No Teeth, Baby Teeth, Healthy Teeth
Roman Olney is a tooth brushing champion and has the excellent dental health to prove it. I ask, “Roman, how many teeth do you have?” He’s quick to answer, “Two!” With a great big smile, he shows off a mouth full of strong, gleaming teeth, quite a few more than two. He smiles for me with his tooth brush and he smiles for me with his dog. In fact, they both smile. Roman is 2 and ½ years old and has been fearlessly seeing the dentist since his first tooth came in.
Good oral health practices are part of the Olney family standard. Thanks to his dental assistant mom, Tiffini, Roman has received excellent dental care from the very beginning. And the baby sister that is on the way? Tiffini is also contributing to her health in-utero by maintaining her own health, including oral health, as a mama.
Tiffini laughs, “I started brushing my son’s teeth before he had any teeth!” She was well-aware of the connection between baby gum care and the emergence of healthy baby teeth. “I started out wiping his gums with a soft, wet cloth but was excited to find out about a silicone rubber finger toothbrush. I liked using it to keep his gums clean.”
Baby teeth are hiding under a baby’s gums. Typically, babies start cutting teeth around 3-5 months (some a little later) and it’s the bottom middle teeth that are first to erupt. For Tiffini, that little rubber finger toothbrush doubled as a massage tool. Rubbing Roman’s gums helped relieve some of the normal discomfort of teething. Clean gums help protect baby teeth from decay and healthy baby teeth are just as important as healthy adult teeth. Baby teeth help children chew their food easily, help them speak clearly, and hold space in their jaws for the permanent teeth that are growing under the gums.
EARLY DENTAL CARE
From his baby bouncer seat, Roman watched his mom brush her teeth. When he was four-months-old, she gave him his first Winnie the Pooh toothbrush. He’d use it to copy her motions, building his motor skills by grasping his toothbrush and practicing future brushing techniques. Once his first tooth came in, Tiffini brushed it morning and night, sometimes more. Once he had adjacent teeth, she introduced flossing.
Dr. Charmaine Ng from the Rolling Hills Clinic (Corning, CA) has been Roman’s dentist since the first tooth. She says, “Starting that first dentist visit with the first tooth helps children get used to having their mouth and teeth examined. By bringing children in early, we can focus on preventative care and that helps avoid the pain of early childhood caries.” She has good things to say about Roman. “Roman is a great patient and at age two he has no caries. Just as important, he has no fear of the dentist. I see him every six months and that’s what we recommend for all children, two visits a year.”
ORAL HEALTH AND DIET
Part of the Olney oral health plan is a healthy diet. Eating nutritious foods is important for adults and children and it contributes to healthy teeth.
“Carbs and sugar cause early decay,” says Tiffini, “so I’m heavy on fruits, veggies, and meat. I limit and dilute the organic juice that Roman drinks. If we have a sugary treat, I try to brush his teeth soon afterward. If we can’t brush, it’s important to use water to rinse his teeth.
ORAL HEALTH AND PREGNANCY
Science and studies continue to look at the relationship between oral health and a healthy pregnancy. Studies agree that around 40-50% of pregnant women experience some sort of gum disease in the form of cavities, gingivitis, or periodontitis. But, there are mixed opinions about the link between infections in the mother and the increase in adverse pregnancy outcomes. At six months pregnant, Tiffini Olney is taking no chances.
“I’m even more vigilant about brushing, flossing, and making sure I get my regular cleaning. Pregnancy hormones can lead to gingivitis and if that isn’t treated, it can cause the gum disease periodontitis. Women don’t want to be transferring that bacteria systemically to their babies.”
WHO DOES THE BRUSHING?
Tiffini says mom or dad will continue to brush Roman’s teeth for him until he’s about seven. The motor skills of a young child aren’t advanced enough for children to do a good job brushing by themselves. Right now, Roman gets to use his blue toothbrush to do a follow-up and practice brushing his upper and lower teeth, along the gumline and his tongue.
I’m happy to celebrate Roman Olney’s healthy smile during National Children’s Dental Health Month. Thanks to Tiffini for sharing her knowledge as a parent and a dental assistant about early oral health!
LEARN MORE about periodontal disease and pregnancy:
- American Dental Hygienists’ Association’s report:Periodontal Diseases and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes
Focuses on evidence of periodontal disease impacting pregnancy.
- Journal of Women’s Health: Periodontal Disease and Pregnancy Outcomes: Time to Move On?
Doctors Srinivas and Parry conclude there was no benefit of periodontal treatment and reduction of preterm birth.