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Bonnie Petrie: Welcome to Your Pea in the Podcast. I’m Bonnie Petrie with everything you need to know about your body, your baby, and the big changes ahead in your life, and your journey to becoming a mommy. This week, we’re talking about after the baby comes. We’re talking about your child’s oral health, from when to start thinking about your baby’s teeth.
(Dr. Lilly Gafori): Well, you can actually start cleaning your baby’s mouth from the very first few days after birth using dental wipe.
Bonnie Petrie: To what may cause those little teeth harm?
(Dr. Lilly Gafori): And we have patients who put – sometimes they sleep with soda, with Gatorade, with, you know, juices with all sorts of products that are very, very high in sugar.
Bonnie Petrie: To the very real possibility that your kid will hate brushing their teeth.
Elizabeth: He would fight, he was bickering, he would push, he would scream.
Bonnie Petrie: And we’ll introduce you to a product that could make the road to your child having healthy teeth and gums a lot less bumpy.
Dr. Ray Wagner: Xylitol is a white crystalline sugar-like substance. In fact, it looks just like table sugar and tasted almost identical to table sugar.
(Bonnie Petrie): Yes. It’s sugar. And we’ll tell you all about that and much more in this Pea in the Podcast on your child’s oral health. From the first time your baby bursts into a radiant, toothless smile, you’re hooked. You want to see it again and again. And hear the song of laughter that will soon accompany it. A baby’s smile is a gift. But making sure their teeth come in strong and healthy is not something you can leave to chance. Pediatric dentist, (Lilly Gafori) says, “Baby teeth serve many functions.”
(Dr. Lilly Gafori): They help provide nutrition. It makes speech possible. They aide in the normal development of your jaw bones and your facial muscles and they do – and they help to reserve space for permanent teeth and helps to guide permanent teeth into position. So taking care of those primary teeth and their gums, which is their foundation, is very, very important.
Bonnie Petrie: When my baby was an infant, I didn’t think too much about her teeth when she didn’t have any. But (Dr. Gafori) says, “You should.”
(Dr. Lilly Gafori): Well, you can actually start cleaning your baby’s mouth from the very first few days after birth using dental wipes. So after every feeding, you can wipe your baby’s gums with gauze pads or wash cloth to remove the dental plaques that forms on the surface of the gums. Not only do they help you keep the mouth clean, but your baby also gets – is accustomed to daily dental hygiene routine by having the mouth cleaned by these wipes. And so, once the teeth come in, especially the molars, they’ll be more open to brushing.
Bonnie Petrie: And the Centers for Disease Control says, “Tooth decay affects children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease.” Yes, (Dr. Gafori) says, “You can use dental wipes or gauze or those little brushes that fit over your fingers to clean your infant’s mouth.”
(Dr. Lilly Gafori): It’s very effective at removing plaques and keeping the gums healthy.
Bonnie Petrie: But she frequently recommends to her patients specialized dental wipes like a product called Spiffies.
(Dr. Lilly Gafori): The benefit of using something like (Spiffies) is that it’s coated with something called Xylitol. And what Xylitol does is that it helps promote healthy teeth and gums. So Xylitol is a natural sweetener. You find it in, you know, in fruits and vegetables. And what it does is that is (inaudible) actually prevents dental cavities from performing. And in some cases, can even reverse tooth decay. So that’s the advantage of using a dental wipes versus (inaudible), or toothbrushes or teething brushes.
Bonnie Petrie: So what are Spiffies? Dr. Ray Wagner is the pediatrician behind this brand of dental wipe.
Dr. Ray Wagner: Spiffies tooth wipes are a special wet wipe design to help parents start cleaning their baby’s mouth and the first teeth that come in. They contain a natural substance, Xylitol, which is sweet. It’s extracted from plants. It is commonly referred to as wood sugar. This substance was discovered some years ago to inhibit or to slow down the growth of bacteria in the mouth. In particular, the bacteria that causes cavities. And it – was able to do this in a completely natural way.
Bonnie Petrie: Wait, wood sugar? You did say sugar, right?
Dr. Ray Wagner: That’s right. And this is what’s so interesting. Xylitol is a white crystalline sugar-like substance. In fact, it looks just like table sugar and tastes almost identical to table sugar. And can be used teaspoon per teaspoon equivalent to table sugar to sweeten things. So it’s not an artificial sweetener or a micro sweetener, it’s an actual natural nutritive sweetener.
Bonnie Petrie: So what in a world can a sugar product have to do with healthy teeth? Dr. Wagner says, “When people started using Xylitol to sweeten food, they found it had a very unexpected side effect.”
Dr. Ray Wagner: The dentist began to notice pure cavities over a period – after about a year of use. And they started to explore that and then they discovered the fact that the bacteria that live in the mouth only can digest six-carbon sugars. And when you expose them to these five-carbon pentagon-shaped sugars, they cannot grow. And so the – especially the bacteria that cause cavities which are called, Mutant Streptococci. It’s one of the strep-type of bacteria.
Bonnie Petrie: So Xylitol is a five-carbon sugar or a kind of sugar that can disrupt the bacteria that causes cavities. And pediatrician Ray Wagner, like our pediatric dentist (Dr. Gafori) says, “It’s best to get in your baby’s mouth early.”
Dr. Ray Wagner: These bacteria that cause cavities, the Mutant Streptococci, they begin to grow into the baby’s mouth as early as two months of age. The baby actually picks up the bacteria from the – their environment in particular the people that live in the home that perhaps have cavities, mom in particular or dad, siblings. And, you know, there’s always some – an occasional sharing of the spoon or of saliva, so to speak, kissing, et cetera.
And so, the babies get these bacteria but they’re not really fully established yet. They’re just sitting there waiting for the teeth to come in at which point they start to form that plaque – dental plaque on the teeth. That’s their little niche that they grow into. And so, if you can suppress those bacteria naturally which is the pre-biotic concept here with Xylitol, this baby will develop a better balance of their oral bacteria and may not even ever get cavity.
Bonnie Petrie: And babies generally start to cut teeth at around six months or more. My baby was unusual and that she cut her first two teeth at four months old but most babies don’t. They do, however, start right around then drooling as their salivary glands kick in the gear. And they also start gnawing on their hands like dinner. Dr. Wagner suggests, “That’s a good time to get serious about teething brushes or gauze or his products, Spiffies.”
Dr. Ray Wagner: Introduce the wipes to the mouth. Wipe the gums, wipe the baby’s tongue, wipe inside the cheeks, and then think – you can massage the gums because the wipe is wrapped around the finger. It’s very easy to clean with mom or dad’s finger and massage. And so babies love this. They love the finger massage.
Bonnie Petrie: It can really feel good on gums that are sensitive from those little teeth buds moving around underneath to do that. And pediatric dentist, (Dr. Lilly Gafori) says, “There is another good time to get into your baby’s mouth with some sort of cleaning product.” That is after nighttime feedings when your baby’s mouth might otherwise be exposed to bacteria for a prolonged period of time.
(Dr. Lilly Gafori): Whether that’s milk including fresh milk, or formula, fruit juices, or other sweetened drinks—that is something that we see very commonly as pediatric dentist. So if you’re putting babies to bed or for a nap or at nighttime with the bottle other than water, you can cause tooth decay. So, you want to make sure that you try and wipe that liquid off the teeth so that is not pooling around the child’s teeth and giving that plaque bacteria an opportunity to produce acid that can lead to tooth decay.
Bonnie Petrie: And in fact it’s really never a good idea to put your baby to bed with a bottle, but some parents do. And some parents fill those bottles with some pretty interesting things.
(Dr. Lilly Gafori): And we have patients who put – sometimes they sleep with soda, with Gatorade, with, you know, juices, with all sorts of products that are very, very high in sugar.
Bonnie Petrie: And that’s not good for your baby’s teeth, nor is a good for you baby’s overall health. So, you might want to skip those kind of drinks altogether. The dental tooth wipes can be especially helpful for a special needs kids like (Kelly’s) son Jack.
(Kelly): He has a chromosome abnormality and we found that out when he was born and they discovered he had a Cleft Palate. And so, he has all kinds of issues including that he needs a feeding tube for all his feedings. And he has breathing issues so we have the trach, so he’s kind of a little bionic baby. But some of the problems that all of that presents is when their children are fed by tubes and not by mouth to have a real oral aversion.
Bonnie Petrie: So Jack’s Speech Pathologist recommended Spiffies.
(Kelly): And so he started using those to wipe his mouth out. And we noticed that not only did it desensitize his gag reflex, but it also gave him some exposure to flavors and to something being, you know, in his mouth.
Bonnie Petrie: Which was something of a miracle for them.
(Kelly): Since we started using the Spiffies, that should been in building block really, and now he’s actually able to take some food by mouth just for oral motor stimulation. It’s just been amazing, the progress that he’s made, just basically about laying that foundation and staying on top of keeping that gag reflex, you know, kind of beaten that.
Bonnie Petrie: Now, I, your Pea in the Podcast mom had never heard of tooth wipes frankly until this year. So, I was curious about how they worked.
(Dr. Lilly Gafori): They’re actually just little wipes very similar to what you would wipe your hands with, maybe after you eat crab or shrimp. And – but except of course they’re not lemon-flavored. And they have three different flavors. They have a mango flavor, and an apple flavor, and a grape flavor.
Bonnie Petrie: And Jack’s dentist is shocked by the condition of his teeth.
(Kelly): The child that has those types of issues, that doesn’t feed by mouth and you really can’t, you know, get in their mouth very well because they’re gagging so much to come full circle and see that now the dentist can actually get in his mouth and, you know, see the status of how his teeth are. And with that kind – with the kind of reflex and amount of throwing up, he was having – it’s just unbelievable that his teeth are in just such remarkable condition.
Bonnie Petrie: So what about when your child’s teeth are fairly well-established? How do you care for them then? Pediatric dentist (Lilly Gafori) says, “First, watch what they eat.”
(Dr. Lilly Gafori): So, fruit juices, sodas, sports drinks contain a form of sugar that can promote cavities. So also sticky foods like Fruit Roll-Ups, dried food, caramel, refined carbohydrates like crackers or chips, (inaudible)—all those products can lead to tooth decay. So if these food items linger in the mouth or on the tooth surface for a long time, they can cause high risks for cavities. So, you really want to limit the intake of the sweets. You want to limit the intake of refined carbohydrates. You want to limit the intake of those high-sugared drinks.
Bonnie Petrie: And brush which can be a lot more difficult than you think. Your child may fight you tooth-and-nail. Pediatrician Ray Wagner knows all about that.
Dr. Ray Wagner: There’s a lot – often a lot of resistance to toothpaste, the foam, and the pasty quality is something a lot of little kids don’t like.
Bonnie Petrie: (Dr. Gafori) says, “You should try to find a way to make brushing fun.”
(Dr. Lilly Gafori): Some suggestions I make to parents is that maybe you can do brushing at the same time. So let your baby brush your teeth at the same time that you’re brushing his or hers or involve your child in the process of tooth brushing. So maybe you can go to the drugstore together and take out several toothbrushes that they like or give them the choice of picking the toothpaste flavor that they like, things like that.
Other things that parents do is singing a song while they brush their teeth, role playing, reading books that have to do with brushing, and just making it just a much more fun experience. Electric toothbrushes are wonderful, too. Some children love those or toothbrushes that sing songs. So, just try and make it as fun as you can so it doesn’t become a shore. It becomes something a little bit more exciting.
Bonnie Petrie: My daughter and I made up a little tooth brushing rap, which I will spare you right now, but it worked. But for mom, Elizabeth, nothing worked. When she took her son to the dentist when he was two, the doctor told her he had a cavity. Elizabeth was sick to her stomach.
Elizabeth: From that on, I didn’t kind of hear what she was saying just because I couldn’t believe. And I have another son that’s four years old. I never had a problem because that we don’t use sweets here. I wasn’t quite sure why. Although the one thing I could contribute it to was not brushing his teeth very well. And that’s just because he would fight, he would bicker, he would push, he would scream. And I just thought to myself, you know, if he doesn’t sweets, it’s not a big deal. And that was just a battle I did not want to fight, you know, I didn’t choose to fight that battle.
Bonnie Petrie: (Dr. Gafori) says, “There are lot of reasons kids get cavities.”
(Dr. Lilly Gafori): There’s a good deal of evidence that supports a connection between mom’s dental health and that of the baby’s. However, cavity is a multi-factorial process. So whether family history is one of the factors that we’ve taken to account when we evaluate a patient’s risk for developing cavities but there’s also other factors that we consider as well including diet, how well the enamel is formed, oral hygiene habits at home. So, it’s important to identify all the high risk factors early and then try and lower what these known factors are in order to prevent cavities.
Bonnie Petrie: But Elizabeth is sure her unwillingness to fight the toothbrush battle was the cause of her son’s cavity?
Elizabeth: And that was just horrendous every night—crying, screaming. And I was the type of mom who did not want to put my child to that, crying.
Bonnie Petrie: Pediatrician, Ray Wagner, the doctor behind Spiffies Tooth Wipes, says he understands that, too.
Dr. Ray Wagner: Brushing is not necessarily fun and it’s kind of like a job. And so we have a product to help address that, a liquid version of the Xylitol. Xylitol syrup that we also sell through our website called the I Can Brush Solution. Toddlers love this. They – we have the parents squirt a small amount into a little cup and then the child dips the brush into the liquid, brushes, and then dips and brushes, and it’s an activity they enjoy, dipping their brush into this sweet liquid and brushing with it. Also, they can swallow this. They don’t have to spit it out like toothpaste.
Bonnie Petrie: Elizabeth son’s pediatric dentist suggested a Xylitol oral solution to her and she uses Spiffies.
Elizabeth: I put it into a bowl. And then I dip the toothbrush into that solution. And I’ll tell you, since day one of using that solution, I just – I was successful of brushing his teeth. He would open his mouth. I think because the flavor is grape and it’s a really good flavor. So, I think with me brushing his teeth, he can suck it along while I brush it. And I think, you know, being safe to swallow and he just enjoy that taste. And he never have really (busted) after that.
Bonnie Petrie: Pediatric dentist, (Lilly Gafori) says, “It’s safe to swallow Xylitol unlike other children’s toothpaste because, well, it doesn’t contain fluoride.” She says, “If you’re planning to use a standard children’s toothpaste, were just fine, you just need to pay attention.”
(Dr. Lilly Gafori): You have to be very careful that they are not using more than a pea size amount of the fluoride. So, the concern I have sometimes with those toothpaste that is very good, is that they often likes the taste so much that sometimes they will eat the toothpaste instead of using it just as toothpaste and spitting it out. So, you have to be very careful when you’re choosing the fluoride toothpaste. And that you’re, you know, you’re supervising your child using it so that they’re not ingesting it and that they are spitting it out if it does have fluoride in it.
Bonnie Petrie: And that’s whether you use one of those sparkly flavored toothpastes or, you know, a more natural product like I do. They still have the same amount of fluoride and they really shouldn’t swallow much. And (Gafori) says, “You might be worried that your child isn’t going to get enough fluoride without a fluoride toothpaste.” She says, “You shouldn’t worry about that.”
(Dr. Lilly Gafori): And remember that fluoride doesn’t just a come in your toothpaste. Fluoride comes in city water supply. It also comes in your diet. So, if you have juice drinks, teas, formulas, dried cereals—all that is going to have some amount of fluoride in it. Vegetables, clean vegetables, are an excellent source of fluoride. So, you want to make sure that you are giving your child an optimum amount of fluoride and you’re not giving them too much fluoride.
Bonnie Petrie: Now that Elizabeth has discovered Xylitol, everyone in our family uses Spiffies products.
Elizabeth: (It goes) for my two-year-old and my four-year-old because he likes it just as much as my two-year-old, again, because you can anticipate to swallow. They like sucking as they brush their teeth. And if I don’t use that on my four-year-old like I use the regular fluoride toothpaste, he will actually swish that in his teeth and as (that), Xylitol (wins). And, you know, he really enjoys that taste. And he just spits it out or sometime he swallows it. And then we also have the Spiffies gum which my son loves. And I actually love them, my husband loves – such a good kind of sweet gum and it has a Xylitol in it.
Bonnie Petrie: And her son, the one with the cavity? The one who would fight until Mommy gave up on brushing his teeth? Well, those days are over.
Elizabeth: Once we take the tooth brushing solution and the (swishers) and Xyli-clean, he like he opens his mouth. They do it as pleasant and then he goes to bed with no problem.
Bonnie Petrie: So there’s a premiere on your baby and child’s oral heath. And the American Academy of Pediatrics says, “One of the most important things you can do for your baby is teach them good oral hygiene habits.” And they recommend you take your baby to visit the dentist for the first time at around a year old. And the recommendation is, after that, you take them twice a year.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this Pea in the Podcast about your baby’s oral health. Now, please visit our website peainthepodcast.com for more information about our experts to find links and transcripts and to register to get tailored week by week shows for each week and stage of your pregnancy. And you can also follow us on Facebook. We have a Facebook fan page and we’re also in Twitter as well.
We have everything you need to know about your body, your baby and the big changes ahead in your life in your journey to becoming a Mommy. The Pea in the Podcast, I’m Bonnie Petrie. Thanks for listening.