We found some great dental advice in a recent column of Annie’s Mailbox, written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar (longtime editors of the Ann Landers column)
Dear Annie: I have a beautiful 3-month-old daughter. We live close to my parents, and they babysit “Abby” all the time.
Here’s the problem. At my last dental visit, my dentist told me about a study that says adults with bad oral hygiene can transmit bacteria to children through kissing and sharing utensils, causing tooth infections in the kids.
My mom hasn’t been to a dentist in years. When I told her about the study and suggested she get a checkup, she blew up at me and now refuses to see her granddaughter. I realize my mother has a phobia, but I thought she’d make the effort for Abby’s sake. How can I make her understand that this is not an attack on her, but about the well-being of my daughter? — Clean Teeth in Pennsylvania
Dear Penn: Tooth decay is caused by specific germs and is more common among young children than any other chronic illness. Some of this is caused by poor brushing and flossing, too much sugar in the diet, and relying exclusively on bottled water, which usually doesn’t have fluoride. But it also happens when saliva is transferred to the baby’s mouth by eating from the same spoon, sharing cups and utensils, letting your toddler put your toothbrush in his mouth, or kissing the baby on the mouth if you have poor dental hygiene. Only those with active tooth decay can spread this bacteria. So when you blow on a bite of food, touch it to your mouth and then feed it to your baby, you may be transferring bacteria.
Your mother’s phobia is so severe that she has chosen not to see her grandchild rather than submit to a dentist. This not only damages her relationship with Abby, but risks her physical health, as poor dental hygiene can lead to heart disease. But there is a simpler solution. Please explain all this to Mom and ask her to be careful around Abby. Then wipe the baby’s teeth, tongue and inner cheeks with a clean, wet cloth every few hours, whether she’s around Mom or not.