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Caring for the Pearly Whites

It’s never too early to take steps to prevent tooth decay
Caring for the Pearly Whites

Dr. Jennie Berkovich

A baby’s first tooth is a significant milestone. Teething typically begins anytime from six months to one year. Babies will drool, have increased saliva, and put their hands in their mouth during teething. They’re often uncomfortable during this process and their gums may be slightly swollen. Body temperature may slightly rise when teething; however, a true fever (temperature over 100.4 ˚F /38 ˚C) is a sign of illness or infection.

For teething discomfort, parents can try using a cold washcloth or a solid teething toy that was placed in the freezer. For severe discomfort, ask your pediatrician about the appropriate dose of acetaminophen (Tylenol).

I recommend avoiding over the counter teething tablets since many have  toxic components. I also advise against amber teething necklaces, as they’re a choking and strangulation hazard.

Once your child has teeth, the brushing fun can begin! Start with using a small smear — the size of a grain of rice — of fluorinated toothpaste on a baby toothbrush twice a day. After your child turns three, you can start using a pea-sized amount. Supervise your child’s brushing techniques until she’s able to do it independently (around age six or seven).

Although a special children’s toothpaste can help incentivize your child, it’s not necessary. As long as it has fluoride, they can use the same toothpaste as the rest of the family.

It’s never too early to take steps to prevent tooth decay. Tooth decay develops when teeth are exposed to any liquid or food other than water for prolonged periods or frequently throughout the day. Milk, formula, juice, and soft drinks leave behind sugars that remain in the mouth. Bacteria in the mouth changes sugars to acid. This acid then dissolves the outer part of the teeth, causing decay. Milk should be served only with meals, and bottles of milk or juice shouldn’t be given at bedtime.

Minimize the quantity of sugary snacks your child consumes. Instead of cookies and candy, offer fresh fruit. Be careful with small treats like raisins, caramels, and jelly beans that can get stuck in teeth.

An appointment with a pediatric dentist should happen around the child’s first birthday. They’ll be checked for cavities and will also get used to the routine of a dentist appointment. After that, they should be seen every six months for checkups.

Cavities are the most common chronic medical problems, even more common than allergies and asthma. Taking care of teeth early on helps build long-lasting healthy habits.

Dr. Jennie Berkovich is a board-certified pediatrician and serves as the director of education for the Jewish Orthodox Women’s Medical Association (JOWMA) Preventative Health Committee.


“I” Statements for Success

Abby Delouya RMFT-CCC, CPTT 

You know communication is key in relationships. You probably also know that “I feel” statements are more effective than “You (action)” statements. “You” statements are accusatory and place blame, while “I” statements allow people to express what’s going on without triggering defensiveness. For example: “You never clean up after yourself” feels very different from “I feel stressed out when the house is so disorganized.”

There’s even research backing “I” statements. Here are some documented benefits:

Effective Conflict Resolution: “I” statements are solution-focused rather than blame-assigning. People tend to mirror our style of communication. When one speaker is communicating in a nonconfrontational and emotion-focused way, the listener is more likely to respond in kind.

Constructive Feedback: When the focus isn’t on criticism but on the challenge the behavior causes, the listener is more open to thinking about change. “I” statements are more likely to evoke feelings of empathy, cooperation, and openness to negotiation in listeners.

However, to gain benefits, “I” statements must be made correctly.  One common pitfall is to assign blame through an “I” statement such as, “I feel like you don’t care.” While this statement starts with an expression of how the speaker feels, it concludes with accusation — which defeats the goal of using feeling statements. Effective “I” statements have three distinct parts: how the speaker is feeling, the cause of that feeling, and a potential solution.

Abby Delouya RMFT-CCC, CPTT is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice with a speciality in trauma and addiction. Abby lives in Monsey, NY, and maintains her practice in Canada.


Slow Down for Safety 

Sarah Rivka Kohn 

Remember those late-night DMCs at camp when you opened your heart, shared your deepest pain, and cried at two a.m.? Remember that you often woke up with an emotional hangover, possibly feeling nauseous or sick?

When there’s a pain we’ve been carrying for a long time, it can sit inside taking up space and carbonating, kind of like seltzer. With time, as circumstances shake us up, all those fizz bubbles grow. When the opportunity of a safe listener presents itself, we may suddenly open up and share all. The next day we may feel as though we’re an emotional train wreck — and that can have serious ramifications.

In trauma therapy, there’s a concept called titration. It’s about opening things up very slowly, building tolerance to the traumatic experience and memories as you go. Going back to our seltzer, it’s like opening that cap slowly, allowing tiny amounts of fizz out at a time so that there’s no explosive mess all over the place. This process does take longer, but the results are worthwhile — it keeps one contained, enabling one to function within a very painful process.

It may be somewhat thrilling to get a student or friend to finally open up, but beware that speedily opening up Pandora’s box after it was nailed shut for a while can lead to disastrous results.

Sarah Rivka Kohn is the founder and director of  Zisel’s Links and Shlomie’s Club, an organization servicing children and  teens who lost a parent.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 808)

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