when we had to brush our teeth that night. And I was thinking, wow, this is really hard even for us to do at home.”
So, Mo went to work and created an Instagram page called “The Dentist Mom,” where she helps guide her nearly 22,000 followers “through the challenges of baby teeth.”
“I thought parents out there are looking for a resource to help them make brushing just a little bit easier,” she said. “I wanted to show both perspectives of reality. You know, the pediatric dentist perspective and then being a mom and what’s achievable.”
With the pandemic keeping so many people indoors, a trip to the dentist to get routine exams may be difficult these days. So now more than ever, oral hygiene practices at home are important for parents to incorporate into their kids’ daily routines.
On top of taking care of teeth, Dr. Mo shares many tips with her followers, from weaning off pacifiers and transitioning from bottles to cups, to weaning them off thumb sucking.
Read on for some of her tips:
Make teeth time fun
Let’s be real -- sometimes kids hate brushing their teeth. But Dr. Mo says there are many ways to make teeth time fun, like finding a fun toothbrush or finding a fun toothpaste flavor.
“I tell parents you can even have like a little menu,” she said. “Have two options available so they feel like they’re in control and even let them pick out their toothbrush so they feel more ownership in their own brushing routine. You can also role-play, practice on stuffed animals.”
Dr. Mo also said to let your kids practice brushing their teeth on you.
“My daughter loves practicing on my husband,” she said. “But that makes her think that she can brush us, and then it makes her an open invitation for us to go and invade her personal space by brushing her mouth.”
Practice using open cups
Ditch the sippy cups and start using open cups with your kids. At 6 months old, Dr. Mo says that it’s important to start teaching kids how to use an open cup to help introduce a mature swallowing pattern.
“You can introduce just a little bit of water,” said Dr. Mo. “You can put it in the cup and just kind of hold your hands around their hands and kind of guide then to learn the cup so they’re also learning a lot of hand-eye coordination, along with learning how to use the cup. “
While it can get messy, Dr. Mo says it is beneficial for kids to learn early, so it may be best to cover the floor with towels.
Wean your child off pacifiers
Dr. Mo said that sucking is a natural instinct by infants, and the use of pacifiers is for comfort and security. So rather than pressuring them to stop immediately, she says that if they have a sucking instinct, you don’t need to deprive them of it right away.
However, it's a fact that pacifiers may have negative dental effects when you use them for a long time or for long periods during the day. Some of the effects may include a narrowing of the jaw or the front teeth protruding forward, and the effects may be irreversible.
“I usually recommend that if at 6 months, if you’re unable to wean off completely then it’s really essential at 6 months to make a type of transition in your lifestyle so that the pacifier is used mostly during naps, mostly during sleep or during a really stressful situation like a car ride, an airplane ride or something like that,” Dr. Mo said.
If all else fails, she said to call in some support from the “pacifier fairy.”
“Your child can write a little letter. They can put the pacifier under the pillow or they can even package it in a little box,” she said. “And then the pacifier fairy can come take away the pacifiers and then leave a cool present in return.”