Dentist/ Mom, Dr Helen Mo Shares Her Top Tips To Help Moms Navigate The Challenges Of Baby Teeth

Getting to brush your toddler’s 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.

Dr. Mo told GMA:

“We were so excited when the teeth finally poked through at eight months. 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.” The dentist said:

“I thought parents out there are looking for a resource to help them make brushing just a little bit easier. 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 fear of contracting COVID-19 pandemic and not being attended to at the hospital, 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 ALSO: Consultant Pediatric Dentist Harps On Early Dental Check For Children

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.

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It is never too early to desensitize your child to the physical SENSATION of brushing. If your child struggles with brushing, remember that the face is such a personal area and they may need time to find oral healthcare normal. But the more frequent the exposure, the better your child’s behavior will become. . 💬COMMENT BELOW: What toothbrush does your child like? 🤍BROWSE my Amazon Shop (link in bio) for options! _______________________________ . BEFORE TEETH: GOAL = ORAL DESENSITIZATION. . ⭐️ Introduce an adult FINGER tip brush to gently massage the gums, the molar area, the inside of the cheeks, the tongue, and all around. ▫️Makes your child less sensitive in the future to oral stimulation. ▫️Sets your baby up for a higher chance of success for toothbrushing. ▫️Helps with teething symptoms as a bonus! . 👶🏻 Allow your baby to mouth with a baby-friendly SILICONE toothbrush, and encourage your baby to explore with their mouth. ▫️Introduces your baby to the concept of brushing early. ▫️Gives your baby some independence & ownership to brushing. ▫️Promotes oral sensory and motor development. . . AFTER TEETH: GOAL = ORAL HYGIENE. . 🦷Use a SOFT BRISTLE toothbrush to adequately remove the plaque and keep the gums healthy. ▫️Pick a toothbrush that makes brushing fun — it could be a favorite character, one that lights up, or one that plays music. ▫️Angle the toothbrush 45 degrees towards the gum, and brush in gentle circles. ▫️Don’t forget to brush all around, including the insides and the tops of the chewing surfaces. . ⚡️Use an ELECTRIC toothbrush if your child has persistent plaque or staining. This may look yellow, black, or orange. ▫️Introduce only once your child is able to cooperate. ▫️Use on a gentle setting. ▫️My favorites are by @oralb & @philipssonicare. . . . . . #toothbrush#firsttooth#toddlermom#toddlerlife#momlife#momlifebelike#motherhoodrising#motherhoodinspired#newmom#firsttimemom#newdad#babyboy#babygirl#momprobs#blw#momhacks#whatmybabyeats#pediatrics#toddlerstruggles#lifewithkids#babydevelopment#babymilestones#momtips#mommyhood#parentingtips#sahmlife#wahmlife#healthykids#healthybaby#specialneedsmom

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READ ALSO: 5 Things You Need To Know About Your Child’s Tooth Care

“I tell parents you can even have like a little menu. 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. She said:

“My daughter loves practicing on my husband. 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. Dr Mo added:

”You can introduce just a little bit of water. 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.

READ ALSO: Are Pacifiers Safe for Your Baby? See Top Pros & Cons

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There are many benefits of introducing an open cup early! Did you know you can start as early as 6 MONTHS? It’s a skill that takes time to develop, so the key is to give your little one multiple opportunities to practice. [SWIPE] til the end to see Olivia’s transition. ___________________________________ BOTTLE🍼: THE BAD ▫️implicated with tooth decay especially when used for comfort prior to naps & sleeping at night. ▫️milk, juice, and other liquids can pool in a child’s mouth while they sleep. ▫️sipping on a bottle increases a child’s risk for tooth decay because it increases the duration the teeth are exposed to acids from the drink. CUP🥛: THE GOOD ▫️drinking from a cup is less likely to cause liquid to collect around the teeth, and as a result, decreases the risk for cavities. ▫️teaches your child there is an alternative to the breast or bottle for liquid refreshment — this will make it easier to wean in the future ▫️provides essential development of the mouth’s muscles ▫️increases motor skills and coordination ___________________________________ TIPS FOR A SMOOTH TRANSITION: ▫️MAKE IT SPECIAL! Olivia has her very own cup. It’s cute, small, and has a handle to make it easy to grab. ▫️SHOW how it’s done. Your baby will be more likely to try the cup if they see you doing it first. ▫️DRINK TOGETHER. We “cheers” with Olivia during meals and she absolutely loves feeling included. ▫️INTRODUCE AFTER SNACKS. This creates a healthy habit early — to wash away food particles with water after snacking. This helps decrease the risk for cavities. ___________________________________ WHAT DID WE DO? ▫️PRE-CUP: To ease the mess, we started with giving some water in a Munchkin 360 throughout the day after snacks. ▫️INTRODUCTION OF THE CUP: Every dinner, when we all ate together, we would give her a very small amount of water in her “special” cup. She would spill it, pour it on the ground, shower our dog…but eventually she started to understand. ▫️Now Olivia enjoys drinking water from an assortment of open rims! Almost TOO much. . . . When did you start introducing the cup? What other tricks did you use? . . I would love to hear non dental perspectives too! ☺️

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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.

READ ALSO: How To Care For Your Baby’s Early Teeth

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.

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When weaning from the pacifier, it is just as daunting of a task for parents as it is for your child. For my husband and me, the pacifier has become an easy "go to" when Olivia is tired or upset. ▫️As first time parents, the pacifier has saved us when we didn't know why Olivia was crying. ▫️As working parents, the pacifier has bought us many hours of peace and distraction. ▫️As tired parents, the pacifier got us through sleepless nights and made sleep training much easier. Pacifiers are great for their many benefits, but it is important to structure a weaning plan. Here are some tips to make weaning more seamless for your family! . . [SWIPE] TO LEARN MORE ⏩. . . ____________________ WEANING SUMMARY: . ⏱ Pick a time that works for your child. Mark your calendar with a "goal" date as motivation. . 🤍 Whatever strategy and whenever you decide is right, commit to the weaning process when you’re confident that you can resist giving it back when the going gets tough. . 📖 Structure a weaning plan that works for your child. . 🧸 Take into account your child's emotional attachment to the pacifier. Introduce an alternative comfort object before weaning. . 👧🏻 Help your child understand that weaning off the pacifier is a "big kid" transition that's a normal part of growing up! . 🦷 Work with your pediatric dentist for behavior modification techniques. ____________________ THERE ARE 2 WAYS TO WEAN: 1️⃣ COLD TURKEY. ▫️Collecting all the pacifiers in the house, and throwing them away. ▫️Most effective for children UNDER THE AGE OF 1. 2️⃣ GRADUAL WEANING. ▫️Shortening the periods of time your child needs the pacifier (ex: sleep only). ▫️Then shortening the frequency and length of time the pacifier is used (ex: when falling asleep, then take away). . OR, you can try a COMBINATION approach. ▫️Gradual weaning until pacifier is being used for limited periods of time. ▫️Cold turkey to fully eliminate the use of the pacifier. ____________________ When did your baby wean from the pacifier? Any tips to share? . . . ⭐️ Check out my past posts for Pacifier Basics • Timing of Pacifier Weaning & Emotional Considerations. . . ❤️ Link in bio for pacifier weaning Amazon picks!

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“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.” She further stated:

“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. And then the pacifier fairy can come take away the pacifiers and then leave a cool present in return.”

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