For over 35 years, MAM has been developing baby products with experts from medicine and research that are unique in function and design and support the individual development of every child, making everyday life with a baby, just a little easier. The business is proud to recently announce the results of a randomized control study(1) that found the MAM Perfect soother minimises the risk of malocclusions such as an open bite and increased overbite in children previously diagnosed with soother-associated teeth misalignments, when compared to a conventional or physiological soothers.
It is clear that we still have a long way to go as an industry to persuade parents on the importance of good oral hygiene from an early age, as a recent report (2) showed that a third of children don’t brush their teeth every day. Clearly if parents are coming to the dentist with a child who has problems then they will be more susceptible to advice about that child. However, if they are coming with younger siblings, then it presents the perfect opportunity to talk to the parent about the key early stages, to avoid problems developing. But, how to approach these conversations?
Here, Peter Röhrig, Founder of MAM, uses his 35 year expertise operating in the baby industry and with medical experts, to provide Ten Top Tips on the emotional trigger points for parents with a baby and how to answer some of the pressing questions they might have about their baby’s development, behaviour and oral hygiene. He also provides some information on the products available to young children who might develop damaging habits.
1. Remain impartial
Parents always want the best for their growing baby, but time pressures and natural instincts can lead parents to ignore damaging behaviours, especially if they appear to be of comfort to their child. No parent wants to be made to feel that they are doing a bad job, or to feel preached to by experts who might not understand the pressures that they are under. It is important to present a parent with facts and clear sound bites of advice, while remaining impartial at all times. This will enable the parent to feel that they are researching options with a valued specialist, without being judged on their child’s behaviour or choices.
2. Why sucking is important
Parents often ask about the drawbacks of non-nutritive sucking. Sucking is a natural need for babies and important for their development. Its effect on tooth placement and dental growth is certainly a current topic of discussion.
Soothers are a suitable alternative to a ﬁnger, thumb or toy because they are easier to wean off, and have been proven to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. However, many soothers can exert too much pressure on the teeth and jaws because of material drawbacks and suboptimal shapes. We developed the MAM Perfect through intensive cooperation with medical experts. It is 60% thinner and three times softer than common soothers. A longitudinal scientiﬁc study has conﬁrmed that this soother positively supports healthy tooth and jaw development.
3. Teething: fact from fiction
Teething is a very emotive issue for parents as it has been allowed to be exaggerated to the point where, ‘searing pain’ and ‘tiny shards of glass’ have become common phrases associated with the experience. It is important to understand that many new parents fear teething, but you can manage these expectations, while providing sage advice on dealing with it. In the majority of cases, the sensations felt by the baby as their teeth come through are more likely to be tingles, presses and itching than serious pain. We would never recommend to parents that they turn to anaesthetic gels as they must not become a permanent solution. Chewing and rubbing the gums provides a suitable alternative as it not only provides some relief from the symptoms but is also part of the natural instinct of a young child and enables a baby to train their fine motor skills.
4. The role of a teether
The teether plays a key role in early oral hygiene – as important as its role as comforter – and parents should be made aware of this dual purpose.
We developed our portfolio of teethers with pedagogues and paediatricians to provide babies and toddlers with the optimal age-appropriate visual stimulation, textures and chewing surfaces. As the child is more able to hold and co-ordinate movement, there are products that supplement daily dental care, in a playful way. For example, the MAM Bite & Brush provides 2-phase options, suitable for babies from two months old. The first phase product cleans baby’s first teeth while it is being chewed, thanks to its soft bristles, whereas the second phase, from 4 months is especially designed for back teeth. Other teethers in the range have been designed to reach the molars while providing cool relief from teething.
5. Routine will create a healthy start
Children thrive on routine and most parents will agree with this. Introducing daily dental care at a young age, and the child will soon expect, and enjoy it. With young babies it is also important to add fun into the routine. Many parents in the UK will assume that they need to move immediately to using a tooth brush. This isn’t necessary with very young children, and it can also become very messy as the parent and baby tackle over who will hold it! For young babies, we worked closely with paediatric dentists to develop the Oral Care Rabbit, a soft microfibre cloth that fits snuggly over the parent’s fingers, to massage inside the baby’s mouth, over the gums and to remove bacteria. What’s important is to educate parents that this should become a small part of the bedtime routine. Many parents follow the ‘Bath, Bottle, Bed’ mantra, so we like to suggest, Bath, Bottle, Bunny, Bed. Just one extra minute in these early stages can make all the difference for a lifetime of good oral hygiene.
6. Getting ready for a brush
Most parents will not know that as soon as the first tooth comes through, a child must start with proper dental care and move to using a brush and that they should be helping their child to brush their teeth daily. There are many brushes on the market designed especially for young children that will help keep the experience enjoyable, such as those with very soft bristles, flashing lights and extra-long handles for parents to help guide the little hand. Again, many parents will search for advice, but may defer to a child’s behaviour for a more peaceful bedtime. So, it is important at this stage to communicate to a parent in a succinct way. We suggest focussing on three key messages for any parent with a child who is developing their first teeth:
• Once a day until the age of 2;
• Replace a brush every 6-8 weeks;
• Regular dental check-ups.
If a parent is struggling to keep the baby focused, suggest lying them on the changing mat or sitting them on their lap and to carefully lift the upper lip with the index finger whilst cleaning
7. Weaning from the bottle to a cup
Children should be encouraged to move from a bottle to a cup by the age of one and many manufacturers provide transition cups from the age of 4 months. However, many parents find this transition difficult as it represents that their baby is growing-up. Explain to the parent that eating and drinking like the grown-ups is not just an important development step from baby to toddler but is also good for teeth and jaw muscles. Furthermore, unchecked, continuous sucking on bottles increases the risk of damage. There is plenty of information about the importance of drinking only water and unsweetened teas from a baby cup but it is necessary to keep reminding your patients about this, as it continues to be an issue in our society.
8. Weaning off a soother
Weaning off a soother is often difficult. The international (3) guidelines recommend stopping the use of soothers at two and a half years of age. This is to allow the child to perfect the various functions of the mouth. Clearly, the most important of these are mastication, phonation and deglutition. The presence of a soother beyond the age of two and a half coupled with prolonged use during the day can impede the tongue, teeth and maxilla from developing the correct rapport with one another during their different functional phases. Many children use their thumb in place of a soother, and the resulting negative effects on the teeth and jaw have been clearly shown in numerous studies.
The therapy proposed is gradually withdrawing the soother in phases by reducing its width. The diameter can be reduced to 4mm and, finally, a soother with a thickness of 2mm can be used. At this stage, removing a soother does not present any more difficulties for the parents.
Dr Wagner, who headed a clinical study at the Department of Preventive Dentistry and Paediatric Dentistry, Jena University Hospital, Germany, said: ‘As weaning completely from a soother can be a challenge, a 12-month study using the MAM Perfect clearly pointed to an orthodontically proven alternative weaning option for parents.’
9. Weaning from a thumb
Thumb sucking provides comfort to children for a variety of reasons and can be a difficult habit to shift. As not all thumb-sucking is equally damaging, more aggressive sucking will create more damage inside the mouth, than passive suckers, it’s important to start the conversation with the parent by asking about the technique. If the child is a vigorous sucker, then the advice is to start curbing the behaviour at around the age of 4 and by this age, many children will have stopped the habit. Starting school and peer pressure is also a common deterrent so it is worth advising the parent to wait till this point before exercising some alternative techniques.
Our advice for parents who need to intervene is to watch the child’s behaviour and anticipate moments when it will happen. As it’s usually at points when the child is looking for comfort, this is likely to be at bedtime, when they are relaxed, frustrated or fearful. Consider distracting the child in these scenarios with a substitute, such as a comforting blanket, a squishy ball or a teddy. The key is not to reprimand the child for doing it, as in most cases it will be a subconscious behaviour.
10. Take-away information
Busy mums are well known for being a little forgetful, with so much going on each day to remember. Consider using a leaflet which provides busy parents with key pieces of advice, which they can take away. They can then use them as prompts and checks at home, while keeping a record of any future appointments. MAM’s Oral care information leaflet can be requested for use within your surgery, please sign up here: mambaby.com/professionals
Parents will always want to talk about their baby with you. What stages they are at, what habits they are developing, what preferences they have. It provides a perfect opportunity to start a conversation with them about milestones and small changes that can be brought in to the everyday, which will give their child the very best start toward a lifetime of good oral hygiene.
1. Wagner Y, Heinrich-Weltzien R, Examining the effect of a special pacifier on the primary dentition. The study was conducted over a period of 12 months with 86 babies ranging from 16 to 24 months of age who already exhibited an increased overjet and/or overbite.
2. Denplan 2015: UK based survey of more than 2,000 parents of children aged 2-11
3. American Academy of Pediatrics Dentistry Guidelines